'Int'l community should offer Syria incentives'

Prof. Uzi Arad says Syria is unlikely to initiate war despite rearmament; offers ways to separate Damascus from Teheran.

uzi arad 298 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
uzi arad 298
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
"It's premature to begin negotiations with Syria," Prof. Uzi Arad, head of the Institute for Policy and Strategy (IPS) in the Herzliya InterDisciplinary Center (IDC), who also served as an advisor to former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, told CNN News Sunday. Arad cited Syria's "lack of readiness to divorce itself from Iran or stop supporting Hamas and Hizbullah" as the primary reasons why the notion of negotiating with Syria should, for the time being, be scrapped. Arad also pointed to the fact that (Syrian President Bashar) Assad's regime lacks the clout necessary to engage in serious negotiations with Israel. Regarding the nature of Syria's ties with Iran - a relationship considered 'unnatural' in the West in light of the fact that the majority of Syrians are Sunni-Arab and Iranians are mostly Shi'ite-Farsi - Arad said the two countries share an interest of exerting power in Lebanon. Syria and Iran recently signed a military pact and many analysts estimate that Syria's armament race is Iranian-financed to a large extent. Asked about ways to separate Syria from Iran, Arad said the international community should use "the same approach as with other rogue states: A coalition comprised of the US, and some European countries should present Damascus with a sufficient amount of incentives to cause rapture in Syria-Iran ties" and pull Syria out of what US President George W. Bush described as the "axis of evil," or the community of terror-sponsoring states. Arad doesn't see war as a likely outcome of Syria's recent military buildup. "It's true the Syrians are rearming and we can see they're militarily active, but we have no evidence of a Syrian will to initiates war, and although the situation is precarious, I do not foresee a Syrian initiation of war," he said.