Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Syria a Hard -- But Perhaps Not Impossible -- Nut to Crack

When it comes to Syria and the Arab Spring, the common argument I hear in the Washington these days is that the United States has no leverage with Damascus and, thus, there is not a whole lot the U.S. government can do to squeeze dictator Bashar al-Assad, at least not hard enough to force his exit.

Syrian dissident's Ausama Monajed's op-ed in the Washington Post on Monday challenges that assumption. While he obviously has an agenda, Monajed also highlights some interesting potential pressure points with the Assad regime. And he points out how the Obama administration might now be able to capitalize on some of the networks the U.S. has established in Syria in recent years as part of international efforts to isolate Assad and his cronies.
Over the past decade, U.S. envoys to the Middle East have established significant relations with members of the Syrian regime, particularly intelligence officers. The West should quietly make it known that in exchange for documented information that could result in International Criminal Court indictments, amnesty and political asylum will be granted to high-level informants — a desirable offer for those at the highest echelons who realize how shaky the regime is.
That and other suggestions Monajed offers are food for thought. And they might also provide a ready rebuttal for the calls from some on Capitol Hill to recall the U.S. ambassador to Syria -- Robert Ford -- who just arrived there last year.

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