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A New Path to Peace

The Damascus Road

Israel’s recent siege of Lebanon, which has imposed a crippling humanitarian, economic, and psychological setback on her northern neighbor, may return Syria to the center stage of Middle Eastern politics.  Considering Syria’s enduring influence over Lebanon and the Palestinians and her close ties to Iran, ignoring Syria no longer serves America’s (or Israel’s) interests.

Even before the recent escalation of hostilities in the region, President George W. Bush’s advisors, mindful of his legacy, should have calculated the value of engaging Syria, given the realignment of Syrian and Palestinian objectives that resulted from Hamas’s recent electoral victory and Syria’s continued ability to loom large over Lebanese politics despite a hasty military withdrawal following the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

When Lebanon held elections shortly after Hariri’s death, Hezbollah demonstrated its formidable political power by scoring more seats in the Lebanese parliament and the Beirut cabinet than ever before—an obvious windfall for Syria.  In addition, Maronite politician Michel Aoun, enormously popular among Lebanon’s sizable Christian minority, behaved capriciously.  As Syria’s fiercest opponent when he headed Lebanon’s army, Aoun had even declared war on Damascus toward the end of the Lebanese civil war.  As Lebanon’s...

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