Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Bernard Lewis: The Syrian president is no Sadat

This may not exactly be news, but apparently coming from Bernard Lewis-it is, according to an article in Now Lebanon:
Historian Bernard Lewis, one of the twentieth century’s most learned and most controversial Western experts on the Arab, Islamic and Turkish worlds, has come down hard on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, saying the man cannot be reasoned with and that he must be replaced. This unequivocal position is a major U-turn from when Lewis believed that the Syria of Bashar’s father, former-President Hafez al-Assad, could, in time, sign a peace treaty with Israel and enter into co-existence with the West.

Lewis still wants to see an eventual peace between Damascus and Jerusalem, but if even he cannot see Assad changing his recent behavior – aiding the insurgency in Iraq and thwarting Lebanon’s democratic aspirations through any means at its disposal – he believes that America, which has for so long taken his advice, should think twice about engaging Syria.
Lewis sees Syria with its current leadership as being out of sync with the rest of the Arab world that is not as impervious to the "Sadat Syndrome" as in years past:
“The late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat didn't make peace with Israel because he was suddenly convinced of the case for Zionism. He did it because in the late 1960s and early '70s, Egypt was becoming a Soviet colony. … In desperation, he turned to Israel, on the perfectly correct assumption that on the worst assessment of Israel's intentions, and on the best assessment of Israel's power, Israel was less dangerous than the Soviet Union.”

Lewis argues that other parts of the Arab world – but not Syria – are currently going through the “Sadat syndrome” – only this time, the threat pushing them towards Israel is from Iran. “What we see now is a similar process in a number of Arab governments. You will have noticed that in 2006, when Israel was fighting Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Arab governments did not break out into the usual chorus of indignation,” he told the Jerusalem Post. “On the contrary, they seemed to be waiting hopefully for Israel to finish the job, and they seemed to be rather disappointed when that didn't happen. I think that now, particularly due to the Iranian radical movement and its increasing Shi'ite network all over the Arab world, many Arab leaders consider it to be much more of a menace than Israel could ever be.”
So basically we have the Mearsheimer's and Carter's claim Israel destabilizes the region, the Arab world looks to Israel to stabilize the region, and the rest of the world just wants to handcuff Israel.

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