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Amb. Moustapha Op-Ed in the Washington Post

Washington Post Opinion Editorials

What Motivates Syria?

By Imad Moustapha
Sunday, December 10, 2006; B07

U.S. engagement -- or rather reengagement -- with Syria has become a
salient topic in almost every political debate on U.S. policy in the
Middle East, particularly regarding Iraq.

But while commentators argue over whether the United States should
engage Syria and whether Syria has the will to cooperate or even the
capability to deliver intended outcomes, it appears that the Bush
administration remains incapable of searching for a comprehensive
approach to the strife in Iraq.

According to top officials in the Bush administration, engagement with
Syria would yield no benefits. What is Syria's reaction to this
viewpoint? Well, we believe that if U.S. officials continue to regard
a dialogue with Syria as a matter of "dictating" -- that is, telling
Syria what it ought and ought not to do -- then their predictions are

Given such a "dialogue," Syria would have to agree with the Bush
administration officials who say that nothing can be achieved by such
engagement. It would be a waste of valuable time for both sides, and
in the meantime the situation in Iraq would continue to spiral
downward from disastrous to catastrophic.

But if the Bush administration comes to realize that truly engaging
consists of an honest dialogue in which all parties are involved, then
positive results will be possible -- for Iraq, the United States,
Syria and the entire region.

Contrary to what many in Washington believe, past Syrian-American
collaboration has yielded many beneficial outcomes, a fact that
several former U.S. officials could confirm. These include, among
other things, Syrian cooperation on the Middle East peace process, on
al-Qaeda and, yes, on Iraq.

What motivates Syria to engage on Iraq? Let us be clear: Syria is not
looking for a "deal" with the U.S. administration on any issue. The
situation in Iraq is a matter of paramount concern to Syria,
particularly the unprecedented levels of death and destruction and the
possibility of Iraq's disintegrating, which would have terrible
repercussions for the entire Middle East.

Thus Syria has the will and the capacity to assist in Iraq. This help
is imperative to Syrian national interests. Syria can cooperate on
security issues with the Iraqis and can give considerable support to
their political process. The visit of our foreign minister to Baghdad,
and the resumption of diplomatic ties between Damascus and Baghdad
after a 25-year lapse, clearly illustrates our commitment to a free,
peaceful and unified Iraq.

But Syria recognizes that no magical solution exists to
instantaneously achieve the desired objectives. A rigorous and
comprehensive approach is required. This approach should include a
reconsideration of U.S. policy in Iraq, starting with the recognition
of the necessity to include all parties involved: neighboring
countries and all factions of the Iraqi political and social spectrum.

No party should feel defeated or excluded. All stakeholders in the
future of Iraq should feel that it is in their own interest to help
stabilize the situation.

A solution should also include U.S. acknowledgment that the majority
of Iraqis regard the occupation as only exacerbating the situation and
causing further violence and instability. A U.S. plan for withdrawal
should be on the table. Only such a step will prove to the various
parties involved that the United States genuinely plans to return Iraq
to the Iraqis.

Syria believes that engagement of all parties will ultimately become
inevitable and the only route forward. Until this happens, all parties
will continue to lose. Above all, if it does not happen, Iraq will
continue to pay the terrible price for such lack of vision.

The writer is Syria's ambassador to the United States.

Imad Moustapha, Ph.D.
Ambassador of Syria to the USA

Embassy of Syria
2215 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202) 588 70 13
Fax: (202) 234 95 48
Imad Moustapha, Ph.D.
Ambassador of Syria to the USA

Embassy of Syria
2215 Wyoming Avenue NW
Washington DC 20008
Tel: (202) 588 70 13
Fax: (202) 234 95 48
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