And here comes part two…
To read Reshuffling the Cards? (I): Syria’s Evolving Strategy, please click here.
EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND RECOMMENDATIONS
Syria typically, and at times justifiably, brings to mind stagnation and immobility. Yet, over recent years, change has been afoot. In 2008, it agreed to Turkish-mediated talks with Israel. It built ties with the Iraqi government after long depicting it as the offspring of an illegitimate occupation. It began to normalise relations with Lebanon, after years of resisting its claim to sovereignty. It accelerated economic reforms. These steps fall short of being revolutionary; some were imposed rather than chosen and reflected opportunism rather than forward thinking. Still, by Syrian standards, they are quite remarkable, especially in contrast to recent fervent militancy.
In a companion report with identical policy recommendations published on 14 December 2009, Crisis Group analysed the factors behind Damascus’s strategic evolution. Here, it explores in detail the mechanism, extent and limitations of these adjustments as well as challenges faced by the Obama administration if it wishes to exploit and solidify them. Only so much can be done in advance of genuine progress in Israeli-Syrian negotiations. For reasons Israeli, Syrian and American, that could be some time in the making. In the interim, Washington and Damascus should move beyond their tactical interaction by heightening the level of their engagement, broadening its agenda and quickly focusing on joint steps on Iraq.