Matthew RJ Brodsky writes an excellent review of US/Syrian relationship over the years in National Security Policy Proceedings Vol 2 – Center for Security Policy and ends with,
One can only hope that the future doesn’t resemble February 2010. During that month the Assad regime rejected an IAEA request for a meeting; began importing sensitive nuclear-related military equipment from North Korea; exported Syrian-made Fateh-110 missiles to Hezbollah; began training the terrorist group in the use of SA-2 and SA-6 surface-to-surface missiles; mocked Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration with Ahmadinejad over dinner in Damascus; met with Hezbollah’s leader during lunch; vowed to strengthen its relationship with Tehran; pledged to continue support for the resistance; and threatened missile attacks against Israeli cities. It is an impressive litany to which the Obama administration responded by naming a new ambassador to Syria and lifting the State Department’s travel warning for the country.
The Obama administration’s current policy towards the Assad regime is to hope Syria will change in exchange for gestures from Washington. Instead, the White House should learn from the experiences of successive US and Israeli governments. Syria’s importance in the Middle East stems not from its ability to play a constructive role in region, but rather from its ability to cause mischief and wreak havoc upon its neighbors.
Furthermore, the argument made in Washington that aggressive diplomacy with Syria was tried and failed and now engagement and incentives must be the order of the day, is false. Neither a carrot nor stick approach has been fully explored. And one thing is certain: Syria’s rogue behavior is not the result of Washington’s diplomatic communications skills; it is the result of strategic calculations and decisions made by Damascus.
The Obama administration should be ratcheting up the pressure on the Assad regime rather than easing its pain. Syria should be presented with difficult choices that will unequivocally and irreversibly demonstrate that it has changed its worldview and behavior, before being presented with rewards for empty promises.