Five years ago this coming Wednesday, House Majority leader Nancy Pelosi defied President Bush’s request and his strategy isolating Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad by going to Damascus. “We do not encourage and, in fact, we discourage members of Congress to make such visits to Syria,” the White House spokesman said. “This is a country that is a state sponsor of terror.”
Pelosi would have none of that. She had known evil and to her, he resided in the White House. The Syrian dictator, however, was a reforming, Western educated eye doctor. Bilateral problems might be real, but they might be resolved through dialogue. “We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace,” she told reporters.
The Syrian regime used her meeting to its full propaganda advantage. After concluding his meeting with Pelosi, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem, said, “These people in the United States who are opposing dialogue I tell them one thing: Dialogue is … the only method to close the gap existing between two countries.” Meanwhile, unbeknownst to Pelosi, Syrian officers and North Korean scientists scrambled to put the finishing touches on a covert nuclear facility, and Syrian dissidents dove for cover, interpreting correctly that Assad would interpret the end of America’s isolation of Assad as a green light for murder. Assad, in hindsight, welcomed Pelosi not as a politician with whom to have sincere dialogue, but rather as a useful idiot who might help relieve him of international pressure.
Five years later, Bashar al-Assad has not changed and, alas, neither has Nancy Pelosi.
yrian President Bassar al-Assad has fooled everyone for years except himself and Pulitzer Prize journalist Joel Brinkley, who saw the handwriting on the wall two years ago and described him as “the most dangerous man in the world.” But John Kerry both as Senator during the Bush administration and now as Secretary of State, and Hillary Clinton and President Obama knew better. All you have to do is “engage” the ruthless dictator and he will love you. That is the way it works in Middle East 101 at Foggy Bottom University, but that is not the way it works in the real Middle East. How did the world get in this mess of a dictator murdering men, women and child before everyone’s eyes while no one does anything about it? All of the reasons boil down to the fact that no one, including some Israeli officials, can see the Middle East without blinders that reflect wishful thinking. In 2006, Kerry was head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and conducted a “fact-finding “ tour at the same time that it was clear that the Syrian regime was involved in the assassination of nationalists in the government of Lebanon, where Syria had been pulling the strings for years and developed its alliance with Hezbollah. The Bush administration was not thrilled with Kerry’s imitative but could not openly oppose it. “The administration has their position, and it’s not my job at this point – from here particularly – to make comments about their policy,” Kerry said at the time. “They have their position as the executive branch and we have our position as a separate, co-equal branch of government.” Even seven years ago Kerry knew better than President Bush’s advisers and stated that the Bush administration’s refusal to talk to Syria and Iran is “a mistake” and “the kind of policy that’s got us into trouble” in the region. Anyone living in the Middle East knows that once a leading senator comes for friendly talks with one of the wicked men on earth, that means the United States does not hav
Anyone living in the Middle East knows that once a leading senator comes for friendly talks with one of the wicked men on earth, that means the United States does not have a strong will to isolate and weaken him. That became even clearer after Obama was elected. The Bush administration had withdrawn its ambassador from Damascus when it was clear that Assad was trying to pull the wool over everyone’s eyes. The Obama administration wore special glasses. A reporter covering the State Dept. asked in 2010, “Why are you are reversing the status of diplomacy in Damascus, raising it to full ambassador” at a time when Syria was not cooperating with the IAEA? “Why this holding out of hands to Syria which is equally in contravention of the IAEA, and getting more tough on Iran?” The State Dept. explained, “Given the issues in the region, we thought it was appropriate to have a representative there full time, to be able to have the kind of discussion and dialogue with Syria that we need, to encourage them where we think they’re taking steps that are positive, and also to continue very direct dialogue…. We clearly want to see comprehensive peace and that would involve progress on the Syrian-Israeli track as well as the other tracks.” Got it? Israel is the key. Make peace with Israel, and the world will be dandy. Forcing Israel to surrender land, in this case the strategic Golan Heights, was far more important to the Obama administration than less important things, like nukes and chemical weapons. But the State Dept. has an answer for everything. “We remain concerned about Syria’s nuclear activity,” Crowley said. “They have not explained what was happening at the Al-Kibar reactor. It’s refused to cooperate with the IAEA or account for chemically processed uranium found at two sites. We’re not putting an ambassador into Damascus as a favor to Syria; we’re putting an ambassador in Damascus so we can have the kind of direct conversation and engagement that we think is necessary in t