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American Interests and an Israeli-Syrian Deal

Yuval Levin
Policy Paper No. 92 (Hebrew),
Published in Nativ, Vol. 73/2, 2000


The prospect of renewed Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations has brought into sharp focus a serious misconception about Syria’s intentions and strategic goals. Some decision makers in the United States and Israel appear to believe that by making “a strategic choice for peace,” Syrian President Assad is abandoning his long held anti-American policy objectives and choosing to enter the American camp. In fact, a peace deal with Israel will allow Assad to accomplish more easily those longstanding goals, which run flatly counter to American interests in the Middle East. These goals include the final subjugation of Lebanon under Syrian rule, the weakening and isolation of Turkey, an increased Syrian influence in the region and a strengthening of Assad’s own regime. By investing its prestige and resources in the current process, and thus investing itself in the future of the Assad regime, the United States risks enabling Assad to accomplish these objectives, and at the same time it risks impairing its own ability to exercise some measure of control over Syria’s actions. A deal with Israel will certainly shift the regional balance of power in Syria’s favor, and Syria’s favor equals the detriment of America’s closest allies and most vital interests in the region. Before committing itself to back any Israeli-Syrian deal, the United States must carefully consider the consequences such an agreement may have for its own interests and policy objectives. This study aims to examine precisely what some of those consequences may be.

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