Back in Iraq

The Washington Post reports militants have renewed their entry into Iraq through Syria. The developments come as diplomacy between the US and Syria are promising, suggesting the real motivation behind these movements. Meanwhile, violence in Iraq is lower than it has been since the summer of 2003. President Obama’s decision to renew economic and political sanctions against Damascus will threaten the progress made on both fronts.

The ability of Syria to make life difficult for America, was demonstrated by their removal of support for border control operations with Iraq last year after incursions into their territory. This should not be forgotten. Antagonism also tends to drive Syria towards its neighbour Iran. Even though this is clearly only a marriage of convenience, it should be avoided.

The most recent accusations from the US are that the government in Damascus are not trying hard enough to prevent the entry of terrorist insurgents into Iraq. However, the evidence ignores the fact that the increased numbers entering could be explained by exogenous factors, such as the current situation in the country, rather than any new negligence on Syria’s part. It also ignores the failings of Iraqi security forces, who are suffering from a lack of resources.

By assuming the worst of Syria, President Obama threatens to isolate them and drive them away from constructive co-operation. Most of his reasons for renewing the sanctions are nothing new, and they have limited impact on the nation.

Realpolitik would suggest that he should keep them on his side for the time being, and not get worked up about the relatively insignificant increase. If his relationship with Damascus deteriorates, the insurgents will have accomplished their goal.

By antagonising important regional actors as demonstrated by this report from Al Jazeera, President Obama shows that he has learned little from the diplomatic difficulties that his predecessor endured. Al-Qaeda are playing him off against Syria in the hopes of disrupting his efforts to bring them on side. They will probably succeed.

© The Free Marketeer 2009

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