Following the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri in February 2005, the US has shunned high level talks with Syria. Is this week’s brief meeting between Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem the end of the Bush Administration’s isolation policy on Syria? It’s hard to tell. A number of articles in the New York Times indicate a change in at least the tone of US diplomacy. This has been taking place on the ground in Syria for months following the arrival of US Charge d’Affaires to Damascus, Michael Corbin last year.
A more productive, less lecturing tone is a step in the right direction. But it’s important to point out that differences between Syria on Lebanon are vast, and the traditional “horse-trading” with Damascus on multiple tracks (i.e. Iraq, the Palestinians, etc) is fraught with difficulties. This wave of diplomatic good will could run on the rocks of reality in the region.