Bashar's Trial by Fire
By Flynt Leverett
(Brookings Institution Press, Hardcover, 9780815752042, 286pp.)
Publication Date: April 2005
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Syria has long presented a difficult problem for American policymakers. Actively supportive of groups such as Hezbollah, it has occupied Lebanon for more than 20 years. Damascus remains intransigent on Israel's complete withdrawal from the disputed Golan Heights as the sine qua non for peace with that state. It is often mentioned in the same breath as members of the infamous "axis of evil." Syria occupies an important strategic position in the Middle East --one made even more significant as America considers long-term involvement in the reconstruction of Iraq. As the policy challenges posed by Syria's problematic behavior have grown more pressing in the recent security environment, the United States has had difficulty formulating a coherent and effective policy toward Damascus. The death of long-time dictator Hafiz al Assad has forced renewed debate on its place in the region. The transition from Assad to his son Bashar has thrown Western consensus on how to deal with the Syrian leadership further into doubt. In "heriting Syria f"ills this void with a detailed analytic portrait of the Syrian regime under Bashar's leadership. It draws implications for U.S. policy, offering a bold new strategy for achieving American objectives, largely via a strategy of "coordinated engagement" employing both sticks and carrots. This strategy would be independent of the Arab-Israeli peace process, thus a historical departure for the United States. The author's long service in the foreign policy establishment has uniquely positioned him to provide valuable insights into this mysterious yet important country. This book will be of high interest to those concerned about the Middle East, the war on terror, and the future of American foreign policy. Written for a general audience as well as the policymaking and academic communities, her "iting Syria is is" an important resource for all who seek deeper understanding of this enigmatic nation and its leadership.