Syria, the United States, and the War on Terror in the Middle East

( 6 )

Overview

Ever since Syria won its independence from France in 1946, it has been a crucial player in Middle Eastern politics. Over the years, relations between the United States and Syria have fluctuated as Washington has tried to balance its commitment to Israel's security with its support for Arab regimes in order to protect vital and strategic interests in the Arab world. The Arab-Israeli conflict is, however. no longer the only focal point of the relationship. Now, terrorism has entered the fray. On the State ...

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Syria, the United States, and the War on Terror in the Middle East

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Overview

Ever since Syria won its independence from France in 1946, it has been a crucial player in Middle Eastern politics. Over the years, relations between the United States and Syria have fluctuated as Washington has tried to balance its commitment to Israel's security with its support for Arab regimes in order to protect vital and strategic interests in the Arab world. The Arab-Israeli conflict is, however. no longer the only focal point of the relationship. Now, terrorism has entered the fray. On the State Department's terrorism list since 1979, Syria became even more persona non grata as far as Washington was concerned when Damascus vocally opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. The American war in Iraq, occupation, and promotion of democracy throughout the Middle East pose a strong challenge to the Syrian regime. The new Syrian leadership, in power only since 2000, faces immense challenges—protecting Syria's regional status and surviving internal and external threats. Against this background, Syria and the United States have set themselves on a collision course over terrorism, arms proliferation, Lebanon, the Middle East peace process, and Iraq. Syria is, nevertheless, extremely important to the United States, because it can be a force for either stability or instability in an extremely volatile region.

Recent events have put the spotlight on Syria's policies and actions. After the assassination of a Lebanese politician, protests in Lebanon led to the withdrawal of Syrian troops. While the withdrawal averted an immediate threat of bloodshed, the Bush administration accused Syria of being a source of instability in the Middle East, with Secretary of State Rice charging that Syria was still active in Lebanon and was supporting foreign terrorists fueling the insurgency in Iraq. The U.S.-Syrian relationship is of critical importance to the United States' efforts to promote democracy throughout the Middle East. At the same time, the United States has been pressuring Syria to clamp down on terrorism within its own borders. Rabil provides a history of the modern U.S.-Syrian relationship, putting the latest events in the context of this contemporary history, and placing the relationship in the context of Middle Eastern politics.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Rabil has written a dispassionate and scrupulously researched account of the Middle Eastern dynamics that stand at the centre of today's most urgent challenges. Unlike other books that have been written about Syria and US foreign policy, this work stands out in its in-depth treatment of ideological and socio-political realities in the region."

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Orient

"Robert Rabil's latest book is much more than an overview of US-Syrian relations. It sketches the most important developments in the Levant and its surroundings from the middle of the 20th century up to today. Thus the book also deals with Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. Nevertheless, Rabil keeps a clear, systematic focus on the complex linkages between regional developments and Syria's foreign policy….Rabil has written a dispassionate and scrupulously researched account of the Middle Eastern dynamics that lie at the center of today's most urgent challenges. Unlike other books that have been written about Syria and US foreign policy, this work stands out in its in-depth treatment of ideological and socio-political conditions in the region. To his credit, Rabil does not view the Levant simply through the lens of US policy; consequently, the title of the book is narrower than the author's actual perspective."

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The Middle East Journal

"Although Rabil completed this book in March 2005, he was prescient in analyzing the politics of Syria, Lebanon, and Hezbollah. Rabil suggested conditions could lead to war, which did occur in July-August 2006. He cites reasons for the US government's growing frustration with Syria's support for resistance forces in Iraq, Hamas, and Islamic jihad. Rabil contends the Asad regime's policy of liberalizing the economy is accompanied by even more authoritarian measures to contain dissent. One such policy is to encourage Pan-Arabism as well as Islamist ideologies. The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Refik Hariri in 2005, which resulted in a popular revolt compelling the withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon, encouraged the author to think that Lebanon might yet be able to foster a viable Lebanese state. But the war between Hezbollah and Israel jeopardized this possibility. Indeed, the war may well result in another prediction of the author's coming true: Syria is set to clash with the United States over the future of the Middle East….Highly recommended. Upper-division undergraduates through practitioners."

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Choice

"[M]uch more than an overview of United States-Syrian relations. It sketches the most important developments in the Levant and its surroundings from the mid-20th century to today. Thus it also deals with Israel, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, while keeping a clear and systematic focus on how their complex interconnections link to Syria's foreign policy….Against the background of the Israel-Hizbollah war of July 2006, Rabil's book is ideally placed to aid understanding of the latest dynamics….[a] dispassionate and scrupulously researched account of middle-eastern political dynamics. Those who have made or might consider a trip to Syria and the region could benefit from reading it."

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Open Democracy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780275990152
  • Publisher: ABC-CLIO, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 2/28/2006
  • Series: Praeger Security International Series
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

ROBERT G. RABIL is Assistant Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Political Science Department at Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton. The author of Embattled Neighbors: Syria, Israel, and Lebanon (2003), he writes frequently for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a think tank founded in 1985 to promote understanding of America's interests in the Middle East.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

Cradle of Arab Nationalism: The Fatherland, the Ba'th and Modern Syria under Asad

The Beginning of U.S.-Syrian Relations: Between the Arab-Israeli Conflict and the Cold War

The Emergence of U.S.-Syrian Ambivalent Relationship

The Fulcrum of Elusive Peace

The Unholy Relationship

A New Cold War?

The New Struggle for Lebanon: Democracy and Syria's Withdrawal

Syria Post-Withdrawal: Reform or Dictatorship?

Conclusion

Selected Bibliography

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2006

    Sheds light on a complexities in the Middle East

    Gives you the diversity of the region from both perspectives and how US forien policy can change its course in the Middle East.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2006

    Excellent Book

    It is an excellent review of U.S.-Syrian relations, which has not been previously examined. The author reveals the nuances and subtleties of this conflicting relationship without mincing his words. This book is highly recommended, especially now at a time when Syria is at the center of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. A must read!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2006

    Eye-opener

    Extremely timely, insightful, and thought-provoking. The author combines a unique personal familiarity with the region, with a complete grasp of the current political realities, to illustrate how pivotal a role Syria plays (or should play) in the United States' strategy for the region.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2006

    A Must Read

    This book gives the reader an understanding of why things are happening in Middle East and the strategy that Washington can take to face this threat

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2006

    CLEAR THINKING

    EXCELLENT REVIEW OF PAST AND PRESENT PROBLEMS IN THE HEART OF THE TROUBLED MIDDLE EAST. THE AUTHOR CLEARLY DEFINES THE HISTORY AND FAILURES OF SYRIA IN THEIR RELATIONS WITH THE UNITED STATES AS WELL AS THEIR FAILED POLICIES IN LEBANON--AND THE SEARCH OR PEACE IN REGION.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2006

    A Timely Book on an Important Subject

    So much has been made of the Saudi connection to terrorism and 9/11 that Syria¿s role in influencing events in the Middle East has been somewhat overshadowed. As the cradle of Arab nationalism and the birthplace of the Ba¿ath party, Syria has used its ideological and geographic position to influence events throughout the history of the modern Middle East. Given Syria¿s recent role in sheltering and nurturing Hamas¿ leadership and the likes of Abu Musab Al-Zarqawi and the current allegations by Jordan that Hamas affiliated terrorists captured in the Kingdom were recruited and trained in Syria, this is a book that is both timely and makes a significant contribution to our understanding of today¿s Middle East. Rabil clearly explains the complex events that have led to the current state of U.S. ¿ Syrian relations and discusses the future consequences of a Syria dominated by Islamic Fundamentalists if our policies do not change. Rabil is a skillful historian and political analyst who has the rare ability to write at a scholarly level while making his material accessible to a general audience. You don¿t need to be a Middle East expert to appreciate the material presented here. Meticulously researched and written in a lively and captivating manner, there is much here for everyone from academicians and policy makers to those who just want to learn more about the Middle East. His review of the historical relationship between Syria and the U.S. and its effect on events in the Middle East is both comprehensive and engaging. Rabil brings out the various nuisances in this complex relationship and provides a strong basis for understanding today¿s (and future) events. If you are looking for partisan political analysis, then this is not the book for you. Rabil displays an evenhandedness that is all the more surprising considering that he served as chief of emergency with the Red Cross in Lebanon¿s Baabda district during Lebanon¿s civil war. If you are interested in the complex currents that have influenced the events in the Middle East today or if you have a particular interest in Syria and its place in today¿s ongoing conflict then I highly recommend this book. And if you want to delve deeper, let me suggest that you read Rabil¿s other book Embattled Neighbors: Syria, Israel, Lebanon.

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