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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ted Kattouf and former CIA agent discuss Syria

Earlier this, year, the Middle East Policy Council held a symposium on Syria, featuring Theodore Kattouf, Martha Neff Kessler, Hisham Melhem, and Murhaf Jouejati. Watch the videos on the attached link. Below are some excerpts.

Former US Ambassador to Syria, Ted Kattouf, says:

"My belief is that Iran and Syria would like a situation analogous to what Lebanon was before Syrian troops were forced to withdraw; that is, a weak state, many factions, and Syria and Iran can play - can be the balancing wheel, and can play off one faction against another, control the violence, keep the state from breaking up, because you don't want Kurdish separatism - and there they'll have a lot of support from Turkey as well. And they can both probably do very well financially, as well, particularly Syria, if it has that kind of relationship with the various Iraqi factions.

So I think there is some reason to engage with Syria, I think, particularly, if we want to get out of Iraq with some dignity, with a semblance of order in the country. The Baker-Hamilton Commission is right; we're going to need to engage with Syria, we're going to need to engage with Iran, and there are issues upon which we can engage without offering Syria things that are unacceptable to virtually all of us in this room."

And former CIA agent Martha Kessler adds:
"I think it's important to underscore, however, the assertion in the Commission's study that Syria is simply a fact you cannot ignore in the region; it is a reality that Syria has considerable influence with regard to Iraq and the region generally, and to ignore it is to simply put yourself at a considerable disadvantage. I would also contend that the policy of isolation simply has been proved not to work. I also believe it didn't work in the late 1970s or throughout the '80s when we also tried it and it has been the source of considerable problems that have affected our interests, so I certainly would applaud any efforts in the direction of engaging Syria."

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