Tuesday, 3 April 2007

Diplomacy under fire: Pelosi visits Syria

White House criticizes House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s (D-CA) trip to Syria
Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the House, produced uproar by the White House and others when it was let known she would visit Syria in her latest diplomatic tour of the Middle East. If a planned trip was slammed so much, imagine how annoyed the Bush administration was when she arrived in Syria. (At least she is not visiting Iran!)

White House anger failed to quell when she actually made the visit today. Pelosi rightfully stated that keeping an open line of communication with Syria, which holds some standing in the Mid-East, is a good thing in order to help with the situations in Iraq and Lebanon.

Syria’s foreign policy remained fairly moderate — that is, until they were shunned by the United States. Syria also fights against terrorist groups and ideologies like jihad and al-Qaeda, and has an interest in the wider Middle East conflicts. Pelosi has met with the Syrian foreign minister and is expected to talk with President Bashar al-Assad. The Syrian press has been very friendly to Pelosi, slapping labels such as 'brave lady' to the first ever female speaker and highest ranking Congressional Democrat; Syrian — mostly state-run — media pointed to her visit as 'positive'.

Channels of diplomacy need to be kept open. US-Syria relations are needed and welcomed by Syria. Syria isn’t as sinister or meddling as Iran, and its close relations to Iran deal largely with the United States. Unlike Iran, Syria is not interested in a so-called Shia crescent across the Mid-East. Syria may be authoritarian, but so is Egypt, an American ally, which shares the Syrian policy against Islamic extremism. Iran has been a (mostly) bad influence on Syria, but there is still hope.

Pelosi hopes to be able to relay Israel’s diplomatic message to Syria, and vice versa. Dialogue is key to diplomacy; diplomacy is key to peace. The Middle East needs peace, and keeping a stubborn, aggressive mindset like that of the White House cannot achieve such an objective. American hostility is hardly needed. Interesting how an administration accusing others of hindering the peace process is indeed hindering it on its own.

Accusations and pejorative labels need to be dropped if Bush wants any bright area whatsoever in the already-gloomy area of history labeled "George W. Bush's foreign policy". Ignorance and 'us against them', 'with us or against us' catchphrases of political rhetoric is 79 percent of Bush diplomacy. Another 15 percent is warfare. 5 percent more is baseless and objective-less foreign visits. That leaves roughly 1 percent left for any sort of pragmatic, positive maneuvering by this administration — the leaders of the world's most powerful nation, and one of the most increasingly despised.

Update: Pelosi is not the first American politician to visit Syria. Why didn't the White House call it a 'bad idea' when three Republican congresspeople visited recently?

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