Three recent articles on Syria

Dialogue is in Syria's and America's interests - Anthony Cordesman

Says Syria is not interested in sending troops back into Lebanon and that a dialogue is possible even if it is not about to budge on the tribunal or support for Hizbullah. An incremental US policy based on carrots as well as sticks (as opposed to the current stick-only policy) can yield results and is worth pursuing

The Golan Waits for the Green Light - Nicholas Pelham

How Israelis and especially Americans are blocking Israel-Syria peace talks. in light of current uncertainty and the potential for tensions to escalate, it would be in the interests of all to at least engage Syria since it appears ready to hold formal talks.

How to Manage Assad - Jon Alterman

Alterman interviews Bashar al-Assad, finds his English improved, and thinks that Syria is not about to be bluffed out by the US and that the best policy would be (cautious) engagement.

Although Nicholas' piece deals at length with the Israeli side of the equation, overall these pieces are all overwhelmingly negative of the policies being pursued by the Bush administration, not only because they are unproductive but also, perhaps mostly, because they actually consist an obstacle to settling several lingering problems in the Levant as well as getting a better shot at correcting the situation in Iraq. On the return of the Golan to Syria, I am skeptical as always that Israel would give up the area without being forced to, either strategically or militarily. But Nicholas also offers plenty of evidence that at least, at the civil society level, there is some desire to end that part of the Arab-Israeli Cold War.
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.