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United States draws a hard line with Syria

Diplomatic relations in the U.N. Security Council are becoming increasingly precarious as the United States continues its rigid approach to countless Arab nations, alienating most of the Middle East and its supporters.

Even now, when the United States has a justifiable reason for wanting sanctions, it has cried “wolf” so many times that members of the Security Council are unlikely to unanimously support any U.S.-backed resolution without questioning the motives and the results of the proposal. Particularly in the case of Syria, the motives and results are very unclear.

Specifically, the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Harir, murdered on Feb. 14 in Beirut, has led to questions involving Syrian occupation of Lebanese territory.

U.N. investigations imply that Syria, a nation that has systematically occupied Lebanon for decades both physically and through extended political control, may have provoked the incident. In a landmark move, Syria responded by pulling troops from Lebanon and announcing it would be conducting its own investigation into the murder.

The United States and its allies were unconvinced and decided to force Syria to comply with the U.N. investigation into the Harir murder through a resolution passed in the Security Council.Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was plainly stubborn in her actions against Syria. She was hard lined regarding the resolution, insisting on the inclusion of threats such as sanctions and vague language involving “action” against Syria should the nation not comply, despite the mounting distrust of American interests by nations in the Middle East.

Once again, it is a moot point whether Rice’s stance in this circumstance was warranted, amid a series of diplomatic mistakes in the region and erroneous finger pointing toward nations such as Iran. The United States doesn’t have the international credibility it once enjoyed and therefore cannot approach these incidences as it had. Instead of rectifying recent mistakes, it seems the United States has learned next to nothing concerning the nature of diplomacy.

The culprit behind U.S. failures in stabilizing the region rests is inconsistency. The United States maintains that it only wants peace, freedom and stability in the region. Future work toward these goals will be difficult if American diplomac – outwardly expressive in its support for Israel, yet undermining this through support for the Arab financial sector, all the while condemning harshly Arab League members – keeps waffling and bumbling.

Unfortunately, the United States has also ostracized global powerhouses Russia and China, supporters of many Arab contentions, causing these nations to continuously block resolutions supported by the American platform in the Security Council. This past week, the three co-sponsors of the resolution – the United States, Britain and France – had to agree not to directly sanction Syria in order to entice China or Russia into considering it.

The resolution was passed after two significant things occurred in the council. Firstly, the rift between the West and the Middle East – with its Russian/Chinese support – widened, and secondly, the original American goal for Syria was abandoned in favor of a softened version that may or may not be enough to force Syria to truly comply.

However, it seems that compliance was not even necessarily the American goal.

Not only are resolutions becoming next to impossible for the United States to pass as relations deteriorate in the council, but the Bush administration is too entangled with Saudi Arabian financial interests to seriously force sanctions against Syria.

It is difficult to see how the House of Saud directly correlates to Syria’s compliance without an examination of the relationship between Prince Al-Walid bin Talal of the House of Saud and the United States.

The Saudi prince has holdings in Disney, Citigroup and other large American companies. He has been explicitly tied to his family’s financial deals with George H. W. Bush. Following Sept. 11, New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani flatly denied Al-Walid’s donation to the city of New York after he made statements that favoritism in American foreign policies played a direct role in the Sept. 11 attacks. His support for the United States does not waver unless a question of Arab solidaity is broached.

Al-Walid is rumored to be under consideration for Rafik Harir’s position in Lebanon despite the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon’s opinion that Al-Walid bin Talal is a “pro-Syrian power broker.” It would seem that the lobby group is confused. They laud the advancements to free Lebanon by the Bush Administration and condemn the activities of Al-Walid, who is undeniably happily tied to the same administration.

In fact, the group is not the only entity expressing confusion. It is impossible to explain how the Bush family will continue to be friendly with Al-Walid if he takes a pro-Syrian position in Lebanon.

It is not surprising that all of these facts have caused the Security Council to take the United States less seriously. The future of American foreign diplomacy is in jeopardy.How did we come to this point?

Christina Diaz is a senior majoring in political science.