The Blog

Rice Meets Syrian Foreign Minister

10:26 PM, Oct 1, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
Widget tooltip
Single Page Print Larger Text Smaller Text Alerts

Two days after George W. Bush criticized Syria as a state sponsor of terror in a speech at the United Nations, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Mouallem in New York. The meeting was first reported in the Syrian state press which noted that it took place at Rice's request. Mouallen told Al Hayat that the meeting represented a softening of the US position on Syria.

It's a fair reading. Long gone are the days of George W. Bush's "with us or against us" approach to terrorism. Rice has made it clear through her dealings with Iran and Syria that terror sponsoring states can be with us on some days and against us on others. In fact, in an interview with TWS back in May, she said this rather directly. "Syria can't decide which camp it's going to be in, you know. Maybe it's fitting that they came at the deputy foreign minister level at Annapolis, because one day they're going to be part of the solution and the next day they're going to be a part of the problem. I think, on balance, they're more part of the problem."

So do the State Department terrorism analysts, at least officially. "Iran and Syria routinely provide unique safe haven, substantial resources and guidance to terrorist organizations," they wrote in the State Sponsors of Terror Overview. "The Syrian Government continued to provide political and material support to both Hizballah and Palestinian terrorist groups. HAMAS, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PLFP), and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), among others, base their external leadership in Damascus. The Syrian Government insists that the Damascus-based groups undertake only political and informational activities. However, in statements originating from outside Syria, many Palestinian groups claimed responsibility for anti-Israeli terrorist acts. Syria's public support for the groups varied, depending on its national interests and international pressure. In 2003, these groups lowered their public profile after Damascus announced that they had voluntarily closed their offices in Syria. In September, however, Syrian President Bashar al-Asad held a highly publicized meeting with rejectionist leaders, and a month later the rejectionist leaders participated in a meeting in Damascus with the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament, Gholam Ali Haddad Adel. Syria continued to permit Iran to use Damascus as a transshipment point to resupply Hizballah in Lebanon."

The new Bush Doctrine: You are either with us or against us. Or both. Whatever.

That, at least, seems to be the version of the Bush Doctrine preferred by Condoleezza Rice, who has pushed for warmer relations with Axis of Evil nations North Korea and Iran, and Iranian satellite Syria. By most accounts, President Bush still believes in the original Bush Doctrine and continues to articulate his views forcefully in meetings with members of Congress, in off-the-record sessions with journalists and sessions with foreign dignitaries.

With less than four months left in his term, the question of this: Is the president in charge of his foreign policy or has he completely handed it off to his Secretary of Stae?