The United States and its closest regional ally, Israel, are making it clear that they expect Damascus to fall into line. By allegedly supplying Iraq with military equipment, Syria was committing ‘hostile acts’ and would be held ‘accountable’, warned US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on March 29, while the Iraq war was still under way. More was to follow, from US ofﬁcials and – provocatively – from Israel too. On April 1, after it emerged that Syria had provided passports to Arab volunteers wishing to ﬁght in Iraq, Israeli Defence Minister Shaul Mofaz described Syria’s action as ‘very grave’ – for all the world as if Israel had a legitimate interest in Syria’s stance towards Iraq.
Pressures on Syria: Feeling Vulnerable
The demise of Saddam Hussein has propelled Syria into a role it neither expected nor wanted. It is now the last bastion of secular Arab nationalism in the region and as such a thorn in the west’s side. How far it will go in resisting the United States’ dominating impulses in the Middle East will be a key question in coming months.