One of George Orwell’s keenest insights in 1984 is the kaleidoscopic character of modern state-to-state relations, wherein countries go from being allies to enemies and back again, and government spokesmen and the press report on each situation (friendship or enmity) as though it was eternal.
As the US prepares a possible missile attack on Syria, it is worth remembering the times in modern history when Syria was cooperative with the US or even an ally (yes). I’m not sure on whom this record of cooperation reflects worse, but it shows it is a Realist world out there…
1. In 1976 as the Palestine Liberation Organization and its Muslim and Druze allies were poised to take over Lebanon, Syria received a green light from the US and Israel to invade and put them down, strengthening the right wing Christian militias that were rivals to the PLO.
2. In 1985 Syria intervened with hijackers holding passengers on a US airliner hostage in Lebanon to free them, and was thanked when it succeeded by president Ronald Reagan.
3. In 1989, Syria supported US and Saudi attempts to broker a deal among Lebanon’s warring factions, leading to the Taif Accords that brought the Lebanese Civil War to an end.
4. Syria fought as an ally of the US against Iraq in the Gulf War in 1991.
5. In the 1990s, Syria attended several peace summits aimed at ending the Israel-Palestinian struggle. Then President Hafez al-Assad accepted George H. W. Bush’s invitation to talks, and later he met with President Clinton during the latter’s diplomatic push.
6. After 2001, the US sent captured al-Qaeda operatives to Syria to be tortured by that country’s secret police.
7. Syrian intelligence let the United States know when it discovered an al-Qaeda plot to attack the US Fifth Fleet navy HQ in Bahrain.