The Syrian dictatorship possessed in the extreme two qualities particularly dangerous in a military adversary- ruthlessness and patience. Like all dictatorships, the regime had the advantage of not needing to cater to its domestic opinion. It could do whatever it deemed expedient to achieve its goals. The Syrians had been playing a diplomatic card game with us for decades: doing just enough to look accommodating or coming up just shy of being too provocative. They played the international media like skilled poker players-offering public words of support for peace efforts so as to be seen as not unreasonable. The Syrians would float friendly diplomatic overtures to give the regime deniability when negotiations went off-track, as they had intended all along. This left them free to pursue their hostile interests behind the scenes: destabilizing the Lebanese government and supporting armed militias and terrorist groups.
From Known and Unknown by Donald Rumsfeld
This was written in reference to troubles in Lebanon in 1983 with Rumsfeld serving as a special envoy under Reagan. When the U.S. decided to pull out after the devastating loss of 241 marines in the barracks bombing, Rumsfeld had to deliver the news to President Gemayel. Both men knew how devastating the U.S. exit would be to Lebanon’s future. We later learned this was one of several actions of perceived weakness on our part that emboldened Bin Ladin. Rumsfeld learned that perceived weakness in the face of a ruthless enemy does not lead to peace.
After taking the House in 2006, Pelosi reached out to Assad in Lebanon in a visit strongly discouraged by the State department and Bush who was still president. If Assad was a “skilled poker player” Pelosi proved to be a naïve rank amateur. In September 2007 the Israelis destroyed a nuclear reactor in Syria.