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Syria's Relations with Iran: Managing the Dilemmas of Alliance

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Syria's relations with Iran illustrate the importance of what Glenn Snyder calls the “alliance dilemma.” Efforts to strengthen the strategic partnership with Tehran have had a direct impact on Damascus's policies toward regional rivals. Nevertheless, the connection between the alliance game and the adversary game is not as straightforward as one might think. Whenever one ally adopts a posture of moderate hostility toward an adversary, the other is likely to engage in initiatives that might entrap both of them in unwanted conflicts. But if one partner assumes an inordinately hostile stance toward an adversary, the other tends to restrain itself for fear of being caught up in a general war. Likewise, when one ally makes moderate overtures to a rival, the other takes steps to realign preemptively. But if one partner acts in an extremely conciliatory manner toward an adversary, the other is more apt to shore up the alliance than to look for new partners. Making sense of the connection between Syria's alliance with Iran and its recent policies toward Turkey, Iraq, and Israel requires a reformulation of the alliance dilemma.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2007

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