After Pelosi’s Syria Visit, Dissidents Cower

“Pelosi’s visit was well-meant, but it’s been bad for everyone, and especially devastating for some of our closest friends in Syria,” an American researcher on Syria said. “The Syrian regime wants to be invited back to the diplomatic table, but at the same time it wants to make the point that none of the concessions that it may make with regard to regional security are connected to the Bush administration’s democracy agenda.”

In an interview last week, Mr. al-Bunni’s brother, Akram, said that he was saddened by Anwar’s sentencing. But even as he offered an explanation of why Syrian dissidents were upset by Ms. Pelosi’s visit, he said that he and his brother hoped at least that such international contacts could prove to have a positive effect in the long run.

“So much of Syria’s opposition was against Pelosi’s visit, against the E.U.’s talks with the regime,” Mr. al-Bunni explained. “They believe that these offers of friendship strengthen the regime and increase its totalitarian tendencies, and they’re angry.

“But perhaps, if the West continues to talk to the regime, our government will wish to improve its image on its own,” he continued. “People who favor this approach point to Turkey. This is a much slower process, but we’ve seen that it can work. The regime would like the world to believe that it doesn’t care about what the world thinks, but we know that’s not true. It will take time, but Syria can be encouraged to cooperate. Now that I’ve seen what happened in Iraq, I fear this is the only way.”

An earlier version of this story included an assertion that Ayman Abdel Nour is in exile. Mr. Abdel Nour is presently in Syria.