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How many times does the Obama administration have to get bitten before it stops leading with an “open hand”?

Hillary Clinton this week called on Syrian President Bashar Assad to respond to recent US overtures by distancing his country from Iran. Yesterday, Assad responded by signing a new friendship pact with a grinning Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

More, he mocked our secretary of state: “We must have understood Clinton wrong because of bad translation or our limited understanding, so we signed the agreement.”

The latest US overture was the naming of Robert Ford last week as our next ambassador to Syria, five years after we recalled our last ambassador to protest Syria’s suspected involvement in the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

That followed a series of visits to Damascus by increasingly eager top Obama emissaries, who offered Assad trade agreements, economic assistance and diplomatic incentives. Last week, the State Department removed a longstanding advisory against travel to Syria. (To be fair, tourists are safe there: Police states gladly provide fine security for everyone except regime opponents.)

Obama’s “engagement hawks” claim that enough carrots can persuade Syria to leave Iran’s orbit, end its support of anti-American insurgents in Iraq, stop arming Hezbollah in Lebanon, close the Damascus headquarters of Hamas and other terrorist groups and even sign a peace treaty with Israel.

Meanwhile, Assad calmly pockets every gift we shower on him, then thumbs his nose at us. We’ve yet to get a single meaningful concession.

Five years after the (American-supported) peaceful Cedar Revolution drove Syrian troops out of Lebanon, that nation is back under near-complete Syrian control. Lebanon’s new prime minister, Hariri’s son Saad, recently had no choice but to go and pay obeisance to Assad — kissing the ring of his father’s killer. NYPOST

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