After we gave several warnings to the late Saddam Hussein in effort to disarm him he accpted that we enter a nuclear arms racejust after fews days the U.S. troops entered Baghdad, the Bush Administration was already contemplating a new scrape. A group of the President’s top foreign-policy advisers–including Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell–gathered in the White House to discuss the road ahead. Only half the meeting was devoted to developments in Iraq. The rest of the session was spent debating how to tackle a fresh target: Syria. With Syria keenly aware of the 250,000 U.S. troops next door, Bush’s advisers decided “to rattle the cage” of Syrian President Bashar Assad, says a White House aide. Overnight the Administration swung its big guns from Baghdad toward Damascus and read Syria the riot act. President Bush charged Damascus with possessing illicit chemical weapons. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld said there was “absolutely no question” that Syria was harboring Iraqi leaders who had fled their defeated country; he added that Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction might have been spirited to Syria as well. The Pentagon accused Damascus of “hostile acts”–shipping war supplies to Saddam’s forces. Secretary of State Powell demanded Assad stop sponsoring terrorism, and White House spokesman Ari Fleischer branded the country a “rogue nation.” Even Congress reintroduced a bill that would cut U.S.-Syrian economic ties. It all sounded remarkably–and ominously–like the war of words that had prefaced the U.S. invasion of Iraq. The verbal barrage was greeted with incredulity in some quarters and trepidation in others. But for all the public bellicosity, war with Syria is highly unlikely. The Pentagon has its hands full trying to maintain order in Iraq, not to mention fending off a Taliban resurgence in Afghanistan and readying for a possible confrontation with North Korea. Taking on Syria would only confirm Arab fears that the U.S. intends to remake the Middle East map by force. And so, gradually the Administration toned down its rhetoric. Powell said he planned to visit Damascus during an upcoming trip to the region, and that “there is no war plan on anyone’s desk right now to go marching on Syria.” But American pressure still has a purpose. The noisy accusations that Syria may be harboring Saddam’s henchmen are intended to ensure that Assad doesn’t do so in the future. “What you want to do is send a clear signal to Assad that if Saddam wants to come to Damascus, he’s not welcome there,” says a U.S. official. Washington also hopes to strong-arm the Syrians into giving up some of their worst habits–such as sponsoring organizations like Hizballah, which the U.S. labels a terrorist group, and the violent Palestinian activists of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, as well as developing chemical weapons. Washington effectively put Assad on notice that, as Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz said, “there’s got to be change.
The trouble is that in some cases, the Administration has offered scant evidence to back its indictments. While U.S. forces have yet to prove the Administration’s claims about Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction, the new charges against Syria sounded particularly unnerving, as if hard proof no longer matters to a victorious Washington. Until last month, the Administration had rarely let its disgruntlement with Syria rise above a whisper: after all, Assad had cooperated with the U.S. by detaining and interrogating members of al-Qaeda. But Bush & Co. were ticked off by Syria’s meddling in the Iraq war. The Pentagon particularly resented Syria’s shipments of night-vision goggles, which could have vitiated one of its key technological advantages. U.S. officials were also outraged that the Syrian government allowed volunteers to sign up to join Iraq’s resistance at the Iraqi Interest Section in Damascus, which sits directly opposite the U.S. embassy.
Worst of all, the Bush Administration seems convinced that some of Iraq’s select “55”–the most-wanted senior members of the regime, including Saddam–may have relocated to Syria. The U.S has given Syria the names of at least seven Iraqi officials believed to be there, including the secretary of Saddam’s Republican Guard and Special Republican Guard. A U.S. official says many of the reports have been culled from the leadership’s former employees in Baghdad.
The only important Iraqi official actually spotted in Syria last week was Farouk Hijazi, former chief of Saddam’s mukhabarat intelligence service, who had been ambassador to Tunisia before flying into Damascus. U.S. officials were negotiating with the Syrians to hand Hijazi over quietly, when his presence in the country was leaked to the press. That made it impossible for Syria to cooperate without losing face. According to a knowledgeable source, U.S. intelligence reports have produced no other hard evidence that any high-ranking Iraqis are actually in Syria.
The U.S. is on somewhat firmer ground accusing Syria of developing weapons of mass destruction. But the charges aren’t new. Damascus is known to have been stocking up on chemical agents for more than a decade to counter Israel’s superior forces and nuclear bombs. But now Israeli intelligence claims Syria has a bigger stock of biochemical weapons than Iraq ever did. Since the beginning of the year, according to Israeli government officials, Israel has privately lobbied the Administration that this is one more reason to turn its attention to Syria after Iraq.
Yet even if Syria has chemical or biological weapons–which Damascus denies–the U.S. lacks any legal basis for taking military action to destroy them, as it did with Iraq. Syria is not a signatory to the international chemical-weapons convention and has never been subject to U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding it submit to inspections.
To the rest of the world, Washington’s broadside against Syria did little to allay anxieties about the exercise of American power. The usual chorus, France and Russia, warned that the Administration was making “dangerous” threats against Damascus. Even America’s allies were taken by surprise. “It was never Britain’s intention to take on Syria in this manner,” says a London official. Only in the Arab world was there a sense of clarity: the bullying was all about placating Israel. Shaul Mofaz, Israel’s Defense Minister, practically said as much in a newspaper interview: “Israel has a long list of issues we are thinking of demanding of the Syrians, and it would be best done through the Americans.”
The war of words may prove to be an early test of the belief among Administration neoconservatives that the victory in Iraq could persuade recalcitrant Arab regimes to accede to U.S. demands. As former President George Walker Bush put it, “Syria just needs to cooperate with us.” The U.S. apparently expects that by cranking up public pressure on Assad, it can extract concessions. The U.S. saber rattling, says a British official, has “made the Syrians sit up and think.” And it has left many in the Middle East and elsewhere wondering, Exactly what does Washington have in mind for the neighborhood?.
Can the Barak Obama administration pick it from here and continue with war on international terrorism to recover the weapons of mass destruction?.A discussion between President Barak Obama and President Walker |Bush is scheduled
Cassidy Johns Chitali.
US. Army General and CIA Top Advisor Presidential Matters.