October 18, 2003

Is Syria Next?

The neo-con wet dream, PNAC, is the official (although
publicly unstated) agenda of this illegitimate,
corrupt and incompetent regime. Wesley Clark
(D-NATO)visited the Pentagon in the period before he
got into the race, and a colleague told him in disgust
that seven countries were targeted...They have got to
be stopped at the ballot box. BUT guess what? The
Total Recall Putsch means that they now have control
over the state governments of New York, Florida, Texas
AND California. That is an Electoral College coup
d'tat...
The Nation: Shortly after 9/11, the government received an extraordinary gift of hundreds of files on Al Qaeda, crucial data on the activities of radical Islamist cells throughout the Middle East and Europe and intelligence about future terrorist plans. These dossiers did not come from Israel or Saudi Arabia, whose kingdom appeared more concerned at the time with securing safe passage for members of the bin Laden family living in the United States, but--as Seymour Hersh revealed in the July 28 New Yorker--from Syria. One CIA analyst told Hersh, "the quality and quantity of information from Syria exceeded the agency's expectations." Yet, the analyst added, the Syrians "got little in return for it."

http://www.commondreams.org/views03/1017-07.htm

Published on Thursday, October 16, 2003 by The Nation

Is Syria Next?
Editorial

Shortly after 9/11, the government received an
extraordinary gift of hundreds of files on Al Qaeda,
crucial data on the activities of radical Islamist
cells throughout the Middle East and Europe and
intelligence about future terrorist plans. These
dossiers did not come from Israel or Saudi Arabia,
whose kingdom appeared more concerned at the time with
securing safe passage for members of the bin Laden
family living in the United States, but--as Seymour
Hersh revealed in the July 28 New Yorker--from Syria.
One CIA analyst told Hersh, "the quality and quantity
of information from Syria exceeded the agency's
expectations." Yet, the analyst added, the Syrians
"got little in return for it."

What they got instead was an unrelenting
Washington-sponsored campaign of vilification. It
began last year, when the "Axis of Evil" was expanded
to include Syria, largely because Syria--a member of
the 1991 coalition against Saddam Hussein--refused to
support a pre-emptive war against Iraq. And it has
culminated in the Syria Accountability Act, approved
33 to 2 by a House committee on October 8. If the bill
passes, Syria will not be able to receive "dual use"
goods unless it cuts all ties with Hamas and Islamic
Jihad (neither of which is linked to Al Qaeda) and
cracks down on Hezbollah (a guerrilla movement that
enjoys wide popular support among Lebanese Shiites);
withdraws its troops from Lebanon; and proves that it
is not developing weapons of mass destruction. What's
more, the President would be directed to choose from a
menu of six additional sanctions, including a freeze
on Syrian assets in the United States and a ban on US
exports, except food and medicine.

The committee's vote came on the heels of Bush's
endorsement of an Israeli airstrike on a Palestinian
training camp outside Damascus, Israel's first assault
on Syrian territory since 1974. Never mind that the
apparently moribund camp belonged to the Popular Front
for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, not
to Islamic Jihad, which claimed responsibility for the
October 4 suicide attack in Haifa; or that Israel's
attack threatened to widen the already explosive
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Bush's words, "Israel
must not feel constrained in terms of defense of the
homeland."

The Syria Accountability Act is all but certain to
destroy the fledgling cooperation between US and
Syrian intelligence agencies, which have a common
interest in combating Islamic extremism. To sabotage
such a relationship would seem downright perverse,
when America is in desperate need of Arab allies in
the "war on terrorism." But a perversion of priorities
is something we have come to expect from the Bush
Administration, and from the influential
neoconservative clique--many of them closely allied
with the Israeli right--shaping policy in the
Pentagon.

In an eerie replay of the buildup to the war on Iraq,
the demonization of Syria has swelled to a chorus in
Washington, whose members include not only Republicans
but pro-Israel Democrats like Tom Lantos, the senior
Democrat on the House committee that passed the act.
The leading Democratic presidential candidates backed
Bush's support for Israel's bombing in Syria. Only
months ago we were told that the "road to peace in
Jerusalem runs through Baghdad." As resistance to the
US occupation of Iraq grows and the road map continues
to crumble, the neocons are having a much harder time
making that argument, so we are now being told that
the twisted road to peace runs through Damascus.

Syria, to be sure, is hardly an appealing regime. A
police state run by a tiny Baathist clique, it
deprives its own citizens of the most basic liberties,
maintains thousands of troops in Lebanon's Bekaa
Valley in violation of UN Resolution 520 and continues
to meddle in Lebanon's internal affairs. It has also
supported Hezbollah's "resistance" operations against
Israeli positions in the disputed Shebaa Farms,
finding it a useful proxy force with which to pressure
Israel to return the Golan Heights, illegally occupied
since 1967. Yet Syria has also played an important
role in stabilizing Lebanon since the civil war--a
role quietly appreciated by Washington--and in
encouraging Hezbollah's transformation from a radical
militia to a pragmatic political party. Despite
occasional flare-ups, violent incidents on the
Lebanese-Israeli border have been rare since Israel's
withdrawal in 2000.

The Accountability Act simply ignores this, in a
flagrant display of the double standards of US Middle
East policy. How, in good faith, can we call for
sanctions against Syria for its occupation of Lebanon
while coddling Israel, whose incomparably more violent
and brutal occupation remains the chief source of
troubles in the Mideast--the principal reason we are
not viewed as honest brokers? Moreover, while claiming
to promote democracy in Syria, the act is more likely
to strengthen the hand of the sclerotic Baathist old
guard, which can now invoke the threat of an American
war to suppress dissent, and hobble President Bashar
Assad's (admittedly inadequate) efforts to pursue
reform. The intellectuals who participated in Syria's
short-lived "Damascus Spring" two years ago will be
further silenced by the act for fear of being
associated with a policy that might have been devised
in Tel Aviv.

In a sense, it was. To properly understand the Syria
Accountability Act, one has to go back to a 1996
document, "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing
the Realm," drafted by a team of advisers to Benjamin
Netanyahu in his run for prime minister of Israel. The
authors included current Bush advisers Richard Perle
and Douglas Feith. "Syria challenges Israel on
Lebanese soil," they wrote, calling for "striking
Syrian military targets in Lebanon, and should that
prove insufficient, striking at select targets in
Syria proper." No wonder Perle was delighted by the
Israeli strike. "It will help the peace process," he
told the Washington Post, adding later that the United
States itself might have to attack Syria.

But what Perle means by "helping the peace process" is
not resolving the conflict by bringing about a viable,
sovereign Palestinian state but rather--as underscored
in "A Clean Break"--"transcending the Arab-Israeli
conflict" altogether by forcing the Arabs to accept
most, if not all, of Israel's territorial conquests
and its nuclear hegemony in the region. This one-sided
approach has succeeded only in fueling resentment
against America, as demonstrated most recently by the
October 15 bombing of a US convoy in Gaza that killed
three Americans. The attack, which was denounced by
Palestinian leaders, came just hours after the US veto
of a Security Council resolution condemning Israel's
new "security" wall, which gobbles up large swaths of
land in the West Bank.

No one doubts that citizens of Syria and Lebanon would
benefit from the demise of the Baathist dictatorship.
But making an enemy of Syria will neither lead to the
flowering of Syrian democracy nor bring an end to
terror in Israeli cities. If any state is a breeding
ground for terrorists today, it is Iraq, thanks to
America's reckless war. The absence of stable
governance in Mesopotamia poses far more of a threat
to regional security than the presence of an Islamic
Jihad office in Damascus. To be sure, states must be
held accountable for fostering terrorism. What we need
now, however, is not a Syria Accountability Act but an
America Accountability Act.

Copyright 2003 The Nation

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Posted by richard at October 18, 2003 09:22 PM