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Get Ready: Next Up -- Syria

Plans: Next, War on Syria?

Oct. 4 issue - Deep in the Pentagon, admirals and generals are updating plans for possible U.S. military action in Syria and Iran. The Defense Department unit responsible for military planning for the two troublesome countries is "busier than ever," an administration official says. Some Bush advisers characterize the work as merely an effort to revise routine plans the Pentagon maintains for all contingencies in light of the Iraq war. More skittish bureaucrats say the updates are accompanied by a revived campaign by administration conservatives and neocons for more hard-line U.S. policies toward the countries. (Syria is regarded as a major route for jihadis entering Iraq, and Iran appears to be actively pursuing nuclear weapons.) Even hard-liners acknowledge that given the U.S. military commitment in Iraq, a U.S. attack on either country would be an unlikely last resort; covert action of some kind is the favored route for Washington hard-liners who want regime change in Damascus and Tehran.

Israel Defense Official Threatens Syria

JERUSALEM - A senior Israeli defense official harshly threatened Syria on Monday, accusing President Bashar Assad of direct involvement in terrorism, but stopping short of confirming that Israel was responsible for killing a Hamas leader in Damascus.
"Syria is responsible for directing terrorism against us and therefore it is not immune from our operations to prevent terrorism," Boim [Israeli Deputy Defense Minister Zeev Boim] told Israel Radio.
"But we have to very aware and not take our eyes off the special place Syria holds in the chain of terrorism, regionally and globally," Boim added.

Meet the New Villain: The Neo-cons Threaten Syria

Those invaders of Iraq are at it again. Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and their neo con staff led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith, have conjured up another villain: Syria.

They want to punish Bashar Al-Assad's regime for Saddam-like crimes weapons of mass destruction and fomenting terrorism. Although, their aggressive verbal assault might have as its real design the deflection of criticism over spying and leaking from the Vice President's office.
More recently, the FBI has named a Cheney aide and members of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) as involved in spying for Israel. This Israeli lobby that claims to represent the Jewish population has for decades distracted attention away from Israeli aggression and manipulation of US policies by accusing Israel's unfriendly neighbors of terrorism--first Iraq, now Syria and Iran.

The "t" word took on new meaning in early September when Russian troops and Chechen separatists together killed 300 plus people and Israeli forces assassinated 14 Palestinians in Gaza. In this terrifying atmosphere, Syria should have won status as a major non-issue. Nevertheless, the Israeli lobby's influence overcame the headlines. So, by the Fall of 2003, the Israeli lobby convinced liberal Democrats like California Senator Barbara Boxer and Los Angeles Congressman Henry Waxman to generate support for the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act, legislation that punished Damascus for alleged terrorist connections and accumulation of WMD. Indeed, the vast majority in Congress right, left and center -- voted for the legislation without engaging in any fact-finding or serious debate. Bush signed the Act into law in December and in May 2004 banned US exports to Syria and Syrian flights from entering or leaving US territory.
In the early 1990s, Syria actively promoted Washington's attempt to organize a peace meeting in Madrid. Even more baffling, Syria provided crucial intelligence to the CIA to prevent an Al-Qaeda attack against US personnel in Bahrain in the post 9/11 period.

As if to prove that no good deed goes unpunished, Bush resorted to arm-twisting diplomacy to attack Syria at the United Nations...

Prelude to an Attack on Syria? The Yassin Assassination
[from March 27/28 2004!]

Some observations and predictions:

1. The foreign policy of the Bush administration has since 9-11 been steered by officials who have a well thought out and clearly articulated plan to affect regime change throughout the Middle East. Such change in Iraq, Syria, Iran, and a number of other Muslim countries is central to the neocons' world-transforming project. While Israel's security is not the key issue in Bush Middle East policy, it is a very important secondary one, and U.S. and Israeli policies are closely coordinated.

2. Last October 5, Israel responded to an Islamic Jihad suicide bombing in Haifa by staging an air strike on Syria, the first time it had bombed Syria in 30 years. Ariel Sharon argued that Damascus "sponsors" Islamic Jihad and "Palestinian terrorism" in general and so Israel was acting in self-defense.

3. While condemned by European leaders, including the British foreign minister, and almost everybody else, the attack was justified by President Bush as necessary to "defend the homeland." (Note: not "your homeland" but "the homeland." Bush seems not to distinguish.) It was praised by leading neocon Richard Perle (then still on the Defense Policy Board), who declared, "I am happy to see the message was delivered to Syria by the Israeli air force, and I hope it is the first of many such messages." Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz stated, "There will have to be change in Syria, plainly."
4. Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security John Bolton, administration point man on Syria, argued last fall in Congress for the "Syria Accountability Act," which was passed, 398-5, by the House of Representatives Oct. 16. (99% approval. Isn't it great to live in a democracy where well-informed elected officials can express varied views about the Middle East?) Then it sailed through the Senate.

Officially vilifying Syria (which has actually been an ally against al-Qaeda), it accuses Damascus of sponsoring terrorism, amassing weapons of mass destruction, and occupying Lebanon, and applies economic sanctions against the Arab nation. Bolton accuses Syria of allowing "terrorists" to cross its border to abet the resistance in Iraq, receiving some of those elusive WMD from Iraq, and providing banking services for the Iraqi resistance. So there is a long list of charges against Syria, as there was against Iraq, and as there is against Iran---enough to persuade the sufficiently impressionable that Syria should be attacked and occupied.
8. A major Hamas suicide bombing would provide a fine pretext for an attack on Syria, perfectly legitimate to anyone predisposed to think Hamas=international terrorism=Syria. [em. mine]

9...Hamas having been hit by a strike condemned by the entire world (except the U.S. and Israel) and having, in perfectly rational response, expressed outrage, now in its injured state becomes more targeted by the U.S. than ever. Henceforth whatever Sharon does against Hamas, he will be able to depict as an effort to defend not merely his country but the American Homeland threatened by these angry anti-American Palestinians. And whatever measures the Bushites take against "Palestinian terrorism" will be undertaken as "Homeland Defense" measures as well, the Israeli and American homeland boundaries having been thoroughly blurred long since.

10. Let us say Perle's dream comes true and the Israeli air force does attack pro-Hamas Syria. Let's say it does so big-time, Sharon-style, and does major damage. Enough to cause enough disorder for the U.S. to argue that a deteriorating situation requires international intervention. The Iraq attack required months of preparation, but intervention in Syria will happen very quickly, coming like a thief in the night as it did in Haiti. Perle has suggested that there are troops to spare in Iraq that can occupy "weak" Syria in short order. Even if Israeli action provides the context, Israeli forces won't be needed, and U.S. action will be lent some thin international legitimacy if a few hundred "coalition" troops participate. Thus a second Arab nation will become Americanizedly "free," while Palestinians infuriated by these events will commit acts that will justify the "ethnic cleansing" of the West Bank.

On the Road to Damascus? Neo-Cons Target Syria
[from March 8 2004!]

The appointment of David Wurmser, a long-time advocate of U.S. military action against Syria, to the staff of Vice President Cheney in September 2003, followed by the president's signing of the Syria Accountability act in December were widely regarded as another signal that the U.S. regional restructuring crusade might soon be embarking on the road to Damascus. If the president imposes sanctions against Syria rather than attempting to engage it through diplomatic channels, it's likely that the Syrian regime will be painted with the same fear-mongering brush used to justify the invasion of Iraq. With Osama bin Laden still on the lam and bedlam in occupied Iraq, the Bush administration needs to refocus public attention on another evildoer--which, not so coincidently, is also the next preferred target of the Likudniks in Israel.

The Two-Line Struggle at the Top
Phase Two: Syria and Iran

[from May 3 2003!!]

...the issues the neocons have and will continue to raise as they muster support for the Syria invasion...

  1. Syria's possession of chemical and biological weapons...

  2. Syria's "sponsorship" of Lebanon's Hezbollah...

  3. Syria allegedly allowed personnel and equipment to flow into Iraq during the invasion...

  4. Some fleeing Iraqi officials may have made their way into Iraq "to escape capture," which is understandable..

  5. Child custody disputes between Syrians and their American spouses. Probably not a casus belli. But a grounds for depicting these Arabs as violators of Americans' human rights.

I assume that the neocons' real intention is to invade Syria, in large part to eliminate the threat to Israel of the above-listed organizations. But any shred of evidence that they might threaten Americans will also be amplified as they prepare the case...

Open Book: In Syria, as in Iraq, the Bushites Telegraph Their Punches
[from April 29 2003!!!]

As we all know, the rape of Iraq (or as future historians will doubtless call it, "The Dawn of the Shiite Empire") was planned openly several years ago by a hard-right agitprop cell led by Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld. Now it turns out that the recent big-monkey chest-beating aimed at Syria -- threats of sanctions, "surgical" strikes, and "regime change" -- was also carefully planned, by many of the same people, long before the Bush Regime seized power.

As we've often reported here, in September 2000 the Cheney-Rumsfeld outfit, Project for the New American Century, proudly published their blueprint for the direct imposition of U.S. "forward bases" throughout Central Asia and the Middle East. They even foresaw the need for what they called a "Pearl Harbor-type event" to galvanize the American public into supporting their ambitious program. Their reasons for this program were also stated quite openly: to ensure U.S. political and economic domination of the world, while strangling any potential "rival" or any viable alternative to the rapacious crony capitalism favored by the PNAC extremists. This dominance would be enforced by the ever-present threat -- and frequent application -- of violence. (A tactic known elsewhere as "terrorism.")
A few months before PNAC's prophetic 2000 report, an allied group with an overlapping membership published a similar document outlining steps to be taken against Syria: first "tightening the screws" with denunciations and economic sanctions, then escalating to military action, as Jim Lobe of Inter-Press Agency reports. The architects of this document included Elliot Abrams, the convicted perjurer now running Bush's Middle East policy; Douglas Feith, one of Shifty's top aides; Paula Dobriansky, undersecretary to Colin Powell, and influential Pentagon advisors such as David Wurmser, Michael Leeden and everyone's sweetheart, Richard "Influence-Peddler" Perle.

The report sprang largely from the loins of the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon, a curious grouping of right-wing American Christians, right-wing American Jews, and a sprinkling of Lebanese exiles. They object -- rightly -- to the fact that Syria has maintained "long-term access to major military bases" in Lebanon, using this minatory presence to exercise undue sway over Lebanon's political and economic life. Of course, some cynics would say this situation is remarkably akin to Israel's own 18-year occupation of, er, Lebanon, or the United States' decades-long -- and still-continuing -- military presence in Japan, Korea, Germany, Italy, Great Britain, Panama, etc. But you know what cynics are like.
Here, the proto-Bushist group demands that six "rogue nations" -- Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Libya and Sudan -- "turn over their governments to the United States" on pain of massive military response. The United States will then "occupy these territories until proper governments" -- ones that allow "long-term access" to major military bases, no doubt -- "can be established." And just how massive should that threatened U.S. military response be? The USCFL is, as always, admirably -- and brutally -- forthright: "America must set a clear example-identical to that of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. If you tread on me, I will wipe you off the face of the earth."

[the following added 9/28/04]
Bush administration completes get-tough plan for Syria

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

The Bush administration has drafted contingency plans for bringing military and economic pressure against the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Officials said the administration has determined that diplomacy has failed to resolve U.S. concerns that Syria has been working to destabilize the interim government in Iraq.

They said the Assad regime has been harboring senior operatives of Abu Mussib Al Zarqawi, regarded as the most lethal insurgent in Iraq, aides to Saddam Hussein as well as Iraqi nuclear scientists as part of a Syrian policy coordinated with Iran.

On Monday, the State Department reiterated its criticism of Syria for its harboring groups deemed as terrorists, Middle East Newsline reported. The department refused to condemn the Sept. 26 assassination of a Hamas leader in Damascus in a car-bombing attributed to Israel.

"If Americans are dying in Iraq because of Syrian policies, then this is something we are not going to tolerate," a senior official said.

The official, who refused to be identified, did not report any progress in U.S. efforts to end Syria's support of the insurgency movement in Iraq or other issues in dispute between Damascus and Washington.

Officials warned that unless Syria changes its policy within the next few weeks, the administration would consider economic and military measures against Damascus that would intensify in 2005. They said the Defense Department has drafted a range of military options meant to put Damascus on the defensive and encourage insurrection within Syria.
During the September meeting in Damascus, officials said, the U.S. delegation presented the Assad regime with evidence of Syrian government aid to the insurgency movement in Iraq. The delegation argued that Syria has intensified its support of Al Zarqawi and pro-Saddam forces in an effort to torpedo Iraqi elections scheduled in January 2005.

"It's not just a question of border control," the senior official said. "Institutions within Syria are actively colluding with our enemies in Iraq."

"Terrorists and their supporters beget a cycle of violence that is best addressed through the end of support of terror," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said. "We have made it clear that in numerous meetings with the Syrians that we think it's in their interests, in the interests of the region, to end support for terrorist organizations and terrorist individuals operating from their territory."

[the following added 10/13/04]
Israel Demonstrates Urban Warfare Tactics

Wed Oct 13, 3:46 PM ET
By GAVIN RABINOWITZ, Associated Press Writer

SHIZAFON MILITARY BASE, Israel - F-16 warplanes dropped explosives, tanks charged across the desert firing cannons and infantrymen went house-to-house hurling grenades in war games that Israel staged Wednesday as a show of strength at a time of confrontation with the Palestinians and Syria.

Troops destroyed simulated Syrian fortifications before conquering a mock Palestinian village — complete with a billboard of a smiling Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
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Tensions have also increased with Syria, with Israeli accusing its longtime enemy of backing Palestinian militants carrying out suicide attacks. A Hamas leader was killed in Damascus last month in a car bombing that Syria blamed on Israel.
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But the live-fire display at a desert training base in southern Israel began with a demonstration of Israel's conventional military tactics — a simulated attack on its old enemy, Syria.

Warplanes screamed through the sky, dropping bombs on a hill. Tanks then opened fire, sending flames and plumes of black smoke into the air.

Infantry snipers pinged bullets off metal targets and machine-gunners popped balloons representing Syrian soldiers.

An artillery battery laid down a constant barrage on a nearby "enemy" hill, code-named "Shirley."

The assault ended with the engineering corps clearing mines and laying bridges over tank traps so the armor and infantry could smash through the final defenses.

Having defeated the mock Syrians, the forces turned to the mock Palestinian village, a cluster of little huts with painted windows and wrecked cars strewn across the streets.

The entrance featured a billboard with a smiling Arafat holding a finger in the air against the backdrop of a Palestinian flag.
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[the following added 10/28/04 -- excuse found?]
Russia tied to Iraq's missing arms

By Bill Gertz

Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation, The Washington Times has learned.

John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.
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Mr. Shaw, who was in charge of cataloging the tons of conventional arms provided to Iraq by foreign suppliers, said he recently obtained reliable information on the arms-dispersal program from two European intelligence services that have detailed knowledge of the Russian-Iraqi weapons collaboration.

Most of Saddam's most powerful arms were systematically separated from other arms like mortars, bombs and rockets, and sent to Syria and Lebanon, and possibly to Iran, he said.

The Russian involvement in helping disperse Saddam's weapons, including some 380 tons of RDX and HMX, is still being investigated, Mr. Shaw said.

The RDX and HMX, which are used to manufacture high-explosive and nuclear weapons, are probably of Russian origin, he said.
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However, the most important and useful arms and explosives appear to have been separated and moved out as part of carefully designed program. "The organized effort was done in advance of the conflict," Mr. Shaw said.

The Russian forces were tasked with moving special arms out of the country.
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The Russian weapons were then sent out of the country to Syria, and possibly Lebanon in Russian trucks, Mr. Shaw said.

Mr. Shaw said he believes that the withdrawal of Russian-made weapons and explosives from Iraq was part of plan by Saddam to set up a "redoubt" in Syria that could be used as a base for launching pro-Saddam insurgency operations in Iraq.

The Russian units were dispatched beginning in January 2003 and by March had destroyed hundreds of pages of documents on Russian arms supplies to Iraq while dispersing arms to Syria, the second official said.
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"Whatever was not buried was put on lorries and sent to the Syrian border," the defense official said.

Documents reviewed by the official included itineraries of military units involved in the truck shipments to Syria. The materials outlined in the documents included missile components, MiG jet parts, tank parts and chemicals used to make chemical weapons, the official said.

The director of the Iraqi government front company known as the Al Bashair Trading Co. fled to Syria, where he is in charge of monitoring arms holdings and funding Iraqi insurgent activities, the official said.

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Regarding the explosives, the new Iraqi government reported that 194.7 metric tons of HMX, or high-melting-point explosive, and 141.2 metric tons of RDX, or rapid-detonation explosive, and 5.8 metric tons of PETN, or pentaerythritol tetranitrate, were missing.

The material is used in nuclear weapons and also in making military "plastic" high explosive.
[em. mine]
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[the following added 11/01/04]
U.S.: 'Time for Syria to withdraw its forces'

By Nada Raad and Nafez Kawas
Daily Star staff
Monday, November 01, 2004

BEIRUT: U.S. Deputy Under-Secretary of State David Satterfield said the presence of a foreign army in another sovereign country was something that could no longer be tolerated.

Speaking during a talk show broadcast Sunday night by the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International station (LBCI), Satterfield said the time for such an occupation "was a thing of the past."

"It is time for Syria to abide by the spirit of the 1989 Taif Accord and withdraw its forces," he said.

The comments came just days after it was revealed that the government's ministerial policy statement will insist that the country cannot implement UN Resolution 1559 fully as it would destabilize Lebanon's security.

Satterfield said the U.S. position on the new Lebanese government was "clearly described by Under Secretary of State Richard Armitage," when he said it was "made in Damascus."

Satterfield added that the U.S. is concerned for the Lebanese people, "who face many social, economic and political problems.

"In addition, the U.S. does not consider that the Lebanese regime has implemented Resolution 1559," which calls for the withdrawal of Syrian forces and for disarming all militias.

"We saw the Syrian government's recent measures," including the redeployment of some Syrian forces toward the border, and "much more is needed," Satterfield said, adding, "unfortunately, there is no progress in Lebanon when it comes to controlling terrorism.

"The controversial way in which President Emile Lahoud's term in office was extended ... and the way the new Cabinet was formed do not reflect the will of the international community as expressed in 1559," he said, adding that Lebanon should be free to make important decisions by itself "without foreign interference."

Satterfield said the Lebanese require "a capable government reflecting the national will, and (which) is capable of dealing with the country's problems."

Lebanon also has "its own security apparatus and its own army, which are more than capable of safeguarding the country's security, if allowed to work unimpeded," he said, referring to Syria's earlier claims that its presence in Lebanon is to maintain security in the country.

Satterfield also accused Hizbullah of undermining security along the Lebanese-Israeli border and said it was responsible for all the problems related to Israel in the South.

Before Hizbullah started launching cross-border attacks against Israeli forces, he said, the situation was calm "and there were no Israeli breaches of the Lebanese airspace."

As to claims by some Lebanese politicians that the Lebanese opposition is allegedly allied with Washington against Beirut, Satterfield said his country "did not support any specific Lebanese sect, position or trend or what is known as the 'Lebanese opposition groups' both in Lebanon and abroad."
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