[R-G] "War on terror" moving closer to Syria
ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Sat Jan 24 13:38:14 MST 2004
US War on Terror May Spread to Syria, Report Says
By Jeff McKay
CNSNews.com Correspondent January 23, 2004
(CNSNews.com) - A new report indicates that Syria may be the next
target in the U.S. war on terror.
In a report released Friday by the London-based Jane's Intelligence
Digest, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was quoted as saying that
the U.S. is considering "multi-faceted attacks," which could be
conducted against Hezbollah positions in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley,
controlled by Syria.
According to the report, the U.S. move would "almost certainly involve
a confrontation" between American Special Forces and Syrian troops.
The report highlights potential military action against Somalia as
well as Syria. According to the Jane's report, "Covert U.S. forces
have periodically infiltrated Somalia over the past two years to
conduct surveillance and even potentially snatch suspects wanted for
the November 2002 suicide bomb attacks in Mombassa, Kenya."
In near simultaneous attacks, al Qaeda terrorists bombed a hotel and
attempted to bring down an Israeli airliner using a shoulder-fired,
In addition, the Jane's report states that during the past six months,
there has been an increased US military presence along the Syrian
border with Iraq "and, on several occasions, [the U.S.] has sent
special forces into Syrian territory or penetrated Syrian air space."
The report also detailed a running gun battle between Saddam loyalists
and U.S. troops who crossed into Syrian territory, resulting in the
deaths of dozens of people, including Syrian nationals.
The Syrian government has always maintained close ties with both Iraq
and Iran, and has been a hotbed of Arab radicalism, allowing terrorist
groups such as Hamas and Hizbullah to maintain offices in Damascus.
The ruling power in the Syrian government is the Baath Party, a
secular and socialist-leaning political group headed by Syrian
President Bashar Assad, the son of former Syrian leader Hafez
al-Assad. Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party led Iraq before its fall
to U.S.-led coalition forces.
Administration officials have expressed increasing frustration with
Syria and have said the country "is on the wrong side in the war on
Just last year, Congress adopted the Syrian Accountability Act, a
comprehensive outline pledging sanctions if Syria does not halt its
support for terrorism, end its occupation of Lebanon, stop its
development of weapons of mass destruction, cease its illegal
importation of Iraqi oil, and be accountable for its role in the
Over the last three weeks, three high ranking Cabinet officials have
made it clear that Syria needs to take immediate proactive measures to
create stability in the Middle East.
While briefing reporters after President Bush's recent trip to Mexico,
National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice suggested that hundreds of
millions of dollars - and maybe Iraqi weapons -- may have been
smuggled into Syria.
"There are a number of issues that we'd like to discuss with the
Syrians......including the borders with Iraq and what may have
happened in the past there and what may be continuing to happen
there," said Rice.
Earlier this week, an Israeli soldier was killed while clearing mines
planted by Hizbullah at the Israel-Lebanon border, when Hezbollah
terrorists fired anti-tank weapons. Israel responded by shelling
Hizbullah positions during a raid by the Israeli Air Force in Lebanon.
The terrorist action launched from Syrian-controlled Lebanese
territory drew a rebuke from Secretary of State Colin Powell.
"The deliberate action that [Hizbullah] took, which resulted in the
loss of life, once again demonstrates the nature of that
organization," Powell told reporters. "I would hope the Syrians would,
once again, understand that any support (for terrorists) is
destabilizing in the region and is not in the interest of peace."
The Jane's report said any U.S. action against Hezbollah in Lebanon
could create a domino effect, creating immediate instability in an
already unstable region.
"The political consequences of a U.S. attack against Lebanon...could
result in the destabilization of a country that is still rebuilding
its infrastructure a decade after a ruinous 15-year civil war and
would also fuel Muslim and Arab hostility toward the US at a time when
US-led occupation forces are fighting the ongoing insurgency in Iraq,"
noted the report. It also said any U.S. actions could lead to a regime
change in Syria.
"However, given the Bush administration's doctrine of pre-emptive
strikes, it remains entirely possible that Washington will soon launch
military strikes against Lebanon, regardless of the consequences for
wider regional stability," the Jane's report said.
US objectives from a confrontation with Syria would include
neutralizing Hezbollah and ending its presumed connections with al
Qaeda; withdrawal of Syrian occupation forces from Lebanon; potential
regime change in Damascus; and creating better coexistence between
Israel and Syria.
With U.S. troops regularly patrolling the Iraq-Syrian border, and with
a massive military presence in the region, the question of whether the
war on terror would lead to Damascus is an ongoing topic of discussion
in some quarters.
"Syria clearly needs to do more," said Jon Alterman, Director of
Middle East Programs for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and
"While there are some in the office of the Secretary of Defense who
may want to raise the options, raising the options doesn't mean the
action is around the corner," he said.
"While the Syrians are looking into many avenues, including
re-starting peace talks with Israel, it is clear the government can't
keep doing what it has been doing."
Alterman, who was in Syria as recently as a month ago, says this is a
time of confusion on the "Syrian street" as to what path their
government will take in the post-9/11 world.
"The Syrian people do not know what role their nation should play in
the world. They do know that with their ties to Iraq cut off, their
world is changing," Alterman added.
Jim Besser, the Washington correspondent for The Jewish Week said he
doubts U.S. military action against Syria is imminent: "I don't see
this administration embarking on another military campaign while
issues are still pending in Iraq, and before an election with
successes already in hand," he said.
"There needs to be peaceful coexistence in the Middle East between
Israel and its neighbors, but without the terror groups reined in, the
region will remain unstable."
According to Besser, although an imminent military move against Syria
is unlikely, he believes the US-led war on terror will not end in
"In the end, one thing that is for sure is there must be a focus on al
Qaeda, and all groups with al Qaeda ties," he said.
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