Israel's main military foe (they've fought several wars and Israel occupies part of Syria)
Syria is on a pipeline route from Iraq to Europe
2011 update: OilEmpire does not have the resources to track the ongoing uprising in Syria against the heriditary Assad dictatorship. There are many efforts that are doing this - Al-Jazeera is a good place to start. Syria Comment by Joshua Landis is also recommended.
"If George Bush [Jr] decided he was going to turn the troops loose on Syria and Iran after that he would last in office for about 15 minutes.In fact if President Bush were to try that now even I would think that he ought to be impeached. You can't get away with that sort of thing in this democracy."
-- Lawrence Eagleburger, US Secretary of State under George Bush Sr
Are these Syrian nuclear pictures faked?
The Guardian, Thursday May 1 2008
The CIA published three aerial photographs last week purporting to show a Syrian nuclear reactor, bombed by Israel last September. But are the pictures all that they seem?
Dan Simpson: Invade Syria? Insane
U.S. forces have started fighting Syrians at Iraq's border. Can anybody say 'Cambodia'?
Wednesday, October 19, 2005
As I suspected six months ago, U.S. military and Bush administration civilian officials confirmed last week that U.S. forces have invaded Syria and engaged in combat with Syrian forces.
An unknown number of Syrians are acknowledged to have been killed; the number of Americans -- if any -- who have died in Syria so far has not yet been revealed by the U.S. sources, who by the way insist on remaining faceless and nameless.
The parallel with the Vietnam War, where a Nixon administration deeply involved in a losing war expanded the conflict -- fruitlessly in the event -- to neighboring Cambodia, is obvious. The end result was not changed in Vietnam; Cambodia itself was plunged into dangerous chaos, which climaxed in the killing fields, where an estimated 1 million Cambodians died as a result of internal conflict.
On the U.S. side, no declaration of war preceded the invasion of Syria, in spite of the requirements of the War Powers Act of 1973. There is no indication that the Congress was involved in the decision to go in. If members were briefed, none of them have chosen to share that important information with the American people. Presumably, the Bush administration's intention is simply to add any casualties of the Syrian conflict to those of the war in Iraq, which now stand at more than 1,970. The financial cost of expanding the war to Syria would also presumably be added to the cost of the Iraq war, now estimated at $201 billion.
Dan Simpson, a retired U.S. ambassador, is a Post-Gazette associate editor (email@example.com).
The Bush administration would claim that it is expanding the war in Iraq into Syria to try to bring it to an end, the kind of screwy non-logic that kept us in Vietnam for a decade and cost 58,193 American lives in the end.
Others would see the attacks in Syria as a desperation political move on the part of an administration with its back against the wall, with a failed war, an economy plagued by inflation --1.2 percent in September, a 14.4 percent annual rate if it continues -- the weak response to Hurricane Katrina, grand jury and other investigatory attention to senior executive and legislative officials, and the bird flu flapping its wings toward us on the horizon. The idea, I suppose, is to distract us by an attack on Syria, now specifically targeted by U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Zalmay Khalilzad.
There is some question as to how America's military leadership feels about fighting Syria too, given its already heavy commitment in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. At least some U.S. military officials must wish that President Bush and his associates would move away from his administration's "Johnny One Note," hand-it-to-the-military approach to its problems, now to include Hurricane Katrina-type disaster relief and the newest possible duty, dealing with a bird flu epidemic.
And then there is the tired old United Nations. An invasion by one sovereign member, the United States, of the territory of another sovereign member (Syria), requires U.N. Security Council action.
What of the regional impact in the Middle East? Some observers have argued that destabilizing Syria, creating chaos there, even bringing about regime change away from the current government of President Bashar Assad, is somehow to improve Israel's security posture in the region. The argument runs that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was the biggest regional threat to Israel; Bashar Assad's Syria is second. The United States got rid of Saddam; now it should get rid of the Assad regime in Damascus.
The trouble with that argument, whether it is made by Americans or Israelis, is that, in practice, it depends on the validity of the premise that chaos and civil war -- the disintegration of the state -- in Iraq and Syria are better for Israel in terms of long-term security than the perpetuation of stable, albeit nominally hostile regimes.
The evidence of what has happened in Iraq since the U.S. invasion in early 2003 is to the contrary. Could anyone argue that Israel is made safer by a burning conflict in Iraq that has now attracted Islamic extremist fighters from across the Middle East, Europe and Asia? Saddam Hussein's regime was bad, but this is a good deal worse, and looks endless.
Is there any advantage at all to the United States, or to Israel, in replicating Iraq in Syria?
For that is what is at stake. Syria in its political, ethnic and religious structure is very similar to Iraq. Iraq, prior to the U.S. bust-up, was ruled by a Sunni minority, with a Shiite majority and Kurdish and Christian minorities. Syria is ruled by an Alawite minority, with a Sunni majority and Kurdish and Christian minorities.
That is the structure, not unlike many states in the Middle East, that the Bush administration, by word and now by deed, in the form of U.S. forces fighting in Syria, is in the process of hacking away at.
It seems utterly crazy to me. One could say, "Interesting theory; let's play it out," if it weren't for the American men and women, not to mention the Iraqis and now Syrians, dying in pursuit of that policy.
What needs to be done now is for the Congress, and through them, the American people, and the United Nations and America's allies, the ones who are left, to have the opportunity to express their thoughts on America's expanding the Iraq war to Syria. A decision to invade Syria is not a decision for Mr. Bush, heading a beleaguered administration, to make for us on his own.
Copyright ©1997-2005 PG Publishing Co., Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Splintered Cedars: The Real Low-Down on Lebanon
Mossad, the CIA and Lebanon
The assassination of Rafiq Hariri: who benefited?
By Bill Van Auken
17 February 2005
Israel is Prime Suspect in Lebanon Assassination
by Mehdi Shakiba'i
www.globalresearch.ca 17 February 2005
Who killed Rafik Hariri?
Wednesday February 23, 2005
If Syria killed Rafik Hariri, Lebanon's former prime minister and mastermind
of its revival after the civil war, it must be judged an act of political
suicide. Syria is already under great international pressure from the
US, France and Israel. To kill Hariri at this critical moment would be
to destroy Syria's reputation once and for all and hand its enemies a
weapon with which to deliver the blow that could finally destabilise the
Damascus regime, and even possibly bring it down.
So attributing responsibility for the murder to Syria is implausible. The murder is more likely to be the work of one of its many enemies. This is not to deny that Syria has made grave mistakes in Lebanon. Its military intelligence apparatus has interfered far too much in Lebanese affairs. A big mistake was to insist on changing the Lebanese constitution to extend the mandate of President Emile Lahoud - known for his absolute allegiance to Syria - for a further three years. Syria's military intelligence chief in Lebanon, General Rustum Ghazalah, was reported to have threatened and insulted Hariri to force him to accept the extension. This caused great exasperation among all communities in Lebanon. Hariri resigned as prime minister in protest.
Bush administration puts Syria in its gunsights
Chris Floyd remarks on the Syrian imperative
Syria, however, would make a tasty snack -- rough fare gulped down on the long, circuitous march to Persia and Cathay. What's more, a dose of shock and awe for Damascus would secure the rear for any eventual push on Teheran. And once recalcitrant Syria is brought to heel, the juicy olive of Lebanon would surely fall of its own ripe weight, without any need of brutal plucking. Then, with the equally cowed Jordan, it could serve as a -- what should we call it? repository? refuge? -- yes, a refuge for the troublesome hordes of Palestine, transferred -- humanely and happily, of course -- from the newly cleansed lands of Judea and Samaria.
Such are the utopian visions that allure the policy-makers in the court of the imperator, George Augustus. But there are practical considerations that drive them on as well. Their leader excepted, these are not vain or stupid men. They can certainly see what the blind, bedazzled and bought-off media refuse to show the rest of the nation: that the U.S. economy is in serious decay, that the infrastructure of American society -- its ability to provide education, medicine, roads, justice, security, stability, opportunity, equality -- is being severely fractured by the ever-growing, unconstrained imbalance between a small circle of powerful elites and the increasingly disempowered multitudes who serve them.
Of course, the imperial courtiers applaud this imbalance...
Date: Tue, 15 Apr 2003 17:55:09 -0400
To: (Recipient list suppressed)
From: Wanda Ballentine <wsb2001 @ adelphia.net>
Subject: Three views on Syria
Is Syria next? Are we watching the dominos fall a la 1933? The articles below have different perspectives. Interesting that we're hearing in the U.S. media that the U.S. may be targeting Syria next, while the British media asserts not. I happened to hear part of a discussion on Syria on the Diane Rehm show this morning (http://www.wamu.org/dr/) between guests, Ambassador Ned Walker, president, Middle East Institute, http://www.mideasti.org/ and Thomas Donnelly, resident fellow, American Enterprise Institute, http://www.aei.org/ I know the latter is a right-wing organization. The Syrian Ambassador called in and bitterly disputed what they had to say about Syria's activities. However, to hear him talk, Syria has become a beacon of democracy. It was frankly very hard to discern if anyone was telling the truth.
Agence France Presse -Tuesday April 15,
US considering sanctions on Syria
The United States said it may impose diplomatic and economic sanctions on Syria and called on Damascus to reject Saddam Hussein's supporters, weapons of mass destruction and terrorism.
"We will examine possible measures of a diplomatic, economic or other nature as we move forward," Secretary of State Colin Powell said in comments indicating greater attention on Syria as the Iraq war comes to an end.
The White House, meanwhile, branded Syria a "terrorist state" and a "rogue nation" and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said Syria has conducted a chemical weapons test during the past 15 months.
Bush vetoes Syria war plan
Guardian (London) Tuesday April 15, 2003
Julian Borger in Washington, Michael White, Ewen MacAskill in Kuwait
City and Nicholas Watt
The White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should
go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has
blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon, the
Guardian learned yesterday. In the past few weeks, the US defence secretary,
Donald Rumsfeld, ordered contingency plans for a war on Syria to be reviewed
following the fall of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, his undersecretary for policy, Doug Feith, and William Luti, the head of the Pentagon's office of special plans, were asked to put together a briefing paper on the case for war against Syria, outlining its role in supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein, its links with Middle East terrorist groups and its allegedly advanced chemical weapons programme. Mr Feith and Mr Luti were both instrumental in persuading the White House to go to war in Iraq.
Mr Feith and other conservatives now playing important roles in the Bush administration, advised the Israeli government in 1996 that it could "shape its strategic environment... by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria".
However, President George Bush, who faces re-election next year with two perilous nation-building projects, in Afghanistan and Iraq, on his hands, is said to have cut off discussion among his advisers about the possibility of taking the "war on terror" to Syria. "The talk about Syria didn't go anywhere. Basically, the White House shut down the discussion," an intelligence source in Washington told the Guardian.
The misadventures of neoconservatives
By Ali Abunimah and Hussein Ibish
The Chicago Tribune
April 15, 2003
Ali Abunimah is co-founder of electronicIraq.net and Hussein Ibish
is communications director for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination
As the war in Iraq moves toward its conclusion, neoconservatives in and around the Bush administration are beginning to aggressively push a chilling agenda for a generalized war against much of the Arab and Islamic worlds.
This program to deliberately unleash a calamitous "clash of civilizations"
must be urgently confronted before it succeeds in plunging us into a cycle
of uncontrolled chaos and confrontation. Former CIA Director James Woolsey
illustrated how extreme this vision really is when he recently told a
group of California college students that the United States is engaged
in fighting "World War IV," which will "last considerably
longer than either World Wars I or II," but hopefully not as long
as the Cold War.
The enemies in this war, which he unconvincingly presented as a campaign for democracy, are the rulers of Iran, the "fascist" rulers of Iraq and Syria and groups like Al Qaeda.
Apr. 16, 2003. 06:40 AM
U.S. shuts off 'illegal' oil supply to Syria
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday tried to calm fears of an invasion of Syria, even as the American military cut off Damascus' oil supply from Iraq.
At the Pentagon, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said U.S. army engineers shut down the oil pipeline from Iraq to Syria, arguing the oil flow was "illegal" under sanctions imposed by the United Nations.
Syria disputes the claim.
Damascus says the oil shipments, estimated last year at $1 billion (U.S.), were legal under the United Nations oil-for-food program, which ended with the start of the U.S.-led war against Iraq.
Rumsfeld, noting that U.S. troops were careful not to damage the pipeline yesterday, underscored the Bush administration's intent of ensuring the export of up to 3 million barrels a day of Iraqi oil by the end of the year.
"We have preserved infrastructure in that country," Rumsfeld told reporters.
The importance of oil, which Rumsfeld says belongs to the Iraqi people, was clear again Monday when the U.S. Central Command formally announced that the U.S.-led coalition had taken the last Iraqi oil field.
"The intention is to Americanize the Iraqi oil operation completely and put it under the control of the U.S.-run administration in Iraq," said Michael Klare, a world security studies professor at Hampshire College.
"The U.S. will decide how that oil will be marketed," he told the Star last night.
"And the decision to cut off oil to Syria was just the first realization that they have taken that control."
The last few days of hostile language over Syria — buttressed by yesterday's oil pipeline shutdown — has raised the tension level internationally, and particularly in the Middle East.
At a briefing for foreign reporters yesterday, an Egyptian journalist asked Powell "who's next?" in the region, and whether the "U.S. has a plan to spread a set of values at gunpoint."
"There is no list," said Powell. "There is no war plan right now ... to go attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic values."
Yesterday, for the first time, growing White House tensions with Syria showed a split between the U.S. and principal Operation Iraqi Freedom ally Britain.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw refused to back Washington's description of Syria as a "rogue state" that harbours terrorists. Straw referred to Syrian President Bashar Assad and his officials as "intelligent people who have the future interest and welfare of their country at heart."
And while the White House and Pentagon repeated allegations Syria is harbouring Iraqi war criminals and developing weapons of mass destruction, British Prime Minister Tony Blair pointedly disagreed.
"I have spoken to President Assad and he has assured me that that is not happening," Blair told the House of Commons in London.
He said it is "simply not correct" that the United States has plans to invade Syria.
U.S. President George W. Bush did not mention Syria publicly yesterday but discussed the matter in a 20-minute phone conversation with French President Jacques Chirac. The White House described the call, placed by Chirac, as "businesslike" — an indication of the cool relations since France opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq — but said Chirac agreed Syria should not shelter Iraqi leaders.
Responding to the U.S. calling the Syria a rogue nation, the Syrian cabinet issued a statement in Damascus rejecting "these accusations and allegations (which are) a response to Israeli stimulus."
Meanwhile, Italian court documents indicate Syria has functioned as a hub for an Al Qaeda network that moved Islamic extremists and funds from Italy to northeastern Iraq, where the recruits fought alongside the recently defeated Ansar al-Islam terrorist group, the Los Angeles Times reports.
Italian investigators say they have no evidence the Syrian government was aware of the network or protected it, and say they hope to get help from Syrian authorities with the case. Still, the activity raises questions because the Syrian government has aggressive security services that would likely be aware of extremists operating in their territory.
Two weeks ago, Italian police arrested seven alleged Al Qaeda operatives. They were charged with sending about 40 extremists through Syria to terror bases operated jointly with Ansar al-Islam, whose stronghold was recently overrun by Kurdish and U.S. troops.
The six-country Gulf Co-operation Council yesterday urged the United States and Britain to maintain a dialogue with Damascus.
"We reject the threats against Syria and we believe that the threats should stop," Qatari Foreign Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabor Al Thani said in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
At the Pentagon, Rumsfeld said he hoped there is no more Iraqi oil flowing to Syria, adding he couldn't be sure.
"Whether it's the only one (pipeline) and whether that has completely stopped the flow of oil between Iraq and Syria, I cannot tell you," he said.
"We do not have perfect knowledge."
However, the U.S. energy department's own reports show there was only one operating pipeline between Iraq's northern Kirkuk oil fields and the Syrian port of Banias. It was opened in 1998 to move oil under the United Nations oil-for-food program, after having been closed since 1982.
In 2001, Washington offered to allow Syria to import Iraqi oil as long as it was done through the U.N. program, which tightly controlled how much Iraqi oil could be sold and for what purpose. There is controversy over whether Syria exceeded the amount of oil it was allowed to import.
Cutting off Iraqi oil to Syria should not mean, at least in the near term, that Syrians run out of oil. It does mean, however, according to U.S. energy figures, that Syria, an oil-producing nation, will be hit economically by having less oil to export.
In New York, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said he was "concerned that recent statements directed at Syria should not contribute to a wider destabilization in a region already affected heavily by the war in Iraq."
But the Bush administration is already talking about other punishments against Syria. Last week, a bill was reintroduced in Congress to, among other measures, strip Syria of landing rights at U.S. airports, cut diplomatic ties and limit U.S. travel to the country.
Syria puts its foot down
By George Baghdadi - Asia Times Apr 11, 2003
DAMASCUS - Syria, a staunch opponent of the United States-led war on Iraq, has said that it would consider any post-war administration run by the United States military in Baghdad as an "occupation government".
US Secretary of State Colin Powell had stated earlier that Washington was sending a team this week to Iraq to begin laying the groundwork for an interim authority. President George W Bush described it as a "transition quasi-government ... until the conditions are right for the people to elect their own leadership". He said the United Nations would have a "vital role" in setting up the interim authority.
Syria, the only Arab nation on the UN Security Council, backed Resolution 1441 calling on Iraq to account for and destroy its weapons of mass destruction. But it has nonetheless warned that imposing a US military regime on Iraq would have dangerous repercussions in the region.
"There is a difference between a transitional government and a military government. If it is going to be a military one, then it will be an occupation government. There are international laws that call for recognizing the government that the people choose," Buthaina Shaaban, head of the press department at the Syrian Foreign Ministry, told Inter Press Service.
Perhaps nowhere do the questions about what comes next after Iraq generate a sharper sense of dread than in neighboring Syria, controlled since 1963 by a rival branch of the same Ba'ath Party that has been at the helm of affairs on Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
Syrian President Bashar Assad told the Lebanese newspaper al-Safir on Thursday that the US-British military offensive in Iraq is "clear occupation and a flagrant aggression against a United Nations member state".
Mufti Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro, Syria's top Muslim religious leader, called last month for suicide bombings against US and British invaders in Iraq. A suicide attack on US marines on Saturday following his statement looks set to further strain relations between Syria and the US.
In the aftermath of the timid rapprochement that followed the 1991 Gulf War, relations between Syria and the US have reached a low ebb. Syrian officials dismiss the notion of any possible effect of war or any unease that their country might fall into US sights next.
Much ink, though, has been spilled on the warnings issued last month by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, in which he deemed Syria's alleged dispatch of military material to Iraq a "hostile act". US Secretary of State Colin Powell followed up warning that Syria "can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein, or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course".
The remarks were couched in some of the strongest language used in years against Syria, a country on the US State Department's list of states that allegedly sponsor terrorism by hosting radical Palestinian groups and supporting Lebanese Hezbollah. Commentators generally believe those threats indicate that the US may target Syria once it is done with Iraq - a view not necessarily shared by all.
Some suggest that Syria can be a partner in the war against terrorism if it is given encouragement rather than being threatened. Richard Murphy, US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs from 1983 to 1989, said he did not believe armed conflict with Syria was on the immediate horizon.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair on Monday gave assurances to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad that Damascus was not a target. "Blair explained that Britain disagrees completely with those who promote the targeting of Syria," an official source quoted Blair as telling Assad in a telephone conversation.
Many believe the "Syria-next" scenario to be improbable. For one thing, the Bush administration knows that an assault on Syria would merely polarize the Middle East further. And, perhaps more significantly, even Washington hardliners don't really believe a war is needed to change Syrian behavior.
(Inter Press Service)