Conn Hallinan / The Berkeley Daily Planet – 2005-11-01 02:05:56
(October 28, 2005) — In the wake of a United Nations investigation implicating a number of Syrian and Lebanese officials in the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, the Bush administration is calling for sanctions and leaking dark hints of war.
But the United States is already unofficially at war with Syria. For the past six months, US Army Rangers and the Special Operations Delta Force have been crossing the border into Syria, supposedly to ‘interdict’ terrorists coming into Iraq. Several Syrian soldiers have been killed.
The analogy the administration is using for this invasion? Cambodia, which the Nixon administration accused of harboring North Vietnamese troops during the war in Southeast Asia. On April 30, 1970, American and South Vietnamese Army units stormed across the border, igniting one of the great disasters of all time. The invasion was not only a military debacle; it led to the rise of Pol Pot, who systematically butchered some two million Cambodians.
As in Vietnam, the American and British line in Iraq is that the war is fueled by foreign fanatics infiltrating from Syria and Iran. In an October talk to the National Endowment for Democracy, President George W. Bush told the audience that ‘Iran and Syria’ have allied themselves with Islamic terrorist groups; he warned that the ‘United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them.’
According to the Financial Times, the Bush administration is already discussing who should replace Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with the White House leaning toward sponsoring an internal military coup. National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley-the fellow who brought us the Niger-Iran uranium fairy tale-is in charge of the operation.
Flynt Leverett of the Brookings Institute says the cross border raids are aimed at encouraging the Syrian military to ‘dump’ Assad. A military coup was how the United States helped put Saddam Hussein in power so he could liquidate the Iraqi Left.
The White House, in fact, knows that foreign fighters have very little to do with the insurgency in Iraq. The conservative London-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) estimates that the number of foreign fighters is ‘well below 10 percent, and may be closer to 4 or 6 percent.’ American intelligence estimates that 95 percent of the insurgents are Iraqi.
The Bush administration has long had its sights on Iran, which Bush calls ‘The world’s primary state sponsor of terrorism.’ These are sentiments recently echoed in London, where Prime Minister Tony Blair accused Teheran of smuggling weapons and explosives into Iraq to attack British troops in Basra. In one of history’s great irony challenged moments, Blair said ‘There is no justification for Iran or any country interfering in Iraq.’
The US has been provocatively sending unmanned Predator aircraft into Iran, supposedly looking for nuclear weapons, but most likely mapping Iranian radar systems, information the United States would need before launching an attack.
A major player in all this is Israel, where the Likud and its US supporters have lobbied for a US attack on Iran and Syria. In a speech last May to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Richard Perle, a Likud advisor and former Bush official, said that the United States should attack Iran if it is ‘on the verge of [developing] a nuclear weapon.’
Vice-President Dick Cheney has even suggested that Israel might do the job. According to the Israeli daily Haaretz, the United States recently sold Tel Aviv 500 GBU-27 and 28 ‘bunker buster’ guided bombs (although Syria would be a more likely target for such weapons).
Last month senior Pentagon analyst Lawrence Franklin admitted passing classified information on Iran to Israel through two AIPAC employees. Franklin used to work for former Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith and has close ties to neo-con Michael Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute, who says, ‘Tehran is a city just waiting for us.’
If all these names sound familiar it is because they brought us the war in Iraq. Would the US (possibly allied with Britain and Israel) actually attack Iran and/or Syria?
Iran seems a stretch. The country has three times the population of Iraq, almost four times the land area, plus lots and lots of mountains you really don’t want to fight in.
Iran also has considerable international support, demonstrated two weeks ago when Europeans said they would not back US efforts to bring Iran before the U.N. Security Council for supposed violations of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
While a number of nations are nervous about Iran’s nuclear activities, the country is not seen as a regional threat. Its military budget is only one-third what it was in 1980. It also doesn’t hurt that Iran has the second largest oil reserves on the planet, reserves that Europe, China and India simply cannot do without
The Americans might bomb the hell out of the place but an invasion is doubtful, particularly given the current disarray of the US military.
One caveat could alter that: the US doctrines of preemptive war and first-use of nuclear weapons. Would the White House really push the button? Not out of the question.
According to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, if it does come to war, Congress has no say in the matter. Asked if she agreed that the President would have to return to Congress in the case of military action against Syria and/or Iran, she told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Oct. 19 that ‘the President retains those powers in the war on terrorism and the war on Iraq.’
Syria is the easier target. With the exception of its northern border, the country is a flat plain, less than half the size of Iraq and with a population of only 16.7 million. It is also reeling from the U.N. investigation.
This may make Syria look like fruit ripe for the picking, and an invasion would certainly divert attention from the chaos in Iraq and Afghanistan. It would also be a logical extension of the Bush administration’s mythology that all our troubles in the Middle East are caused by foreign Islamic terrorists.
For the outcome of such a strategy see the war in Southeast Asia. Count up the dead.
Untold Iraq story of the month: freelance journalist and author Robert Dreyfuss’s revelation that Shiite militias are terrorizing secular Shiites and murdering Sunnis. While Shiites are also being killed and intimidated-in particular by the followers of Abu Musab Al Zarqawi-the militias responsible are not tied to, nor supported by, the British and Americans.
Dreyfuss, author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, says the situation has become so dire that it threatens to ignite a regional civil war that could draw in Iraq’s neighbors.
The issue boiled over into a nasty fight this month between Iraq and Saudi foreign ministers (with the former calling the latter a ‘Bedouin riding a camel’) that ended up pushing the Arab League into launching a mission to head off a civil war. Dreyfuss concludes: ‘… if the United States would get out of Iraq, give the Arab league a chance to manage things there, and take part in the Arab-led talks with the Sunnis, catastrophe might be averted.’
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