Friday, April 13, 2018

Mugging Syria for Israel 2

Still don't get who's behind the 'get Syria' push? Still don't see who's had it in for Syria for decades. Clearly, you haven't done your homework. Specifically, by reading John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt's seminal 2007 study, The Israel Lobby & US Foreign Policy:

"It is worth recalling that some important figures in the lobby had their sights on Syria well before the Twin Towers fell. Damascus was a prominent target in the 1996 'Clean Break' study written by a handful of neoconservatives for incoming Prime Minister Netanyahu.* In addition, Daniel Pipes and Ziad Abdelnour, the head of the US Committee for a Free Lebanon (USCFL), had coauthored a report in May 2000 calling for the United States to use military threats to force Syria to remove its troops from Lebanon, get rid of its WMD, and stop supporting terrorism. The USCFL is a close cousin to the lobby, numerous neoconservatives are among its major activists and supporters, including Elliott Abrams, Douglas Feith, Richard Perle, and David Wurmser. In fact, all of them signed the 2000 report, as did pro-Israel Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), another core USCFL supporter.

"This proposal, and others like it, did not gain much traction in Washington during the Clinton years, mainly because Israel was committed to achieving peace with Syria during that period. Apart from these hard-liners, most groups in the lobby had little incentive to challenge Clinton's policy toward Syria, because the president's approach tended to mirror Israel's. But when Sharon came to power in 2001, Israel's thinking about Syria changed dramatically. Reacting to this shift, a number of groups in the lobby began to press for a more aggressive policy toward Damascus.

"In the spring of 2002, when Iraq was becoming the main issue, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was also promoting legislation to formally place Syria on the 'axis of evil' and Congressman Engel introduced the Syria Accountability Act in Congress. It threatened sanctions against Syria if it did not withdraw from Lebanon, give up its WMD, and stop supporting terrorism. The proposed act also called for Syria and Lebanon to take concrete steps to make peace with Israel. This legislation was strongly endorsed by a number of groups in the lobby - especially AIPAC - and 'framed,' according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, 'by some of Israel's best friends in Congress.' JTA also reported that its 'most avid proponent in the administration' was Elliott Abrams, who, as we have seen, is in frequent contact with [Israeli PM Ehud] Olmert's office.

"The Bush administration opposed the Syria Accountability Act in the spring of 2002, in part because it feared that the legislation might undermine efforts to sell the Iraq war, and in part because it might lead to Damascus to stop providing Washington with useful intelligence about al Qaeda. Congress agreed to put the legislation on the back burner until matters were settled with Saddam.

"But as soon as Baghdad fell in April 2003, the lobby renewed its campaign against Syria. Encouraged by what then looked like a decisive victory in Iraq, some of Israel's backers were no longer interested in simply getting Syria to change its behavior. Instead, they now wanted to topple the regime itself. Paul Wolfowitz declared that 'there has got to be regime change in Syria,' and Richard Perle told a journalist that 'we could deliver a short message [to other hostile regimes in the Middle East]: 'You're next.' The hawkish Defense Policy Board, which was headed by Perle and whose members included Kenneth Adelman, Eliot Cohen, and James Woolsey, was also advocating a hard line against Syria.

"In addition to Abrams, Perle, and Wolfowitz, the other key insider pushing for regime change in Syria was Assistant Secretary of State (and later UN Ambassador) John Bolton. He had told Israeli leaders a month before the Iraq war that President Bush would deal with Syria, as well as Iran and North Korea, right after Saddam fell from power. Toward that end, Bolton reportedly prepared to tell Congress in mid-July that Syria's WMD programs had reached the point where they were a serious threat to stability in the Middle East and had to be dealt with sooner rather than later. The CIA and other government agencies objected, however, and claimed that Bolton was inflating the danger. Consequently, the administration did not allow Bolton to give his testimony on Syria at that time. Yet Bolton was not put off for long. He appeared before Congress in September 2003 and described Syria as a growing threat to US interests in the Middle East.

"In early April, WINEP [Washington Institute for Near East Policy] released a bipartisan report stating that Syria 'should not miss the message that countries that pursue Saddam's reckless, irresponsible and defiant behavior could end up sharing his fate.' On April 15, the Israeli-American journalist Yossi Klein Halevi wrote a piece in the Los Angeles Times titled 'Next, Turn the Screws on Syria,' while that same day neoconservative Frank Gaffney, the head of the Center for Security Policy, wrote in the Washington Times that the Bush administration should use 'whatever techniques are necessary - including military force - to effect behavior modification and/or regime change in Damascus.' The next day Zev Chafets, an Israeli-American journalist and former head of the Israeli government press office, wrote an article for the New York Daily News titled 'Terror-Friendly Syria Needs a Change, Too.' Not to be outdone, Lawrence Kaplan wrote in the New Republic on April 21 that Syrian leader Assad was a serious threat to America.

"The charges leveled against Syria were remarkably similar to those previously made against Saddam. Writing in National Review Online, conservative commentator Jed Babbin maintained that even though Assad's army was a paper tiger, he is still 'an exceedingly dangerous man.'  The basis for that claim was an 'Israeli source who had told Babbin that 'Israel's military and intelligence arms are convinced that Assad will take risks a prudent leader wouldn't' and therefore, 'Assad's unpredictability is itself a great danger.' Marc Ginsberg, former US ambassador to Morocco, warned of 'Syria's secret production of weapons of mass destruction and its weaponization of missile batteries and rockets.' And like their Israeli counterparts, American supporters of Israel suggested that Syria was hiding Saddam's WMD. 'It wouldn't surprise me,' Congressman Engel remarked, 'if those weapons of mass destruction that we cannot find in Iraq wound up and are today in Syria.'

"Back on Capitol Hill, Engel reintroduced the Syria Accountability Act on April 12. Three days later, Richard Perle called for Congress to pass it. But the Bush administration still had little enthusiasm for the legislation and was able to stall it again. In mid-August, Engel and a group of politicians and Jewish leaders from New York traveled to Israel and met for ninety minutes with Ariel Sharon in his Jerusalem office. The Israeli leader complained to his visitors that the United States was not putting enough pressure on Syria, although he specifically thanked Engel for sponsoring the Syria Accountability Act and made it clear that he strongly favored continued efforts to push the legislation on Capitol Hill. The following month, Engel, who announced he was 'fed up with the... administration's maneuvering on Syria,' began pushing the bill again. With AIPAC's full support, Engel began rounding up votes on Capitol Hill. Bush could no longer hold Congress back in the face of this full-court press from the lobby, and the anti-Syrian act passed by overwhelming margins (398-4 in the House; 89-4 in the Senate). Bush signed it into law on December 12, 2003." (pp 273-76)

[*See my posts Absent-Minded Professors Inadvertently Set Iraq Ablaze (22/12/08) & Netanyahu & the Cauldronization of Iraq & Syria (14/3/13).]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Greater Israel as per the Yinon plan.