Indifferent to Colin Powell’s opposition, the "hawks" prepare the next stage to reshape the Middle East: the "liberation" of Lebanon and an attack on Syria. They are already preparing the indictment file to justify such operations with the same rhetoric they used for Iraq: supporting "international terrorism" and possessing weapons of mass destruction. The Pentagon knows it can count on General Sharon, so anxious to establish a Maronite State in Lebanon and eliminate Palestinian resistance. Military deployment has been in place since June 2004.
After Afghanistan, in October 2001, and Iraq in 2003, American hawks have planned to move their traveling war to Syria or Lebanon around the middle of 2004. Rotation of the expeditionary force in Iraq so as to employ fresh troops, the deployment of new units in the area, and replacement of the fleets in the Mediterranean and Arab Sea will be completed by June.
Washington proceeds with its project « to reshape the Middle East », as reiterated by President George W.Bush during his State of the Union Address. The objective of this strategy is to control the fuel reserves of the Gulf States and conquer new markets, relying on Israel in the region.
The United States can count on Jordan’s servility -despite Amman’s recent defense of the Palestinian Authority in the case of the “dividing wall”— as well as on the passiveness of most of the Emirates. Having secured the control over Iraq, very few powers escape its imperial authority, and Iran, Syria and Lebanon represent the axle of these powers. Saudi Arabia, that for a year now has been reaffirming its independence fickleness, is also threatened.
In the case of Israel, strategic interests are more obvious and were already theorized by David Ben Gurión fifty years back. In order not to feel surrounded by its neighbors, Israel must take control over the “weakest link in the Arab League chain”: Lebanon. To achieve this, Tel Aviv must exacerbate internal conflicts and push the Christian population to transform the country into a Maronite State.
This will necessarily mean a “retreat of Lebanon’s borders” and as a corollary, the expansion of the Jew State. On the other hand, as Ben Gurion specifies in a letter dated February 27, 1954 to Moshe Sharett, the then Israeli Prime Minister, «if persons and elements can be found that could be mobilized to establish a Maronite State, they will have no need for vast frontiers nor for a significant Muslim population, and this will not be a source of inconvenience».
General Ariel Sharon used this theoretical model, less tactfully, when in 1982 he went into Beirut and helped the Christian militia massacre the inhabitants of Sabra and Chatila refugee camps in the capital. On the other hand, to defeat Palestinian resistance movements, Israel must first destroy its bases on the rear and for this it has to penetrate Syria and Lebanon.
The “pre-emptive war” doctrine designed by the Bush Administration that allows hitting anyone who threats, would threat or threatens to threat the United States, authorizes hawks to decide among themselves their next target.
Spokesmen of different governmental agencies will then be left with the task of organizing propaganda and fabricating the threat, including the made up accusations mutually validated by Israeli, American or British secret services. .
After the campaign in Iraq, accusation subjects are well known: supporting international terrorism, and developing weapons of mass destruction is enough to justify a global military intervention in a sovereign state -under no legal framework— its occupation and plundering. Presenting Lebanon as a country occupied by Syria authorizes its “liberation” and then to pursue the “invader” all the way up to Damascus.
As a prelude to the planned conflict, in October 2003 Israeli military aviation violated Lebanese airspace to bomb “terrorist’s training camps” in Syria. While they were at it, fighters accompanying the bombers turned in another direction to carry out stunt exercises over President Bashar al-Assad’s family residence.
This aggression was described by Washington and Tel Aviv, and by the whole Western press, as part of a global war against terrorism. Very few at the time thought it convenient to point out that such an offensive, illegal according to International Law, took place exactly 30 years after Syria and Egypt’s attack against Israel, which marked the beginning of the Kippur war, and that it should be understood as a last warning of military operations still to come.
In January 2004, a bulldozer of the Israeli army crossed the Blue Line dividing both countries, before being destroyed by Hezbollah gunshots. This incursion immediately raised new warnings by Israel and the United States against Syria, a country they were forcing to abandon its support to “terrorists” and dismantle its weapons of mass destruction.
Accusations already denied
Given the heated historical context and recent developments in the region, the concern of Syrian leaders headed by President Bashar al-Assad is quite legitimate, particularly if we consider that Washington’s and Tel Aviv’s speech against Syria seems a carbon copy of the one meant to justify intervention in Iraq in March 2003.
As we have seen, not a week passes by without the authorities of any of both countries speaking before a Foreign Affairs Parliamentary Commission about Syria’s threat for stability in the region. In this regard, on June 20, 2003, at a Press Conference where Ariel Sharon was also present, Colin Powell stated that if Syria were to continue being a “terrorist supporter nation” it would bear the consequences.
In the fall, the file on terrorist infiltration in Iraq from Syria, allows U.S. State Secretary to increase pressure on Damascus . On September 16, 2003, U.S. Undersecretary of State for Weapons Control and International Security stated before a U.S. Parliamentary Commission that Syria continued to allow persons determined to kill Coalition soldiers to cross into Iraq. He also asserted that «Syria has allowed the entry of military equipment into Iraq, before and after the war». He also spoke about transfer of weapons, the other way round, from Iraq to Syria.
Thus, Saddam Hussein may have concealed his weapons of mass destruction by hiding them in the neighboring territory before the American invasion. He was, however, unable to confirm his assertions without the slightest material evidence. .
In Israel, Damascus is always distinguished for its support to “terrorism”, and not only to Hezbollah. Israeli intelligence accuses Syria of financing and training Palestinian kamikazes for suicide attacks in Israel. The “terrorist training camps” targeted during the attacks on October 5, 2003, would have served this purpose, as asserted at the time by the Israeli press .
Few days after the attack, however, the Parisian daily Le Monde would reveal that the place had been deserted for many years, « maybe 10» . Accusations by Israeli authorities are filed before the Foreign Affairs and Defense Commission of the Knesset in order to document Syria’s involvement in the “global Islamic Terrorist Network”, despite the secular nature of the regime and the long prohibition to Muslim brothers. Even recently, Silvan Shalom, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Israel, accused Syria of having used humanitarian convoys to Iran to bring back shipments of weapons for “ terrorist” organizations.
The WMD issue is likewise decisive, as the Iraqi experience showed last spring. So everything is ready in the American communication system to come up with a secret weapon program by Damascus. In June 2004, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice gave full attention to the testimony of Nizar Nayyouf, a Syrian opponent residing in Paris. The latter claimed to «have information supplied by a Syrian senior officer, currently a dissident (...) indicating the places where the Iraqi WMD were buried in order to hide them from the supervision of inspectors in Iraq».
Even more cynical, on December 15, 2003, the day after Saddam Hussein’s arrest, Ha’aretz revealed that the United States military could offer Saddam a deal if he would give information on WMD, particularly if he had them, and if so, if he had hidden them in Syria in the wake of the American invasion.
These “truths”, asserted without the slightest evidence, allowed for the adoption of the Syria Accountability Act, a regime of commercial and diplomatic sanctions against Syria applicable at the discretion of the American President, who can decide by himself the implementation modalities. However, as in the case of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, the incoherent and exaggerated nature of these accusations has been widely refuted by several official sources.
On November 12, 2003, former American envoy Theodore Kattouf stated that according to him, Syria had not facilitated the crossing of fundamentalist militants to Iraq since April, when its borders were closed. As to the recent Hezbollah attack on an Israeli bulldozer that had crossed the Blue Line, according to confidential information provided by a State Chief of Tsahal, the attack had not been coordinated with Syria. .
Preparations in the Wake of the Offensive
Developments were triggered after the arrest of the president, and associations with Hezbollah increased in the border between Israel and Lebanon. Tensions climbed once again exacerbated by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumfeld’s words, who on May 8, 2004 said he was considering sending special troops to the Lebanese Beka’a Valley under Syrian control “to catch terrorists”.
According to L’Orient Le Jour, such an operation would begin « by sea or maybe by land from Iraq, and it would be a “police style” operation aimed at capturing “ increasingly wanted terrorists” ».
Israeli incursion in Lebanese territory on January 20, 2004, is also interpreted by the Lebanese daily as a sign of war escalation in the region. Quoting an European diplomat in Beirut, editor Emile Khoury wrote on January 22, 2004: « Mr. Sharon may be tempted to use the U.S. presidential campaign period, in which we already are, to launch a new military adventure under the pretext of fighting terrorism. That is why Israeli prime minister is reluctant to renew talks with Syria where they had been left (...), because President Bashar al-Assad, seeing tensions mount, offered, in December 2003, to renew negotiations with Israel from where they had been left by his father, Hafez al-Assad and the then Israeli Prime Minister Yitzakh Rabin ».
Discussions had then led to an agreement that envisaged Israel’s withdrawal from the Golan Heights, but of course, this solution does not please Ariel Sharon, who under the conclusions of the 1993 Perle report can afford to prolong instability in this front, waiting to get better results in the negotiations later on. This is the reason why Israel fully guarantees its role as an “obstacle for peace”.
In December 2003, an Israeli newspaper reported how Ariel Sharon’s government had recently rejected a Syrian proposal aimed at ensuring a lasting ceasefire in the Blue Line, in return for ceasing violations of Lebanese air space by the Israeli army as well as its maneuvers along the border. .
That is also the reason for recent statements by several members of Sharon’s government to denounce the trick, according to them, behind President al-Assad’s call to renew negotiations. Ariel Sharon has specially declared his unwillingness to initiate negotiations that would ultimately lead to a withdrawal from the Golan Heights, currently occupied by Israel. .
- David Kay
Thus, the destabilization plan for the region seems to be ready and the field of action confined to the Beka’a Valley. The reference magazine Jane’s Intelligence Digest was right to publish an article on Friday, June 23, about the recent declarations of the American Administration on Syria. The magazine writes that Donald Rumsfeld is considering provoking a military confrontation with Syria by attacking Hezbollah bases near the Syrian-Lebanese border.
However, obstacles in the path towards Damascus have already emerged. Last week’s failed meeting of the pro American Syrian opposition at the Holiday Inn hotel in Brussels, delays the establishment of a credible political alternative, as was the case with Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Council. But the worst blow came from the United States, where David Kay, head of the American Inspection Team in charge of discovering Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, resigned in mid January indicating that Saddam Hussein’s weapons program had not been renewed since the end of the First Gulf War, an assertion that few days later he had to elaborate on in a brief statement to Sunday Telegraph in which he went as far as admitting that “components of the weapons of mass destruction program” of the former Iraqi dictator had been transferred to Syria before the war «though we are not talking of big quantities of weapons», just the remains of a weapons program abandoned 13 years ago.
This controversy, coming from a CIA expert official, shows the Agency’s opposition to neo-conservatives and the determination of its director, George Tenet, to deprive the Pentagon of an unfounded pretext. We can also see that the Hawks’ long plotted plan has encountered an unexpected difficulty. Turkey, a NATO member and a military ally of Israel, has withdrawn its support to the United States in the war against Iraq. It refused to take part in the war and prohibited the Coalition over fly its airspace, and this has compelled the Pentagon to reshape its forces before launching an offensive, at a considerable cost for the operation.
But Washington, rushing its calendar to fight Iraqi resistance, was too quick in announcing its intention to establish an autonomous and later on independent Kurdistan. Taking advantage of the situation, Syria immediately turned to its traditional ally, Iran and to Turkey to make the project fail. The three States, home to Kurd minorities, feel threatened with Yugoslavia-like outbreaks if mono-ethnic States are established.
Huntington’s theory of a so-called Shiite evil axle (Iran-Syria-Lebanon) is no longer coherent with current alliances. However, Ariel Sharon’s government could benefit from the American presidential election campaign to launch a regional military offensive. Using its privileged contacts with the Bush Administration “hawks” would rush the Pentagon to a war that some still expect to prevent.