Powell Warns Syria, Iran Not to Aid Terrorists
By Peter Slevin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 31, 2003; Page A16
In strong and accusatory language, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell called on Syria and Iran last night to stop supporting terrorists. He warned that Syria's leadership "faces a critical choice" and will be held responsible for help it gives to the government of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Powell became the second Cabinet secretary in three days to warn the two countries, which the United States considers state sponsors of terrorism. On Friday, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld charged that Syria is shipping military supplies across its border to Iraq, calling the move a hostile act.
"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," Powell said in an address to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. "Either way, Syria bears responsibility for its choices and for the consequences."
While President Bush named Iran to his "axis of evil" last year, Powell called on other countries that have closer relations with the country to pressure Tehran to withdraw its sponsorship of such groups as Hezbollah, a principal foe of Israel.
"It is now time that the entire community step up and insist that Iran end its support for terrorists," Powell told AIPAC, the country's most influential pro-Israel lobby.
Drawing a distinction favored by Bush between the Iranian leadership and activist citizens, he said the administration would "continue to support the aspirations of the Iranian people to improve their lives and live in peace and security with their neighbors."
The more aggressive language Powell and Rumsfeld used suggests a greater determination by the administration to play a role in the Middle East beyond Iraq, whose government Bush has pledged to remove by force. Powell's comments drew a standing ovation from his audience, but are likely to worry Arabs in the region already nervous about U.S. assertiveness.
Powell, who was twice greeted with cascading cheers before he began to speak, drew another standing ovation when he said terrorism against Israel must end. He heard a far less enthusiastic response when he discussed his expectation that Israel must make significant concessions to the Palestinians.
Some in the audience applauded and others booed when he quoted Bush's statement that "settlement activity in the occupied territories must end." Scattered hisses rose from general silence when Powell said the Jewish state "must take steps to ease the suffering of Palestinians and diminish the daily humiliation of life under occupation."
Powell said the administration will soon release a road map of reciprocal steps designed to move the Israelis and Palestinians away from armed stalemate toward meaningful negotiations. He said the road map "is not an edict," but a "statement of the broad steps we believe Israel and the Palestinians must take."
Syria drew a warning from Rumsfeld after U.S. authorities said they traced a shipment of night-vision goggles through Syria to Iraq. In recent months, munitions and other material valuable to the Iraqi war have also crossed their shared border, U.S. officials have said despite Syrian denials.
For years, Syria has also provided a haven and support to terrorist organizations. Iran drew a warning from Rumsfeld on Friday for backing the Badr Brigade, a force of anti-Hussein Shiite Muslim Iraqi exiles, some of whose members have crossed into northern Iraq.
For Israel Lobby Group, War Is Topic A, Quietly
At Meeting, Jerusalem's Contributions Are Highlighted
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 1, 2003; Page A25
This week's meeting in Washington of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee has put a spotlight on the Bush administration's delicate dance with Israel and the Jewish state's friends over the attack on Iraq.
Officially, Israel is not one of the 49 countries the administration has identified as members of the "Coalition of the Willing." Officially, AIPAC had no position on the merits of a war against Iraq before it started. Officially, Iraq is not the subject of the pro-Israel lobby's three-day meeting here.
Now, for the unofficial part:
As delegates to the AIPAC meeting were heading to town, the group put a headline on its Web site proclaiming: "Israeli Weapons Utilized By Coalition Forces Against Iraq." The item featured a photograph of a drone with the caption saying the "Israeli-made Hunter Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" is being used "by U.S. soldiers in Iraq."
At an AIPAC session on Sunday night, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom proclaimed in a speech praising Secretary of State Colin L. Powell: "We have followed with great admiration your efforts to mobilize the international community to disarm Iraq and bring democracy and peace to the region, to the Middle East and to the rest of the world. Just imagine, Mr. Secretary, how much easier it would have been if Israel had been a member of the Security Council."
A parade of top Bush administration officials -- Powell, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, political director Kenneth Mehlman, Undersecretary of State John R. Bolton and Assistant Secretary of State William Burns -- appeared before the AIPAC audience. The officials won sustained cheers for their jabs at European opponents of war in Iraq, and their tough remarks aimed at two perennial foes of Israel, Syria and Iran.
The AIPAC meeting -- attended by about 5,000 people, including half the Senate and a third of the House -- was planned long before it became clear it would coincide with hostilities in Iraq. And organizers tried to play down the emphasis on Iraq, dedicating only one of its 12 "forums" during the conference to the war. "This is not about Iraq," said AIPAC spokesman Josh Block. "This is about going to Congress and lobbying for the Israeli aid package."
The reason for the sensitivity is clear. Internationally, anything that links Israel to the current war could alienate friendly Arab states by suggesting that the war is driven by Israel's interests. At home, the embrace of the war by an organization of influential Jews could fuel anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, though polls have indicated that American Jews are less likely to support the Iraq war than white Americans of other faiths.
Despite the meeting's script, AIPAC attendees found the subject of the war impossible to avoid. Powell talked about Iraq. Rice talked about Iraq. In the hallways, everyone talked about Iraq.
"If a widget maker were having a convention, the talk would be about Iraq," said Nathan Diament, a lobbyist for orthodox Jews and a participant in the conference. "It's not what this meeting is all about, but it's the context."
When Rep. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) and Leon S. Fuerth, the former foreign policy adviser to Al Gore, sat down with Burns for a session yesterday titled "the Future of the Middle East," the subject was almost exclusively Iraq.
Kirk said the war would be "longer and more expensive than we think," and noted efforts the U.S. military had made to defend Israel. When Fuerth wondered whether there is too much "happy optimism" about Arab democracy, Kirk won cheers and an ovation for rejecting the charge. "God willing, we're going to have a great victory in Iraq," said AIPAC's Steve Rosen, the moderator.
AIPAC also promoted Israel's involvement in the Iraq war, though it has not been acknowledged by the administration. Citing the Jewish Telegraphic Agency, AIPAC reported on its Web site that the U.S. Army is using Israeli-made Hunter and Pioneer drones, computer systems and Popeye air-to-surface missiles. AIPAC and Israeli officials at the conference said that while such weapons are being used in the Iraq war, they were not provided by Israel specifically for it.
Eyal Arad, who has served as a campaign adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, said in an interview at the conference yesterday that his country, which attacked an Iraqi nuclear facility two decades ago, was pleased to honor the Bush administration's request to keep a low profile in this conflict.
"We don't need to shout, 'We're pro-American,' " Arad said. "We are."
The Bush administration was somewhat ambivalent about tying itself to AIPAC and Israel. Though it sent several officials to the meeting with strong pro-Israel messages, there were efforts to keep things low-key. The White House insisted that yesterday's speech by Rice, though delivered to a room with 2,000 people, be "off the record."
"I'm not making this up!" AIPAC's Rosen said to his guests while serving as host at a later session. "All these people were part of an off-the-record discussion."
Syrian Diplomats Dispute Allegations Of Aiding Hussein
By Nora Boustany
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 2, 2003; Page A13
The question of whether Syria had been receiving oil supplies from Iraq in violation of U.N. sanctions, and whether the pipeline was blown up or disrupted in the early days of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, briefly occupied Syria's ambassador, Rostom Zoubi.
"This is an old line and all of Iraq is being destroyed, so what's a pipeline? Nothing," the ambassador said in response to queries that the pipeline to the northern Syrian port of Banias may have been targeted. The Reuters news agency quoted a Syrian industry source as saying that the pumping of about 200,000 barrels a day of crude from Iraq's southern oil fields for export to Syria had stopped.
There was some experimental pumping and talk about building an alternative to the pipeline in the future, once sanctions are lifted, Zoubi said. Syria reportedly refines Iraqi crude for domestic consumption, allowing it to export more of its own oil from Banias and Tartous, its two ports on the Mediterranean.
Shedding his usual reserve with the media, Zoubi and his new deputy chief of mission, Imad Moustapha, have responded in recent interviews to accusations made by senior U.S. officials about Syrian support for the government of President Saddam Hussein and for terrorist groups whose information offices are based in Damascus.
In an address Sunday at the annual conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said Syria faced a critical choice. "Syria can continue direct support for terrorist groups and the dying regime of Saddam Hussein," he said, "or it can embark on a different and more hopeful course. Either way, Syria bears the responsibility for its choices and for the consequences."
Syria's two senior diplomats here have appeared on U.S. television broadcasts and are responding to a flood of interview requests, they said, to fend off what they described as an "unfair and unsubstantiated campaign." With visible pique, Zoubi said neither Powell nor any other U.S. official summoned him or lodged any formal complaints, choosing instead to use the AIPAC conference as a venue to "attack Syria." Attendees applauded every time Powell criticized Syria, Zoubi added with obvious displeasure.
The ambassador said he did not know whether the U.S. Embassy in Damascus had forwarded any U.S. objections to Syrian officials in recent days about these issues or about the alleged movement of Iraqis across the Syrian border.
Syrian Information Minister Adnan Omran told the BBC that no fighters or guerrillas were crossing the Syria-Iraq border to join the fight against U.S.-led forces.
"When circumstances at home are tough, Iraqi citizens want to go back to their towns and check on their families," Moustapha said. "We cannot stop them. There is a camp set up for fleeing Iraqi refugees at the border, but there is very little activity there. Those returning home to Iraq are less than 10 per day."
Moustapha said U.S. forces were "scrutinizing" Syria's border. Asked to comment on footage showing Syrians boarding a bus headed to Iran to eventually fight alongside Iraqis, Moustapha said it was "sheer propaganda that did not reflect the realities on the ground." Iranian officials at the United Nations have also denied allowing Iraqi Shiite fighters of the anti-Hussein Badr Brigade across its border.
"It is not in America's interest to create new enemies in the region," Zoubi said testily. "Please take note of that, especially not Syria, a U.N. Security Council member which tried to bring about a peaceful solution to this crisis and which has collaborated with the United States in the fight against terrorism."
At the same time, the diplomats stressed that Syria has expressed its moral and political support for the "people of Iraq."
Colette Avital, a Labor Party member of Israel's Knesset, or parliament, said many Israelis feared a prolonged war in Iraq would enrage Palestinians and Israeli Arabs and fuel the determination of Arab militants to go down fighting. Although Israelis supported the war because they considered Iraq a threat, "the longer this war lasts, the more we and Americans will find ourselves in a situation in which radical forces will call the shots," she said.
"We don't know how Palestinians will react. We have to go ahead with the road map for peace as soon as possible," she said, referring to a timetable endorsed by the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations for the establishment of a Palestinian state, but rejected by Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.
As Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom was making his rounds in Washington with hopes of persuading U.S. officials to revise the so-called road map, Avital cautioned that a return to a "sequential map" of not doing anything unless Palestinians first fulfilled a number of criteria would meet with failure.
"They should do things in parallel," she said in an interview Monday. Avital, who chairs the Knesset's Committee on Immigration and Integration, is in Washington to attend the AIPAC annual conference.
A letter to President Bush signed by Reps. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.) urges Bush to stick to principles he outlined last year calling on Palestinians to stop all violence, establish a new authority that would dismantle any terrorist networks, be transparent and accountable, and overhaul the security apparatus. The letter said that "only then can we expect Israel to respond with concrete actions. Many are urging you to short-circuit this process and to focus on timelines in achieving the roadmap's benchmarks. We believe that you will not be dissuaded and will focus instead on real performance."
Israel True to Values, Ashcroft Says
Thursday, April 3, 2003; Page A08
Attorney General John D. Ashcroft yesterday told a conference of evangelical Christians and Jews who are united in support of Israel that in the face of almost daily terrorist threats, Israel has remained "steadfastly true" to "the values our two nations share."
Ashcroft spoke in the afternoon to about 600 members of Stand for Israel, a fledgling group founded by Republican activist Ralph Reed and Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, head of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews.
The organization presented its first "Friend of Israel" awards last night to House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) and Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.) for their sponsorship of a House resolution backing Israel last year.
Eckstein said Stand for Israel is intended to bring grass-roots support of Israel to bear on U.S. foreign policy, calling it a Christian version of AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. He also said the group is bipartisan, although prominent Republicans appeared to greatly outnumber Democrats at yesterday's events.
"When we experienced the horror of September 11th . . . Israel was among those countries most capable of understanding our national pain and our national thirst for justice," Ashcroft told the gathering at the Mayflower Hotel.
In accepting his award, DeLay lambasted a State Department human rights report that criticized Israel's treatment of Palestinians. The report "compares the human rights record of a free, tolerant and pluralistic nation with that of a terrorist network. There is no comparison, and to assert one is ridiculous," he said.
-- Alan Cooperman
Bush Meets Resistance on Mideast Plan
Key Hill Allies Call for Greater Commitment to Israel's Concerns About Road Map
By Jim VandeHei
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, April 4, 2003; Page A18
President Bush's latest bid for a Middle East peace deal is running into unexpected resistance from key allies in Congress. Republicans and Democrats are pressing the White House to adopt a more staunchly pro-Israel stance, even if it feeds the perception the United States is too closely aligned with Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's government.
In a rare public split with the Bush administration over foreign policy, and at a critical moment in international relations, GOP congressional leaders are calling on the president and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell to temper their support for a long-awaited Middle East peace plan designed to implement Bush's call in June for the creation of a Palestinian state within three years. Israel has objected to certain parts of the plan, known as the "road map," which was drafted last year by the so-called quartet -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations.
The plan envisions a three-stage process that would create Palestinian institutions, establish provisional borders for a state by the end of this year and reach a final agreement with defined borders in 2005. Completed in December, the road map's release was delayed at Sharon's request until after the January Israeli elections, and again until the Palestinian legislature confirmed a new prime minister. That confirmation is to occur by the end of this month, and the imminent release of the plan has brought stepped-up concern.
Republicans and Democrats say they worry that the administration is undercutting Israel by embracing the plan. "There are many members of Congress concerned about this road map," House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said in an interview yesterday.
Sharon's government, and many in Congress, object to the non-negotiable nature of the document and to its demand that Israel and the Palestinian take parallel steps to move toward peace. Israel's position is that the Palestinians must prove they have stopped all terrorism, and activities that Israel believes promote terrorist activities, before it is required to take any steps, including the withdrawal of troops and stopping the expansion of settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.
In speeches this week and a letter scheduled for delivery later this month, GOP and Democratic congressional leaders -- who are competing for Jewish voters and donors -- make clear they will oppose any peace deal that does not first require the Palestinians to change their government and end all terrorist activities before imposing significant requirements on Israel. Several key Republicans said Bush has privately assured them that he agrees with them. But they expressed concern that Powell and British Prime Minister Tony Blair might manage to soften his resolve.
"There is a fairly healthy debate, even in this administration, about how you get to a place of true peace," said House Majority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.).
Although Bush pledged his "personal commitment" to the road map in a March 14 speech, he said he welcomed additional "contributions" to the plan. That raised concern among other quartet members that he was open to Israeli suggestions for changing the document. Congressional opponents of the plan saw this as confirmation that Bush's commitment was not total.
DeLay rewrote a speech he delivered Wednesday night to warn against treating the Palestinian Authority as a trustworthy negotiating partner, an aide said. "Negotiating with these men . . . is folly, and any agreement arrived at through such empty negotiations would amount to a covenant with death," DeLay told a fervently pro-Israel crowd at a conference of Jews and Christians in Washington. "Experience and common sense lead to one conclusion about America's proper role in the Middle East: We are absolutely right to stand with Israel, and our opponents are absolutely wrong." DeLay said it was "absurd" for the State Department this week to report that Israel has a poor human rights record. The newly released annual document criticized Israel and the Palestinians for abuses over the past year.
Several Republican and Democratic leaders plan to send Bush a letter this month signed by dozens of members, imploring him to adopt a position more clearly backing the Sharon government. "There are concerns about Bush's" recent comments, said House Minority Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-Md.), an outspoken supporter of the war in Iraq and co-author of the letter. "We think this is not the direction he ought to go."
Blunt, a key Bush ally, is the highest-ranking Republican to sign the letter, which was first reported by CQ Today, a Capitol Hill publication. "This would not be the first time some people would question the president's commitment to a position only to have some immediate proof he's committed to [Israel]," Blunt said in an interview.
Criticism from Congress and pro-Israel activists could complicate Bush's on-again, off-again campaign to bring peace to the Middle East. Lawmakers and pro-Israel activists said Bush would have trouble selling the peace process to U.S. voters if much of Congress opposes it.
The criticism also might undermine Bush's campaign to win greater support from the United States' comparatively wealthy and politically active Jewish community, lawmakers and GOP fundraisers say. Indeed, some Republicans attributed the fervently pro-Israel language by DeLay and other party leaders to their months-long campaign to attract Jewish donors, who traditionally have given the bulk of their money to Democrats.
Israel in recent years has made great strides in winning the support of conservative Republicans, especially evangelical Christians such as DeLay who view Israel as the biblical promised land.
Bush, an unwavering supporter of Sharon, has been lobbied heavily by Blair and Powell to follow through with the road map. Along with a number of U.S.-friendly Arab governments and most of Europe, Blair believes that movement in the peace process is a crucial follow-up to the war in Iraq. Blair's unwavering support for Bush's war policy against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is based in part on the president's commitment to the plan.
But the approach of its release, and speeches this week in which Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice reiterated Bush's March 14 pledge, have drawn the attention of congressional opponents. In remarks before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, an influential pro-Israel group, both reaffirmed support for an end to "settlement activity" in the occupied territories and the White House's commitment to the road map. Rice conceded the plan is "controversial," but said it comports with the vision Bush laid out last summer.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told the same AIPAC audience that she was "seriously concerned about the timing, tone and effect of the president's statement of March 14. Let there be no weakening in our resolve, no softening in our stance, no lowering of the threshold for the cessation of violence."
House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) told the audience, "we need to be wary" of dealing with Russia, the European Union and United Nations on a peace deal. "They have never been strong supporters of Israel."
In separate comments, Rep. Eric I. Cantor (R-Va.), the House's only Jewish Republican, said that "with recent elevation of the road map and the mention of the road map, it has gotten the attention of all of us."
A senior White House official acknowledged that "there is nervousness in some parts of the Jewish community," but said "the president thinks it's important to proceed."
House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), Blunt and other lawmakers plan to call on Bush to demand new Palestinian leadership "with real authority," a cessation of terrorism and the creation of a Palestinian security apparatus before a Middle East peace process proceeds. These principles "form the only sensible basis for moving ahead with peace," they plan to say in the letter being readied for later this month.
Staff writer Karen DeYoung contributed to this report.
AIPAC: A Question Of Wartime Influence
Sunday, April 6, 2003; Page B06
The April 1 news story "For Israel Lobby Group, War Is Topic A, Quietly," about the recent convention of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, reported that half of the Senate and a third of the House were present. It also said that AIPAC seeks to avoid public scrutiny and that the White House insisted that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice's address to 2,000 members of the organization be off the record.
One reported reason for such stealth is that "the embrace of the war by an organization of influential Jews could fuel anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, though polls have indicated that American Jews are less likely to support the Iraq war than white Americans of other faiths."
Whether these lobbyists are representative of America's Jews is irrelevant. But their role in advocating an invasion of Iraq -- and perhaps further wars against other enemies of Israel -- is relevant. Openly questioning the extent of their power does not amount to "anti-Semitic conspiracy theories."