America has 'Damascus in her sights'
Did Syria pressure Tehran to scupper a Shia rebellion?
Boueiz claims there is more to US anger than meets the eye Alia Ibrahim
Daily Star staff
Increased tension between Damascus and Washington is an ingredient of the American plan to refigure the political landscape of the region in the post-war phase, according to former Lebanese Foreign Minister Fares Boueiz.
Boueiz said that at this stage it would be "premature" to draw conclusions regarding how the deteriorating bilateral relations between the two countries will affect Lebanon.
However, he said that regardless of its alliance with Syria and based on all "available data" Lebanon could only be opposed to the war against Iraq.
According to Boueiz, the accusations and warnings that US officials have been launching against Syria are "ridiculous and don't convince anyone."
"Those night-vision goggles that the Americans are accusing Syria of providing to Iraq are not even considered arms, and they could be bought off any market," Boueiz said.
Earlier this week, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld accused Damascus of continuing to allow shipments of military equipment into Iraq in defiance of a US warning.
And on Thursday, US Secretary of State Colin Powell accused Syria and Iran of backing terrorism and seeking to develop weapons of mass destruction.
The Al-Sharq al-Awsat daily quoted "high ranking US sources" Friday saying that Saddam Hussein's wife, as well as the families of high-ranking Iraqi officials are now in Damascus.
According to Boueiz, the next "file" to be dealt with when the war is over in Iraq will be the Palestinian question and the Middle East peace process.
He said that the US wants to make sure that things happen in a way that Israel wants, that is with Abu Mazen taking power in the Palestinian Authority and giving up Jerusalem in addition to 70 percent of the West Bank.
He said that Washington now realizes there will be opposition to this plan in the Arab world, with Syria at the top of those criticizing it.
"So the US is putting a lot of pressure on Syria now to make sure that at the next stage, Damascus will be too busy looking after its own affairs," he said.
An article published in Israeli daily Haaretz Friday mentioned a communique from the US administration that was received in Jerusalem saying: "The US is operating with strong resolution to neutralize the Iraqi threat to Israel."
The message also said that after the war, the US will "deal with other radical regimes in the region - not necessarily by military means to moderate their activities and fight terrorism."
But Boueiz said that the crisis in relations between Damascus and Washington could also be the result of the US administration's belief that Syria has played a role in convincing Iran to influence and put pressure on the Shiites of Iraq not to fight the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Accordingly, Boueiz said Americans believe that their plan depends on Iraqi Shiite opposition to Saddam and that it has been sabotaged by Syria. They accuse Damascus of causing them to lose the "very important Shiite card," he said.
He added that it is too early to start making conclusions regarding the outcome of such tension.
"Everything will to a large extent depend on how the US wins the war in Iraq," he said. "It is one thing if the US achieves a prompt and smashing victory, and another thing if the victory comes at a high price, and a third thing if it finds itself in a quagmire it is difficult to get out of."