Washington is filled more than ever with lobbying and propaganda organizations...many with various kinds of ties to the government and/or to former government officials. The 'Reform Party of Syria' is one of the newer ones, in the business of promoting 'regime change' in Damascus after what has been done in Afghanistan and Iraq. RPS published the following on 15 December 2004:
Despite recent Syrian overtures towards Israel. Intelligence information confirms Damascus is continuing to actively aid and abet Iraqi insurgency.
Washington DC, December 15, 2004 /RPS News/ - Washington is reassessing its policy towards Syria, in light of increasing evidence that President Assad has no intention of keeping his promises to the US to stop cooperating with the Iraqi Sunni insurgency.
A senior intelligence source has confirmed that the administration is currently conducting discussions over Syria at senior levels. These discussions are not only limited to the policy itself, but include possible operational scenarios in the event it is decided to change US policy.
The main debate is whether any US military strike should be confined to a few targets, destruction of which would inflict enough pain on Baschar Assad and his regime to prompt them to rein in the anti-US forces operating from Syria, or whether a broad military campaign aimed at regime change would be preferable.
Until now the leading administration doves, outgoing secretary of state Colin Powell and ex-CIA director George Tenet held sway. They strenuously opposed a second US military campaign in the Arab world, saying the fallout would be more damaging then any possible advantages. As a result Washington issued Assad a series of ultimatums, which he consistently flouted.
The first was the US-Syrian agreement signed in September, in which Syria agreed to cooperate with the US military in curbing the two-way traffic of smuggled guerrillas, terrorists, arms and money through the Syrian-Iraqi border.
The main difficulty pinpointed at the time was the Arab smuggler-tribes who for time immemorial have ruled the border regions and were liable to fiercely resist any attempt to bring them under control. Within two weeks it had become clear that Syria had no intention of honoring its commitment, when Syrian vice president Halim Khadam was discovered at the Syrian-Iraqi border town of Abu Kamal in a secret huddle with the chiefs of those very tribes.
By now it has become clear that Damascus has opted out of its military accord with the Americans. The volume of fighting forces and war materiel crossing from Syria to Iraq has increased rather than diminished, and armed bands of tribesmen, among whom Iraqi insurgents, al Qaeda and Hizballah terrorists mingle, have expanded their control of broad regions on the Iraqi side of the border and aggressively attack any American force or vehicle venturing on their turf.
Tribes dominating the border region are on the Iraqi insurgents’ payroll, receiving large weekly payments from Iraqi Baath headquarters in Damascus.. The Damascus center is the hub of the 4,000 ex-party leaders and army chiefs living in Syria. It awards the tribes a bonus for every attack they mount against American or Iraqi forces in the border vicinity, as well as a rake-off for every illegal transfer of weapons or explosives. Syrian regime high-ups, top military brass and officers stationed on the border also get their share of the cut.
There have been several unpublicized battles between American and Syrian forces, when Syrian troops intervened to try and prevent the Americans from carrying out a hot pursuit of Iraqi insurgents at the border, Several Syrian soldiers have been killed and captured in these firefights, and senior leaders of the Anaza tribe taken prisoner. Six weeks ago US special-ops forces raided Anaza encampments, uncovering large volumes of weaponry destined for Iraq. They also discovered approximately 10 million dollars in cash and gold coin, and over a hundred terrorists in hiding.
However now, with the departure of Powell and Tenet, and a second term safely in hand, the military option has again risen to the surface.
Proponents of this policy are saying that unless decisive action is taken against Syria, there is a real danger the gains from the Fallujah campaign will disappear.
Two weeks ago, shortly after the fighting died down, the Americans noticed that many of the Sunni guerrillas who fled the embattled town towards the Syrian border found sanctuary with the Anaza tribes, were awarded new identities, money and arms and returned to Fallujah among the returning refugees. These infiltrators now threaten to reverse the US purge of Fallujah as the central base of insurgents and terrorists.
The Bush administration and the US military in Iraq are in no mood to let this happen. There are however, several factors that complicate matters.
Limited strikes will not destroy the various smuggling networks operated by Sunni tribes in the border regions. The fate of the Assad regime is of supreme indifference to them, in fact they would shed no tears if the current regime, dominated by the despised Alawis, considered by many Sunnis to be heretics, was to disappear. Limited strikes are also unlikely to cause enough pain to convince Assad to take action against the tribes.
The next three months are not conducive to military action against Syria. The Palestinians go to the polls on the ninth of January, the Iraqis three weeks later. US military action against an Arab states could have an adverse impact.
Anything more than limited strikes could alienate Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, whose diplomatic and financial backing the Bush administration is seeking at the moment to further its plans for an Israeli-Palestinian accord.
Some of the Syrian targets on US drawing board have an Iranian component, either in the form of a financial investment, or the presence of Iranian military or civilian liaison personnel. Tehran, which fears an US-Israel strike against its nuclear plants, will be watching closely to gauge how far the Americans are willing to go in their military punishment of Syria. This could provide valuable information as to the limits of American patience with them, and, more importantly how to prepare for a possible American strike against them.
The tentative conclusion is that a limited US strike in the near future is unlikely, but a major military operation, possibly in coordination with Israel slightly further down the road is a real possibility. The fact that Washington has supported, and perhaps even advocated Israel’s decision to ignore all recent reports of a possible Syrian overture, and interest in resuming peace negotiations could be a reliable indicator of what lies ahead.
Today the London based Saudi owned Arabic daily Asharq Alawsat published a report quoting “knowledgeable sources” that President Bush had decided to make an Israeli-Syrian peace agreement a priority. According to the report, Israeli-Syrian negotiation would resume in February.
The report claims that UN Sect.-General Kofi Anan is also involved, and has told his main Middle East troubleshooter Terja Laerson to begin preparing for these talks.
However Israel has, with US full support, and according to some reports, at the US’s request, rebuffed a series of attempts by Syria to resume peace talks. Israel has insisted that Syria must cease all its cooperation with terrorism, and close down Hamas and Hezbollah headquarters and offices in Syria before peace talks can resume.
The fact that this change of American heart has been reported in a Saudi newspaper is also suspect. When US officials want to prepare the groundwork the leaks are usually to a major US publication. The fact that the Saudis are desperately tying to prevent any US military action against Syria should also be taken into account with regard to this report.