Cheney Taps Syria Hawk As Adviser On Mideast
By MARC PERELMAN
OCTOBER 31, 2003
Despite mounting criticism of the administration's Iraq
policy, Vice President Dick Cheney appears to be
ratcheting up his commitment to the circle of
neoconservative intellectuals who helped spearhead
President Bush's war policy, adding one of its most
controversial proponents to his national security staff
in a little-noticed move last month.
David Wurmser, a neoconservative scholar known for his
close ties to the Israeli right, was appointed in mid-
September to join the team led by Cheney's national
security adviser, Lewis "Scooter" Libby. In recent years
Wurmser, who boasts a complex network of relationships
to a variety of pro-Likud think tanks and activist
groups, has frequently written articles arguing for a
joint American-Israeli effort to undermine the Syrian
Wurmser's appointment sheds light on the prominent role
played by Cheney and his national security staff in
shaping foreign policy and coincides with the
deterioration in the relations between Washington and
Damascus. In recent months, Washington has accused Syria
of sheltering Iraqi leaders, weapons and money and of
allowing terrorists into Iraq. The administration backed
Israel's recent bombing of a suspected terrorist
training camp in Syria and dropped its objections to a
congressional bill that grants the president the right
to impose sanctions on Damascus.
"The vice president undoubtedly chooses staff whose
views are compatible with the policies of the
administration," wrote Judith Kipper, a Middle East
scholar with the Council on Foreign Relations, in an e-
mail to the Forward. "The question is, how does the vice
president's [national security staff] function in
relation to the president's national security staff and
how important policy decisions are made in the White
House. While the vice president has a critical role to
play, the secrecy surrounding his unusually large
foreign-policy staff raises many questions which the
American public needs answered."
Cathy Martin, a spokeswoman for Cheney, confirmed that
Wurmser had recently been hired, adding that he is
serving as one of many foreign-policy advisers to the
vice president. She declined to comment on questions
about Cheney's or Wurmser's ideological leanings.
Before his appointment, Wurmser had served as a senior
adviser to John Bolton, the undersecretary of state for
arms control and international security and one of the
sharpest critics of Syria within the administration. In
speeches and testimonies over the past year, Bolton has
sounded increasingly alarmist--far more so than the
intelligence community--about Syria's weapons programs.
Wurmser's appointment was first reported by Inter-Press
Service and elicited criticism from the Arab American
Institute, an advocacy organization.
Wurmser is the main author of a 1996 policy paper
drafted for then-Israeli prime minister Benjamin
Netanyahu by a task force composed of neo-conservative
scholars. The white paper, titled "A Clean Break: A New
Strategy for Securing the Realm," advocated a remodeling
of the Middle East that some critics see as a rough
blueprint for the policy adopted by the Bush
administration after the September 11 attacks. The paper
advocated a strategy of preemptive action to remove
Saddam Hussein from power, a "rollback" of Syria and the
search for alternatives to Yasser Arafat.
"Whoever inherits Iraq dominates the entire Levant
strategically," said the paper, which was commissioned
by the Jerusalem-based Institute for Advanced Strategic
and Political Studies, where Wurmser was working at the
The task force was headed by Richard Perle, now a key
Pentagon adviser who sits on the Defense Policy Board.
Its members included Douglas Feith, currently the
undersecretary of defense for policy and one of the main
proponents of the war in Iraq.
Another member of the task force was Wurmser's Israeli-
born wife, Meyrav Wurmser, who heads the Middle East
studies department at the conservative Hudson Institute.
She is a founder of the Middle East Media Research
Institute, or Memri, which translates Arabic press
reports and which critics say highlights negative views
of the West.
The policy paper suggested that in order to transform
the "balance of power" in the Middle East in favor of an
axis consisting of Israel, Turkey and Jordan, Saddam
should be removed and replaced by a Hashemite ruler.
The next step would be a "rollback" of Syria by
sponsoring proxy attacks in Lebanon and even striking at
selected targets in Syria. In the late 1990s, Wurmser
wrote frequently, arguing for a joint U.S.-Israeli
effort to undermine the Syrian regime.
On Tuesday, retired Air Force General James Clapper,
director of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency,
told reporters he was not surprised that U.S. forces had
not discovered any chemical, biological or nuclear
weapons in Iraq, citing a big increase in the number of
vehicles heading to Syria before the war. The
administration also has renewed long-standing
accusations that Damascus is developing chemical and
biological weapons and is supporting terrorist groups
operating against Israel, despite pledges to crack down