Damascus in the Crosshairs

Is Syria the next target?

The media campaign was launched last week, when three analysts associated with the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies (FDD), a neoconservative group that generally backs positions of Israel’s right-wing Likud Party, published an article in the Washington Times titled “Syria’s Murderous Role.”

Then William Kristol, the influential chairman of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) and editor of the Rupert Murdoch-owned Weekly Standard, devoted his lead editorial, “Getting Serious About Syria,” to the same subject, concluding that, despite the stresses on the U.S. military in Iraq, “real options exist [for dealing with Damascus].”

“We could bomb Syrian military facilities; we could go across the border in force to stop infiltration; we could occupy the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, a few miles from the border, which seems to be the planning and organizing center for Syrian activities in Iraq; we could covertly help or overtly support the Syrian opposition….”

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal followed up in its lead editorial – always a reliable indicator of neocon opinion on the Middle East – charging, “Syria is providing material support to terrorist groups killing American soldiers in Iraq while openly calling on Iraqis to join the ‘resistance.'”

The editorial, “Serious About Syria,” accused the Bush administration of responding to these provocations with “mixed political signals and weak gestures,” and urged it to at least threaten military action, much as Turkey “mobilized for war against Syria” in 1998 over Damascus’ support for Kurdish rebels.

Within hours, Bush himself was talking tough on Damascus. Asked during a White House photo-op with visiting Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi about accusations by Iraq’s defense minister of alleged Syrian and Iranian support for the Sunni insurgency, the president warned the two countries that “meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest.”

I have no love for the dictator in Damascus, but the neocons running our foreign policy must realize that the United States military has its hands full now. We don’t have the manpower or the mandate to clean up the entire Middle East on our own.

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