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Neutralizing Al-Assad And Securing Victory

Based on its notion that "attacking is the best defense" (the winning strike), the administration chose Syria as its target, because of the influence it could have on the Iraqi scene, not to mention its regional role regarding Palestine and Lebanon.
Neutralizing Al-Assad And Securing Victory
Walid Choucair, Dar Al-Hayat, 2003/04/22

Certain American circles, along with those coalition countries closely allied to Washington, made sure to neutralize Syrian President al-Assad in the ongoing campaign being waged by American officials against Syria. Among other things, they are accusing Syria of sheltering a number of high Iraqi officials.

In the course of their negotiations with the parties involved, these circles drew the line as to how far this campaign would go. In this context, an American "statement" was obvious, when it read that President Al-Assad "probably didn't know" about military equipment being sent to Iraq (equipment for T-72 tanks), and night-vision binoculars, before and during the war, and that he wasn't the one to order volunteers to march into Iraq across the Syrian borders, nor to welcome Iraqi leaders on the run.

The Syrian response was not taken into consideration, for it was all too obvious that the aim behind this effort to neutralize the Syrian President was to lead the way to negotiations, in light of the attack being waged by the hawks in the U.S. administration, with the go-ahead of President Bush, who was later followed by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

During closed meetings, the Americans stressed that it was crucial for Syria to choose its position to stand, but they then turned back again to neutralizing the Syrian government because of what they saw as hostile Syrian moves.

In parallel to the Syrians expressing their wish to "positively negotiate and cooperate" with Washington, claiming that the threats stemmed from the Israeli-dominated hawks, Bush's statements over the past two days to the effect that Syria had received the message and had already given positive reactions prove that Washington didn't intend to put its threats into action but to open a dialogue. Its British and Spanish allies helped start this dialogue through the contacts they made between the U.S. administration and the Syrian authority. The stance taken by Iraq's neighboring countries helped initiate this dialogue, when they opposed, last Friday, the threats made against Syria, in addition to the flexibility of Syrian declarations from the start, encouraged by Damascus' allies (France) to avoid inciting American impetuosity.

One could explain the fierceness, followed by quiet, in the open American-Syrian crisis in different contexts (even though it ended by dialogue); it could be explained in a context of defending the victory the U.S. gained in Iraq, without hiding the difficulties the U.S. administration is going to face to carry out the next phase: the demonstrations against Saddam and against Bush, the high cost of reconstruction at a time of economic recession in the U.S., the refusal of certain countries opposed to the war to sanction the occupation within the UN, etc.

Based on its notion that "attacking is the best defense" (the winning strike), the administration chose Syria as its target, because of the influence it could have on the Iraqi scene, not to mention its regional role regarding Palestine and Lebanon.

Washington is seeking from its enemies, at both the international and Arab levels, that they refrain from exploiting its difficulties, and facilitate its control over Iraq, as well as agree to the "road map" at the Palestinian level. They want these countries to be patient before it exerts pressure on Israeli leaders into accepting the map, at a time when the Arabs have lost hope in this pressure because of the negative experience they've had with American promises.

Thus, the attack against Syria is a message to other countries as well, including Russia and France, while awaiting the difficulties that the Bush administration could soon face.

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