Friday, January 13, 2006

Syria: "Regime change on the cheap" or strikes?

In the latest issue of Pat Buchanan’s American Conservative magazine, Robert Dreyfuss, the author of Devil’s Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam, asserts that the neocons have “Syria in their sights”.

The following are excerpts from the article:

“ It’s happening again…[and] This time it is Syria. The pressure is on, and it will likely get a lot worse very soon. Like the attack on Iraq, it is a longstanding vendetta.

Three years ago, the U.S. invasion of Iraq was widely viewed as the first chapter of a region-wide strategy to redraw the entire map of the Middle East. After Iraq, Syria and Iran would be the next targets, after which the oil-rich states of the Arabian Gulf, including Saudi Arabia, would follow. It was a policy driven by neoconservatives in and out of the Bush administration, and they didn’t exactly make an effort to keep it secret.
The United States is indeed pursuing a hard-edged regime-change strategy for Syria. And it isn’t necessarily going to be a Cold War—in fact, it could well get very hot very soon.
…In Washington, analysts disagree over exactly how far the Bush administration is willing to go in pursuing its goal of overthrowing the Assad government.
In the view of Flynt Leverett, a former CIA Syria analyst now at the Brookings Institution, the White House favors a kind of slow-motion toppling. In a forum at Brookings, Leverett, author of Inheriting Syria: Bashar’s Trial by Fire, announced his conclusion that Bush was pursuing “regime change on the cheap” in Syria. But others disagree, and believe that Syria could indeed be the next Iraq.
…The fall of the Assad regime could open Syria, and the region, to widespread instability. “No one knows what is going to come out of it,” says Wayne White, the former deputy director of the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research on Middle East issues. “It’s making me nervous. What, exactly, is ‘Syria’? There are cleavages there. The place could just break up.” White says that no one knows the extent to which Sunni Islamic radicals have organized themselves in Syria, especially through the Muslim Brotherhood. “There could be a lot more Islamic militancy there than we’re aware of.”
…Meanwhile, the UN investigation into Hariri’s murder is a ticking time bomb for Assad. Already beset by the conflict with Israel, the war in Iraq, and a crisis in Lebanon, Bashar Assad will have to summon all the wiliness of his late father to survive the next few months
…Less grand is the vision of Bill O’Reilly, the Fox News host, who ripped a page from Pat Robertson’s assassination handbook. “It’s Bashar’s life,” said O’Reilly on Oct. 5. “I mean, we could take his life, and we should take his life if he doesn’t help us out.”  “


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