Syria sits smack in the middle of coalition leaders’ radar screens and is next on the list of countries targeted for “regime change,” followed by Iran and Libya, according to Bush administration officials.
The London Telegraph reported Syria was among the topics discussed by President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair during their summit in Belfast yesterday.
“There’s got to be a change in Syria,” Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
His remark followed the March 29 threat by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a Pentagon briefing.
“And to Iraq’s neighbor, Syria: We have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles. These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will
hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments,” Rumsfeld said.
The recent statements confirm a report cited by WorldNetDaily in February that U.S. foreign policy plans call for regime change in Iran, Libya and Syria once Saddam Hussein is toppled.
“Change is needed in all those three countries, and a few others besides,” Richard Perle, former chairman of the U.S. Defense Advisory Board, told the London-based author and analyst Amir Taheri.
Perle added that he felt U.S. intervention may only be necessary in Libya and that reform can come from within in Iran and Syria, but he would not elaborate on what U.S. intervention might entail.
Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin also reported in February that U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton made a pronouncement similar to Perle’s. The intelligence newsletter reported that Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials that he had no doubt that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea after Iraq.
Regime change in Syria is not seen as requiring military action, and many within the State Department as well as their British counterparts are said to support treating Syria with the carrot rather than the stick, reported The Telegraph.
Although left out of Bush’s “axis-of-evil” illustration of countries harboring or sponsoring terrorists, Syria has gained increased scrutiny amid suspicions it allowed Saddam Hussein to transfer weapons of mass destruction across its border, allegations it supplied Iraq with illegal arms which are currently being used against coalition forces, and charges it and Iran have dispatched thousands of terrorists and suicide bombers into Iraq for attacks against coalition forces.
As WorldNetDaily reported, Syria was fingered as the middle man that provided GPS-jamming equipment made by a Russian firm in
cooperation with the Russian military.
Ha’aretz reports a large arms deal Syria recently made on behalf of the regime in Baghdad involved the acquisition from the Russian military of 500 laser-guided anti-tank missiles and their transfer to the Iraqis.
The paper reports the arms or equipment would be acquired by Syrian “businessman” at the Mediterranean port of Latakia and then offloaded onto trucks, which delivered the cargo to the Syrian-Iraqi border, and sent directly to the Iraqis.
Iraq’s reported transfer of weapons of mass destruction to Syria dates back to late last year, after United Nations inspectors began their ill-fated effort to verify Iraq’s disarmament under Resolution 1441.
“We are certain that Iraq has recently moved chemical or biological weapons into Syria,” declared Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon in December.
Yesterday, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, dismissed the report cited by Sharon. Myers told reporters “there is no evidence” that weapons of mass destruction have been moved out of Iraq into another country.
But U.S. intelligence officials report spotting several large Iraqi trucks with guards heading to Syria, reported the Washington Post. The contents of their cargo is not known.
“Significant equipment, assets and perhaps even expertise was transferred, the first signs of which appeared in August or September 2002,” a Bush administration official told The Telegraph. “It is quite possible that Iraqi nuclear scientists went to Syria and that Saddam’s regime may retain part of its army there.”
The Italian newspaper, il Foglio, reported in late March that Saddam Hussein signed an agreement in Damascus on Jan. 17 to move his nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, along with his scientists and technicians into Syria. The paper reported that, as a sign of good will, Saddam sent Syrian President Bashar Assad samples of anthrax and botulinum spores, and detailed analyses of tests carried out with these poisons on human subjects in Iraqi prisons.
Subsequently three microbiologists, a small group of technicians and their families and a top nuclear physicist sneaked into Syria in late February and early March, according to the paper.
WorldNetDaily has reported that Saddam may have planned to escape to Syria. The Sydney Daily Telegraph reported he spirited his first wife, Sajida – mother of his heirs Uday and Qusay – into Damascus with three truckloads of possessions and 60 bodyguards days before the bombing began in Baghdad.
Saddam’s former protocol minister, Haitham Rashid Wihaib, told newspapers in London that Hussein’s family members are staying with Iraq’s ambassador to Syria.
Bolton recently put Libya and Iran on notice in an interview with Radio Sawa, a U.S.-funded AM radio station whose broadcasts cover most of the Arab world.
“We are hoping that the elimination of the dictatorial regime of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of all of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction would be important lessons to other
countries in the region, particularly Syria, Libya, and Iran, that the cost of their pursuit of weapons of mass destruction is potentially quite high,” he said.
Bolton cited “convincing evidence” that the government of Libya had stepped up efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction since 1999 when the Security Council suspended its sanctions imposed following the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103.