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Ramzy Baroud: Reining in Syria on Behalf of Israel

Reining in Syria on Behalf of Israel

By Ramzy Baroud

President Bush's stern warning urging Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon once again highlights the moral duplicity practiced by the US administration in its dealings with the Middle East affairs.

It must be made clear that Syria has no business in maintaining its military control and political dominion over Lebanon, if such presence and influence runs counter to the aspirations of the Lebanese people.

The ongoing mass protests in Lebanon galvanized by the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri attest to growing national rejection of Syria's occupation.

Bush is, strangely, right this time: Syria must leave Lebanon to the Lebanese. But is this what Bush and his band of neo-conservatives are hoping for; a free, democratic and independent Lebanon? Hardly.

Without fail, since his first day in office, but most notably following the attacks of September 11, the Bush administration's foreign policy in the Middle East has been consistent with Israel's regional objectives, politically and militarily.

This is anything but a secret. The neocons's sole loyalty to Israel (and to Zionism) was most blatant in the 1996 policy report drafted for then Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm was composed by the US former Defense Policy Board Chair Richard Perle and current Under-Secretary of Defence for Policy Douglas Feith.

It was Israel's "realm" that American's fifth column wished to secure at the expense of its Arab neighbors, a stratagem which thwarts any sensible foreign policy the United States government would wish to conduct.

The report's recommendations were to be shelved until September 11, 2001. The horror of that day left no room for sensibility and only mad policy makers with fantastic experiments were placed to the right of the president.

Since then, Bush took on the responsibility of outlining the most incoherent foreign policy agendas ever devised by an American president, while neo-conservative "intellectuals" toyed with concepts, ideas, geography, history and war.

They crafted a ruse for every military adventure and a lie to justify every blunder.

The removal of Saddam Hussain, as far as the pro-Israeli neo-cons were concerned, was "an important Israeli [not American] strategic objective as a means of foiling Syria's regional ambitions".

The above assertion by Perle and Feith has been a reoccurring and a unifying thesis propagated by the Likudists in the White House.

From a purely strategic point of a view, the benefit of the Iraq invasion and the subsequent removal of the Iraqi president has proven nil as far as US economic and strategic ambitions are concerned.

Devastating Blow

If anything, the Iraq war has been a devastating blow to the US budget at nearly $300 million (Dh1.1 trillion) per day, let alone the demoralization of an entire nation and its army and the tainted reputation garnered by the murder of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Israel and its armed forces are neither capable of defeating its regional foes nor of administering more occupied territories, considering that those antagonists out-measure Israel many times over in size and population. (Israel couldn't maintain its occupation of the tiny stretch of formerly occupied South Lebanon and is facing an utterly arduous task controlling the occupied Palestinian territory.)

But thanks to the impressive military power of the United States and the persuasiveness of the pro-Israeli crowd on Capitol Hill who used the media and soft-money to convince both the public and politicians that what is good for Israel is good for America the United States have been actively in pursuit of Israel's enemies.

Now that Iraq is no longer a concern for Israel, the next challenge on the list is you guess it Syria.

Syria is an enemy of Israel because it is a regional power. Israel understands well that to denominate the region, politically and militarily, it must have "unique advantages" over its neighbors.

And because Syria is no match for Israel's (American-supplied) military capabilities, it has managed to create leverage for itself elsewhere in Lebanon, and by hosting Palestinian opposition groups, who, unlike the Palestinian National Authority, have not been tamed by Israel and have maintained a freer platform to object Israel's coercive policies.

Syria's ultimate objective is, of course, to free its own Golan Heights from Israeli control. The Golan was occupied during the Israeli-Arab war of 1967 and was illegally annexed by Israel in 1981 in violation of UN Security Council resolution 497.

Syria has shrewdly managed to balance the equation in its favor through its influence on the Lebanese government and relationship with Palestinian factions.

Israel wants to negotiate with Syria according to Israeli terms that would allow the latter to maintain its strategic control over parts of the Golan that supply Israel with almost one-third of its water supply.

It also wants to keep control over the Golan's highpoints for military purposes.

From the moment that the Saddam statue was toppled, pro-Israeli henchmen in Washington looked to Damascus, accusing it of harboring former Iraqi regime members, hosting Iraq's alleged stocks of weapons of mass destruction, allowing anti-American militants to pass freely through its borders to Iraq and so forth.

The reality on the ground was the stark opposite. US officials have acknowledged on more than one occasion that Syria has been at the forefront of assisting United States efforts of fighting terrorism.

The State Department acknowledged its cooperation in April 2003. If various British media reports were correct, then Syria, along with other Arab countries, has tortured terrorism suspects on behalf of US authorities.

One must second Bush's stern call most austere were his comments in a recent New York Post interview of "getting Syria out of Lebanon", in accordance with UN resolution 1559.

But if it is respect for international law that the president is concerned with, then there is a belated call on Israel to end its very bloody and illegal occupation of Palestinian land in accordance to UN resolutions 242, 338 and numerous others.

And if it is human dignity and the basic principals of freedom and liberty that Bush holds dear, then he should withdraw his 150,000 troops (15 times more troops than Syria has in Lebanon) out of Iraq.

They've done more damage than the most wide-ranging Human Rights Watch report can narrate, since the country was overrun by the US military in March 2003.

And now that the Lebanese people have had the courage to demand that Syria stop meddling with their affairs, will Americans prove equally courageous to demand and expect an end to Israel's role in shaping American foreign policy? Time will tell.


-Ramzy Baroud is a veteran Arab-American journalist and editor-in-chief of

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