he White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon, the Guardian learned yesterday.Interesting if true. I'm wondering, however, whether this is actually Bush's doing. The political leadership at the White House (Card and Rove) might be in conflict with the warhawks on this. The hawks are in full-on "let's blitz our way across the Mideast" mode, whereas the political types know that starting belligerence in Syria could backfire in a massive way, and are probably counting on that "reverse domino effect" to do the job of aiding U.S. interests anyway.
In the past few weeks, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, ordered contingency plans for a war on Syria to be reviewed following the fall of Baghdad.
Meanwhile, his undersecretary for policy, Doug Feith, and William Luti, the head of the Pentagon's office of special plans, were asked to put together a briefing paper on the case for war against Syria, outlining its role in supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein, its links with Middle East terrorist groups and its allegedly advanced chemical weapons programme. Mr Feith and Mr Luti were both instrumental in persuading the White House to go to war in Iraq.
Mr Feith and other conservatives now playing important roles in the Bush administration, advised the Israeli government in 1996 that it could "shape its strategic environment... by weakening, containing and even rolling back Syria".
However, President George Bush, who faces re-election next year with two perilous nation-building projects, in Afghanistan and Iraq, on his hands, is said to have cut off discussion among his advisers about the possibility of taking the "war on terror" to Syria.
"The talk about Syria didn't go anywhere. Basically, the White House shut down the discussion," an intelligence source in Washington told the Guardian.
Just goes to show: when there's no real political opposition, the conflict will inevitably become internal. It happened with the Liberals in Canada, and it may be building in the Republicans in the United States.