Monday, October 31, 2005

More re Syria

As I mentioned a couple of posts earlier, Syria is in the crosshairs of John Bolton, our newly appointed (not approved) Ambassador to the UN. (Remember that Bolton was not winning Congress's approval, so Bush simply appointed him as soon as Congress went on recess. So we know he has Bush's full support in these actions, but not that of one of the other branches of government.) Syria is strategically of value - there's the fear that Iraqis are flowing across Syrian borders.

In the last few days, the US, via a UN report by German prosecutor Detyev Mehlis, has accused Syria of being behind the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri. Is the report to be believed? Not to those who have taken the time to study it. See my earlier post for Bob Parry's reasons and one of mine. Der Spiegel, the "Time Magazine" of Germany (apologies to the Germans for the inadequate comparison), has revealed that Mehlis's key witness is a proven swindler. Yet, with this shaky evidence, the US worked with the UK and other countries to forge a guarantee of military action should the Syrians obstruct an inquiry. And who will be the judge of whether they are obstructing? John Bolton and his new friends. Not exactly people I'd trust to be an impartial judge and jury.

So Syria is trying to speak up, understandably. Foreign Minister Farouk al-Shara gave Syria's official response to the UN on Halloween. The Associated Press made much of his "bizarre" comment in which he made a comment about 9/11 and the Madrid and London bombings. But when I looked up a report from Syria, the only one that runs an English version, al-Shara's remarks seem much less sensational. Which version is correct?

The Syrian Arab News Agency version:
Al- Shara pointed out that the strange thing is that the honorable Security Council , has supported the committee where it has gone , adding that if the presence of a military troops and security apparatuses in a certain country means that any criminal or terrorist act would never take place without the knowledge or approval of these troops and apparatuses, then the security apparatuses in the United States would have learnt of the Sept. 11th events , or the Spanish Security would have learnt about the train bombings in Madrid on April 11th 2004 , and the British Security might have been accused of the Metro bombings on July 7th 2005 , noting that such apparatuses had been expecting these bombings and had been trained to deal with them.

Al- Shara said that directing accusation depending on assumption of that kind which was adopted by the council decision is illogical because it means that the security apparatuses in all the countries of the world that have experienced terrorist and security events may be involved in these crimes and the first who will be happy with such conclusions are the terrorists themselves.
The AP report quoted al-Shara as saying something more direct:

He rejected the probe's findings that Hariri's Feb. 14 assassination could not have occurred without Syrian involvement.

He argued that such a conclusion would be tantamount to claiming that U.S., Spanish and British authorities knew ahead of time about the terrorist attacks that struck their soil on Sept. 11, 2001, March 11, 2004 and July 7 of this year.

Al-Sharaa then went even further.

``We know that such security organs, particularly the British, were fully aware that such attacks would take place and had prior training to face up to them,'' al-Sharaa said, jabbing his finger in the air toward Straw, with Rice and the other foreign ministers looking on. Once al-Sharaa finished, Straw took the floor to respond. Clearly indignant, he repeatedly looked over at al-Sharaa along the council's horseshoe-shaped table as he denounced his remarks.

``I was not going to respond until I heard the foreign minister of Syria make what I can only describe as the most grotesque and insensitive comparison,'' he said.
If al-Sharaa was suggesting that those three governments knew about the attacks, Straw said, ``I think you ought to say so, otherwise your comparison is entirely worthless.''

According to the report, al-Shara took the stand again and backed down slightly. Was he making a stab in the dark, or sending a warning shot across the bow? Does he know something interesting? Will time tell?

The Syrians also tried bringing a bunch of foreign journalists to the Iraqi border. Washington has claimed that Syrians are aiding the Iraqis, and that the border is a "favorite crossing point for foreign fighters on their way to join the insurgency next door." Syria argues it has added more men to guard the border, but that no border can be entirely secured.

I fear strongly that we are laying a pretext for military action in Syria, just as we did in Iraq - forcing the UN to agree to military action if Saddam thwarted investigators efforts. Surprised--or not--that Saddam was cooperating, the US decided to invade anyway, despite the strident opposition at the UN. This time, it appears the US is working harder to get the UN on its side first, propagandizing off of scant evidence. Sadly, the ruse appears to be working. Are the rest of the countries that naive? Or do they smell a whiff of oil heading their way if they agree to fight with us this time? And how many innocent Syrians will pay the price?


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