Why Is The Bush Administration Quickly Fingering Syria For Yesterday's Assassination In Lebanon?
After the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri yesterday in a suicide car bombing, the Bush Administration has managed to already tie the Syrians to the murder, even though there is already a claim of responsibility for the attack from an Al-Qaeda affiliated group, and the Lebanese themselves feel that there could have been any number of possible assailants. Yet the Bush Administration has already recalled its ambassador to Syria and used the killing to remind the Lebanese that they should break away from Syria.
Why has seeing the Bush Administration jump to such a conclusion look a little bit premature and all too convenient? We are seemingly quick to infer that the Syrians were involved in this killing, and that plays nicely into the PNAC view that eliminating Israel’s enemies is our foreign policy. Yet the Bush Administration has not told us yet what evidence they have that Syria was involved, and why they would immediately recall our ambassador. I mean, how often has the Bush Administration recalled its ambassadors at all in any attack like this in the last four years? And yet, we are ready to pin this conveniently on the Syrians?
I would like to know where the intelligence is coming from to support the “let’s blame Syria” theme? Is this coming from Rummy or the Mossad? The Syrians were quick to deny their involvement, and the Lebanese opposition to the current pro-Syrian government was conveniently quick to blame Syria for the attack, even though as this piece in the Daily Star points out, the Lebanese opposition was becoming more cohesive in recent months, and in no need of such a destabilizing event to further its case that the current government should go. In fact, it could be argued that Syria had little to gain from such a murder at this time, and only more grief would befall them by doing it. This piece in Bloomberg quotes a former American ambassador to Syria as stating it is a stretch to think that Syria did this.
Yet the Bush Administration was quick to recall our ambassador from Damascus. Why? Were we blaming the Syrians for the killing? No. We just wanted to use this terrible killing as a prop to argue that Syria needs to leave Lebanon.
So Condi is off to a hollow start in her Middle East diplomacy. Anyone who heard her unsteady and unconvincing comments today about the rationale behind our ambassadorial recall, and her claim that relations between the two countries were deteriorating would be convinced that the woman was in over her head. In fact the Syrians had been helping us out with backdoor intelligence for months on Al Qaeda, but Rummy and Cheney have blown up that relationship. So without knowing all the facts yet, we are making noises about imposing additional sanctions against Syria over this attack (gee, I thought this administration didn’t believe in sanctions), and we are talking openly about going across the Iraqi-Syrian border to chase down "insurgents." And if you think that this terrible killing is being manipulated very quickly by the US as a precursor to action against Syria, you are not alone.