News Round UP (11 September 2006) - Syria Comment

News Round UP (11 September 2006)

A number of noteworthy articles have appeared this past week debating the pros and cons of engaging Syria. The most hard hitting on the con side are articles by Michael Young and Lee Smith.

 

On the pro side is Flynt Leverett. “Illusion and Reality: The violence in the Middle East shows the negative consequences of the administration’s contempt for engagement. But the tough talk has failed,” in The American Prospect, 09.12.06.

Needless to say, I find Leverett, much more convincing than I do either of the con articles. They never explain how they are going to stop Syria from meddling, without regime change, and they don’t explain how they hope to change the regime, which, at the end of the day, is the only solution for them.

The Daily Star’s editorial blasts Blair on the occasion of his Lebanon visit. They laud the Lebanese statesmen who refused to meet him, claiming, “Blair openly positioned himself as Hizbullah’s enemy – and therefore Lebanon’s.”

This small article on how Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists from even discussing an Iraq postwar plan is revealing.

Army official: Rumsfeld forbade talk of postwar
By Stephanie Heinatz
Daily Press (Newport News, Va.)

FORT EUSTIS, Va. – Long before the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld forbade military strategists to develop plans for securing a postwar Iraq, the retiring commander of the Army Transportation Corps said Thursday.

In fact, said Brig. Gen. Mark Scheid, Rumsfeld said “he would fire the next person” who talked about the need for a postwar plan.

Rumsfeld did replace Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff in 2003, after Shinseki told Congress that hundreds of thousands of troops would be needed to secure postwar Iraq.

Scheid, who is also the commander of Fort Eustis in Newport News, made his comments in an interview with The Daily Press. He retires in about three weeks.

Scheid’s comments are further confirmation of the version of events reported in “Cobra II: The Inside Story of the Invasion and Occupation of Iraq,” the book by New York Times reporter Michael R. Gordon and retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Bernard E. Trainor.

In 2001, Scheid was a colonel with the Central Command, the unit that oversees U.S. military operations in the Mideast.

On Sept. 10, 2001, he was selected to be the chief of logistics war plans.

On Sept. 11, he said, “life just went to hell.”

That day, Gen. Tommy Franks, the commander of Central Command, told his planners, including Scheid, to “get ready to go to war.”

A day or two later, Rumsfeld was “telling us we were going to war in Afghanistan and to start building the war plan. We were going to go fast.

“Then, just as we were barely into Afghanistan, Rumsfeld came and told us to get ready for Iraq.”

Scheid said he remembers everyone thinking, “My gosh, we’re in the middle of Afghanistan, how can we possibly be doing two at one time? How can we pull this off? It’s just going to be too much.”

Planning was kept very hush-hush in those early days.

“There was only a handful of people, maybe five or six, that were involved with that plan because it had to be kept very, very quiet.”

There was already an offensive plan in place for Iraq, Scheid said. And in the beginning, the planners were just expanding on it.

“Whether we were going to execute it, we had no idea,” Scheid said.

Eventually other military agencies like the transportation and Army materiel commands had to get involved.

They couldn’t just “keep planning this in the dark,” Scheid said.

Planning continued to be a challenge.

“The secretary of defense continued to push on us that everything we write in our plan has to be the idea that we are going to go in, we’re going to take out the regime, and then we’re going to leave,” Scheid said. “We won’t stay.”

Scheid said the planners continued to try “to write what was called Phase 4,” or the piece of the plan that included post-invasion operations like security, stability and reconstruction.

Even if the troops didn’t stay, “at least we have to plan for it,” Scheid said.

“I remember the secretary of defense saying that he would fire the next person that said that,” Scheid said. “We would not do planning for Phase 4 operations, which would require all those additional troops that people talk about today.

“He said we will not do that because the American public will not back us if they think we are going over there for a long war.”

Even if the people who laid out the initial war plans had fleshed out post-invasion missions, the fighting and insurgent attacks going on today would have been hard to predict, Scheid said.

“We really thought that after the collapse of the regime we were going to do all these humanitarian type things,” he said. “We thought this would go pretty fast and we’d be able to get out of there. We really didn’t anticipate them to continue to fight the way they did or come back the way they are.

“Now we’re going more toward a Civil War. We didn’t see that coming.”

While Scheid, a soldier since 1977, spoke candidly about the days leading up to the invasion of Iraq, he remains concerned about the U.S. public’s view of the troops. He’s bothered by the nationwide divide over the war and fearful that patriotism among citizens will continue to decline.

“We’re really hurting right now,” he said.

Cyprus finds air defense systems on Syria-bound ship: Washington Post. Interpol told Cypriot authorities the ship, the Gregorio I, which had been loaded in China and North Korea and was destined for Latakia, was carrying ballistic missile components. Cyprus searched the ship only to discover that it contained air defense systems and not weapons. They are trying to figure out what to do with it now. This is the first indication of the power of UN resolution 1701.

Assad, Lahoud ordered Hariri murder: former Syrian officer
Agence France Presse

BEIRUT, Sept 10, 2006 (AFP) – An exiled former Syrian intelligence officer has claimed that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his Lebanese counterpart, Emile Lahoud, ordered the assassination last year of former Lebanese premier Rafiq Hariri.

“Bashar al-Assad and Emile Lahoud gave the orders for Hariri’s murder,” Mohammed Zuhair as-Saddiq was quoted by the Beirut daily An-Nahar Sunday as saying in an interview with the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya satellite television channel.

“No other Syrian or Lebanese officer could have done this,” he said in the interview broadcast Saturday night.

Saddiq also claimed that “former Lebanese officials and certain Arab officials”, whom he did not identify to Al-Arabiya, “also participated in this crime”.

Saddiq, a former colonel in Damascus’ intelligence service who was speaking from Paris, also claimed that he had seen the car used to kill Hariri and 22 other people in a massive explosion on the Beirut seafront on February 14, 2005.

“I saw it with my own eyes,” Saddiq said of the car, which he said had been prepared for the attack at a camp in Zabadani, near Damascus.

“I gave photos of it to Detlev Mehlis,” who was the first head of a United Nations probe into the assassination, widely blamed on Syria and its allies in Lebanon, and roundly denied by both. “I kept the negatives.”

Saddiq also claimed to have a tape recording of a conversation in which a Damascus official had encouraged him to recant.

He said he had been promised “better arrangements” than those offered to Hassam Taher Hassam, another Syrian who had retracted similar claims to those of Saddiq in testimony to the UN panel.

Saddiq, whose extradition Syria is seeking from France, also refuted Syrian media claims that there were 64 arrests warrants pending against him.

He was arrested by French police at the request of Lahoud but was later released.

“The French judiciary was convinced that I was a witness and not a criminal,” he claimed.

The UN probe has already implicated senior officials from Syria, which for decades was the power broker in its smaller neighbor.

The United Nations is currently working with the Lebanese government to create an international court to try suspects in the case.

UN Under Secretary General for Legal Affairs Nicolas Michel was in Beirut this week to discuss the mechanics of that proposal. He left on Friday, saying progress had been made but that a number of issues had been identified that still needed clarification.

Abdul Halim Khaddam’s National Salvation Front has published a condemnation of Farid Ghadry’s Syria Reform Party circular, demanding that Alawites head for the hills. Ghadry has latched onto a new strategy of late, which is to exploit the sectarian mistrust in Syria. He has condemned the Alawite religious sect for most of Syria’s problems and is warning that the Alawite led regime will be toppled by November 8. He insists that Alawites must resign from their positions in government and head for the Coastal Mountains, should they wish to save their lives. Why November 8th? We don’t know.

Khaddam’ group claims that this effort to provoke sectarian civil war in Syria goes against national interest and plays into the hands of Israel. Here is his full report.

بيان صادر عن جبهة الخلاص الوطني

نشرت بعض وسائل الإعلام تصريحات تضمنت دعوة المواطنين السوريين الذين
ينتمون إلى الطائفة العلوية بمغادرة المدن والعودة إلى مناطقهم، كما تضمنت الطلب من
المسؤولين العسكريين والمدنيين الذين ينتمون لهذه الطائفة، بمغادرة مراكز عملهم قبل
الثامن من تشرين الثاني القادم، موعد سقوط النظام كما حددته هذه التصريحات التي
زعمت أنها معلومات استقتها من أرفع المصادر الأميركية.

إن جبهة الخلاص
الوطني في سورية إذ تستنكر هذه التصريحات، وتدينها جملة وتفصيلاً.. لتؤكد مايلي :

أولاً – إن إطلاق مثل هذه التصريحات يضرّ بالمصلحة الوطنية العليا، ومن
شأنه إثارة فتنة طائفية في البلاد تخدم المصالح والأهداف الإسرائيلية.

ثانياً – إن المواطنين السوريين، بغض النظر عن الطائفة التي ينتمون إليها،
هم جزء أصيل من مكونات الشعب السوري ومن حقهم أن يعيشوا في أي مكان من وطنهم، وأن
يتبوّأوا أيّ منصب يصلون إليه نتيجة الاختيار الشعبيّ الحر. وليس من حق أحد، كائناً
من كان، فرداً أو دولة، أن يتجاوز هذا الحق الدستوري، ويمليَ على السوريين مكان
إقامتهم أو طبيعة عملهم.

ثالثاً – إن جبهة الخلاص الوطني في سورية، تطالب
الحكومة الأميركية بإعلان موقفها من هذه التصريحات التي زعم صاحبها أنه استقاها من
مصادر أميركية رفيعة المستوى .

إن جبهة الخلاص الوطني في سورية، إذ تؤكد أن
التغيير الديمقراطي في سورية، مشروع وطنيّ خالص، وترفض أيّ تدخّل أجنبيّ في الشأن
الوطني السوري.. لتأمل من كلّ البعثيين ورجال النظام الشرفاء، أن يكونوا على مستوى
الوعي والمسئولية، فيقفوا في صف الشعب، إلى جانب القوى الوطنية، للمشاركة في عملية
التغيير الديمقراطي

10 أيلول (سبتمبر) 2006 جبهة الخلاص الوطني في سورية

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