“Re-Targeting Syria,” by Jim Lobe

A few Neocons have not given up the fight. They propose bringing war to Syria. The following article by Jim Lobe, one of America's smartest reporters, posted to his site, Lobelog.com, is copied below. Perhaps President Assad was referring to these death-rattles of the neo-cons when he spoke of the "fateful" next several months? Although it is hard to believe anyone in Washington would still take this sort of chest-thumping seriously, they obviously do — enough to scuttle any efforts at regional dialogue or deal-making. 

Syria will hang tight for the next year. Authorities in Damascus find it impossible to believe any understanding words coming from US or European foreign ministry officials. Special envoys sent to Assad to convey the message — "trust us" — are discounted. This will remain the case so long as powerful officials such as V.P. Cheney or Elliott Abrams in the NSC remain back seat drivers in Washington. Honeyed messages from foreign ministries are simply not believed in Damascus. So long as President Bush sympathizes with the hawks and only tolerates the doves, any good-cop envoy to Syria will be treated as a Trojan horse.

Here is Lobe's article:

Re-Targeting Syria, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail of Terrorists?”
by Jim Lobe, Inter Press Services, July 21, 2007PS)

Just when it appears that Israel and Syria may be slowly inching their way towards peace talks with the help of Turkey and Qatar (although Israel’s new president, Shimon Peres, called for direct talks Friday), two hawks at the otherwise realist Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) are calling for the Bush administration to carry out punitive attacks against Damascus.

In an op-ed entitled “Trouble With the Neighbors” published by the Washington Post Friday, former Bush speech-writer and Christian rightist Michael Gerson complains that the administration’s military reaction to alleged subversion in Iraq by Iran and Syria has been “muted” but concedes that attacking Iran could be problematic. “Syria, however, is what one former administration official calls ‘lower-hanging fruit,’” writes Gerson who charges “Syria’s Baathist regime [with providing] a base of operations for its Iraqi Baathist comrades involved in the Sunni insurgency” and calls for “forceful action against Syria’s Ho Chi Minh Trail of terrorists.”
“…Recent successful operations in Anbar province were undertaken, in part, to disrupt the trail of suicide bombers passing through Syria. It might also make sense to pursue targets into Syria on this theory: The Syrians say they are powerless to stop the flow of murderers killing innocent Iraqis, so we should try.

“Increasing pressure of all types on Syria would demonstrate that being part of an anti-American alliance with Iran brings unpleasant consequences. And when that pressure builds sufficiently, it becomes possible to offer Syria a way out that separates it from Iran.”

“…In combination with the strategy of commander David Petraeus, these measures hold out the promise of something unthinkable a few months ago: America, once again, on the strategic offensive.”

No sooner had he read Gerson’s suggestion than his CFR colleague, neo-conservative Max Boot, seconded it in a blog post in “Contentions,” the on-line publication of ‘Commentary’ magazine. Boot, who reminded his readers that he has called for an attack on Syria for years, writes that, “[A]t a minimum, we should give our special operators the freedom to strike across the Syria-Iran [sic] border, if they think that will help stop the ‘ratlines’ over which an estimated 50 to 80 jihadis a month are entering Iraq. (I’ve talked to some of our commandos [he went on] who have told me they would be eager to get just such authority, but they have been blocked not only by cautious politicos in Washington, but also by cautious generals at Central Command.)

“If that doesn’t work, there are various stronger steps that could be taken. One possible idea: Hold Damascus International Airport…

Read the entire article at Jim Lobe's site.

Comments (20)

Bilal said:

It will be a fatal mistake if the US dare attack militarily Syria. It will help the failing regime of Bashar and will increase the negative view of the US in the region. No one of us Syrians regardless on where they stand would accept any attack on our soil. At the same time Bashar should not push it. He may do it in order to gather support around him as usually happens whenever any country is attacked. He is ready to do whatever in order to save his neck including destroying Syria & Lebanon.

July 22nd, 2007, 11:10 am


Georges said:


What a pathetic post. First, you go overboard with your adjectives…I agree that it would be a mistake for the US to attack Syria, but a ‘fatal’ one? Calm down a bit. Second, I am no chanting fan of Bashar, but I find your insinuation that he’d invite an attack (or ‘push it’) in order to garner internal support ridiculous and irresponsible…not to mention that Bashar already enjoys significant popular support among the vast majority of Syrians. And, finally your closing conclusion is utterly baseless, and represents a parroting of the bankrupt March 14 Lebanese camp, which as a Syrian, I find reprehensible.

July 22nd, 2007, 11:57 am


Bilal said:

To Georges,

First, when I said fatal I meant that by attacking Syria US would kill any little hope left that it will be accepted in the region as an unbiased player.
Second, to say that Bashar enjoys significant popular support among the vast majority of Syrians is an illusion, as we all know that the majority of this support comes from the increased pressure on the people. When you see thousands marching for Bashar trust me 95% are marching against their will. To save his neck he will do whatever needed. What further he has to loose if really he is involved in the assassination of Hariri as it looks he is. The international tribunal is closer than we expect.
At the end I repeat and I believe you at least agree with me on this point that we will all lose by an attack on Syria and we all wish it will never happen

July 22nd, 2007, 1:08 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

” Hold Damascus International Airport…”

a year ago I wrote in SC that,if USA declare Syria no fly zone,the regime will crumble in few months, it will encourage officers to revolt against the regime,not being afraid of air attack,and knowing that the regime will not be able to send troops to fight the revolt forces without air support.

However , that mean USA has decided to change the regime, this has not been decided yet.

July 22nd, 2007, 3:06 pm


Thomas said:

Mike Gerson a Rightist? Hell, Gerson was one of the moderating influences in the Bush White House. Not hardly a right-winger. As to Mr. Lobe’s connecting the relational dots, seems like Mr. Lobe is a bit on the conspiratorial side in this current posting.

An observation about this blog…anybody that opposes Syrian hegemony is dubbed a NEOCON on this blog. Sounds a bit like the Hillary’s “vast right-wing conspiracy.” talk.

July 22nd, 2007, 3:07 pm


t_desco said:

Could it be that they are looking at this as another way of provoking a war with Iran (given the defense treaty between Syria and Iran), following the model first described by Steve Clemons (Cheney Attempting to Constrain Bush’s Choices on Iran Conflict: Staff Engaged in Insubordination Against President Bush, The Washington Note, May 24, 2007)?

Consider the reports about US support for attacks inside Iran by Jundullah and the PJAK (which, in another case of “unintended consequences”, may have led to the PKK using American weapons against the Turkish army), possibly with the aim of provoking an Iranian reaction.

It’s also hard to overlook the intense media campaign blaming everything in Iraq and Afghanistan on Iran (even al-Qa’ida if we include the NY Sun as a source).

July 22nd, 2007, 7:50 pm


majedkhaldoun said:

Ordogan victory is a great victory for him in Turkey,he raised his popularity from 34% to 48%,he will be able to change the constitutional court,and this will assure him that the president in Turkey will be from his party,even that he or she will be different from Gul.The president will be elected directly by the people,and the people party,and the national party both has no hope to win,with results like this.
the army can not anymore, stage a coup,with results like this, however now,the army may be more likely to invade Iraq Kurdish area than before,with CMP has 13% of the vote,this may occur before the election of a president.

July 22nd, 2007, 7:59 pm


William deB. Mills said:

For centuries human civilization has been struggling to shift from rule-by-force (“law of the jungle”) to rule by law. Those with power are always of course tempted to use it. But once the rule of law is overthrown—no matter how good the excuse–it is gone, and the door is open for everyone to follow the law of the jungle. The more the law of the jungle is followed, the more difficult it becomes for others to avoid responding in kind, creating a vicious cycle undermining civilization.

Despite the illogical nature of preventive war, once deemed a morally acceptable principle, the temptation to use it for ever more distant and tenuous threats becomes hard to resist. One easily becomes tempted not only to view it as the solution to military threats but as the solution to other classes of difficulty. This tendency (“the law of the hammer”) is especially the case for countries which are militarily supreme but quite inferior in other ways. Adoption by a military power of a policy of preventive war or acceptance by the international system of preventive war as a legitimate foreign policy principle will stimulate the evolution of military strategy by the weak. It will thus end up decreasing our security. Moreover, the more a military power makes actual use of its military (as opposed to keeping it in reserve), the greater the pressure on the part of everyone else to band together for survival. But perhaps the most important reason to avoid preventive or any other war of choice is because the impact is unforeseeable. The international political system is a complex adaptive system. Remove a part and an incalculable cascade of changes flows throughout the whole system. Everything else adapts. The result may be much worse than the problem. War is not surgery, cutting out a bad part; war changes everything. When you are on top and change everything, the chances are you will end up worse off. The obvious example is the transformation of Iraq from a secular dictatorship into an out-of-control training ground for al Qua’ida and the source of a wave of messianic fundamentalism that is threatening the whole Mideast. After the experience in Iraq, how can anyone seriously advocate further American aggression as a “solution?”

July 22nd, 2007, 10:09 pm


abraham said:

I read Jim Lobe’s columns regularly and find him to be a reliable reporter and journalist who seems to have well-placed sources.

Thomas’ post was a light-weight smear against Lobe. If you can’t detect the neoconny musk coming from Gershon’s emphasis on attacking Syria then your radar is out of focus. Go shill somewhere else, monkey.

Besides, there’s nothing controversial in Lobe’s piece. It is not exactly a secret that Cheney and his scumbag posse want to open up a front with both Iran and Syria. They have their own purposes for this, but the idiot neocons truly think the problem in Iraq will be solved–and they’ll be vindicated–if only these pesky “forgein fighters” are blocked from entering Iraq via Syria. Meanwhile, they seem to not realize that the largest contingent of foreign fighters in Iraq, who as a group are causing the most problems, are the stupid Americans.

Meanwhile, Bush just sits there like Tweedle Dum fretting over what he can do to make people like him again, and his mania is evident as he thrashes about, going abruptly from one philosophy to the next, repeating the same losing strategies and expecting different results like the madman that he is. In 1,000 years they will be acting out the play that surely will come to be written about the boy emporer who single-handedly destroyed the most powerful nation the world had ever known.

You can bet amongst the actors will be Syrians and Iranians, but probably no Americans. By then, they will be as ancient as the Romans.

July 22nd, 2007, 10:53 pm


norman said:

Seeing What the neocons in Washington want to do Syria I do not know why anybody is surprised when Syria tries to involve the US further in Iraq and keep the US fighting in Iraq so it can not attack Syria that is called Syria’s way of self defence. That should be understandable. If the US want to win in Iraq the way is simple , Help Syria get the Golan Heights and allow Iran nuclear technology without nuclear weapons which they insist that they do not want.

July 23rd, 2007, 2:19 am


Thomas said:

Abraham, are you an advocate of censorship? Sounds like you are when you tell people to go elsewhere. True light-weights are those who can’t see the nuance of complicated issues and entertain the validity of arguments with which they might not agree. So when you can come up with something other than the term “NEOCON” on which to blame the world’s considerable political turmoil, I am certain the world will benefit in no small way from your wisdom.

As for Lobe, he has gained some notoriety in describing something call “NEOCON” which for him captures much of what Hillary was talking about in her “vast right-wing conspiracy.” Lobe explains all the complexities of US foreign policy in terms of religious belief and unwavering support for the State of Isreal. These broad strokes trivialize the diversity of thought that pervades what Lobe defines as the “NEOCON” community. Frankly, I find Lobe’s perspective as intolerant and bigoted.

Gerson comes into Lobe’s gunsights because he is a very effective communicator of ideas which Lobe holds in contempt. I know for a fact that Gerson’s views have clashed with others in the Bush administration. So please hold your fire until you become better informed of Gerson’s intellectual reality.

July 23rd, 2007, 4:11 am


Mo said:

I don’t know, but a little bit of common sense:
attacking the capital of the Ommeyad Caliphate, after having destroyed the capital of the Abbasid Caliphate??
What would that signify? An all-out war against Islam, as simple as that.
History teaches us, that all ancient invasions coming from the west ended in Syria (Sham), and all invasions from the east ended in Syria (after having destroyed Baghdad). So shall history repeat itself once again?

July 23rd, 2007, 7:12 am


SimoHurtta said:

If Gerson is a “non neocon” and represents moderates in Bush’s administration, as Thomas claims, there is little hope to avoid new wars. Is the claimed flow of 50 to 80 (non Syrian) foreign fighters from Syria really the reason for intellectual, rational person to advocate new military actions? A rational person would say that means about TWO “foreign fighters” entering Iraq daily from Syria, which can’t be the reason Iraq’s uncontrolled chaos. And also that Iraq’s border control on Iraq’s side is a US/Iraqi problem.

Gerson says: But without these outside influences, Tony Blair told me recently, the situation in Iraq would be “very nearly manageable.”
Of course Tony Blair says like that. Blair (and Bush) need all excuses to hide their colossal military, economical and political failure. What is easier than to blame the not liked neighbours and completely “forget” the liked neighbours. Thomas this Syria and Iran blaming with little or no evidence is the mother of all conspiracy theories. Blair has lied about Iraq (and the axis of evil) before and will certainly continue to do that. What other options has that “true believer”? The only option is to admit I was completely wrong.

Syria has offered the occupying powers a considerable humanitarian blow-off valve by allowing a wast number of refugees to enter Syria. What would the situation be without that? Claiming that Syria has not helped Iraq and Iraqis is simply stupid. Syria should seal completely the Iraqi border and inform UN that it wants the refugees returned ASAP. Then the Bush administration would have much less “ammunition” and a huge new humanitarian problem and Syria could say that is exactly what you demanded = a closed controlled border and no potential resistance people in Syria.

July 23rd, 2007, 7:43 am


abraham said:

I realize you’re an admirer of Gerson and that you want others to admire him too. But I based my initial opinion of Gerson on the information in Lobe’s article, because I trust Lobe, and I trust more my own instincts. It’s very easy to infer the philosophy of people like Gerson from knowing only a few things about them, and I based my opinion solely on that article. But, to give you the benefit of the doubt, I went ahead and read up on Gerson. Unfortunately, my opinion has only been reinforced.

Michael Gerson is a follower of the Bush cult. He spent 6 years as his head speechwriter and takes credit for many of the phrases that have come out of the White House during the disaster that is the last 7 years of the Bush presidency and haunts our currrent discourse. He is responsible for taking the abhorent and reprehensible policies of Bush and his mindless gang of mutants and wrapping them in pretty words to convince the Moron Majority in America to support him. He shares responsibility for war crimes, having provided the words used to sell an illegal war to a skeptical populace.

While Gerson may not identify himself as a neocon, everything he stands for and every idea he promotes is neocon either in principle or origin. There’s not much room to argue. If you’d like to, go ahead. I have an open mind and will listen to your attempts to prove that he isn’t a neocon. If you can convince me then you can convince anyone. But don’t strain yourself. You’d have an easier time convincing me that the moon is made of cheese.

If you can’t convince me then my original invitation for you to “go elsewhere” still stands. Of course, this is not my blog and I have no way to actually force you to go, but I have no patience for people like you who attempt to defend the very people who are respsonsible for the terrible mess the world is in, and who advocate the wholesale destruction of the home of my family and my ancestors.

July 23rd, 2007, 4:13 pm


George Ajjan said:

It would be helpful to know the context of Blair’s remark that things would be manageable without the external factors (Iran and Syria). Max Boot et al lost the plot before it began – the idea that “foreign fighters” represent the major stumbling block to peace in Iraq just doesn’t hold water.

July 23rd, 2007, 6:46 pm


ausamaa said:

Jim Lobe!!

Re-Targeting Syria, the “Ho Chi Minh Trail of Terrorists?” “If that doesn’t work, there are various stronger steps that could be taken. One possible idea: Hold Damascus International Airport…

Is this guy for real?

Does he wanna do that before or after the Coalition Forces finish “Clearing and Holding” Al Anbar or Basra in Iraq?

As he mentions the Ho Chi Minh Trail, my understanding is that the Trail was never rally “broken” or “severed” and the effort to disrupt it was never successful and the “Charlis” finally “Cleared and Held” all of Vitenam. Both Vietnams, North and South!

The only thing he forgot to mention perhaps is wether Flourists in Damascus should seriously consider such a possibility and start placing huge oredrs of fresh flowers to shower it on the Coalition Liberators who will “Hold” Damascus airport!

Is a heat wave hitting the area where Lobe is residing which might have dammaged his brain and “momentarilly” eroded even his common sense?? But let us be fair to him; he had actually said “one possible idea, hold Damascuse Airport”. After all, it is surely possible to fantasise about anything one wants to fantasise about. We can not deny him the right to “fantasise” about possibilities, can we?

July 23rd, 2007, 9:22 pm


abraham said:


It is not Jim Lobe who was saying those things, but rather the subject of his article, Michael Gerson.

July 24th, 2007, 2:59 am


Thomas said:

Abraham. The land of your family and your ancestors had major problems long before Gerson and the “NEOCONS” came into view. In addition, nobody is advocating the wholesale destruction of your homeland. Your assertion is simply overstated. Furthermore, blaming it all on the NEOCONS simply doesn’t adequately explain the current state of the world. The adjectives that you use to describe those you despise provides insight as to your capacity for rational and constructive discussion. Perhaps you should go puff on a hookah and savor some hot Turkish coffee.

July 24th, 2007, 3:38 am


abraham said:


It is obvious from the nature of your discourse that you dislike Arabs and Muslims. What is the point of coming here to express such mundane opinions?

If you look you can easily find hate sites on which you can express yourself more freely. Here, I doubt what you are saying is getting any traction.

And I don’t drink coffee but I do savor my arguile regularly. You should try it sometime. It may mellow you. It might even make you think straight.

July 24th, 2007, 9:02 am


ausamaa said:

ABRAHAM, Thanks, I stand corrected. Actually, both seemed so hot about those ideas so much so that one failed to distinguish between the Message and the Courier. Unless Lobe was “actually” trying to ridicule Gerson..!!

July 24th, 2007, 5:20 pm


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