Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Is Syria Next Target in the War to Make the World Safe for Israel?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Is Syria Next Target in the War to Make the World Safe for Israel?

Article excerpt

Some members of Congress, apparently upset that the Pentagon's civilian leadership seems to be vying for the title of chief saboteur of America's standing in the world, have weighed in to support efforts to make Syria the next target in the War to Make the World Safe for Israel, and to throttle efforts to restart the Middle East peace process.

As senior administration members-led by Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, but also including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of State Colin Powell, as well as President George W. Bush himself-were leveling accusations and unveiled threats toward Syria, Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) seized the moment to introduce an expanded and toughened version of the Syria Accountability act that died with the 107th Congress. The new bill, H.R. 1828, aims to "hold Syria accountable for the serious international security problems it has caused in the Middle East." Its short title is the "Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003," with 45 co-sponsors. In addition to Engel and Ros-Lehtinen they are:

Reps. Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Spencer Bachus (R-AL), Cass Ballenger (R-NC), Chris Bell (D-TX), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Robert Brady (D-PA), Dan Burton (R-IN), Eric Cantor (R-VA), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Jo Ann Davis (R-VA), Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Mark Foley (R-FL), Martin Frost (D-TX), Mark Green (R-WI), Joseph Hoeffel (D-PA), Steve Israel (D-NY), William Janklow (R-SD), Peter King (R-NY), Tom Lantos (D-CA), John Lewis (D-GA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Robert Matsui (D-CA), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Michael McNulty (D-NY), John Mica (R-FL), Dennis Moore (D-KS), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Mike Pence (R-IN), Deborah Pryce (R-OH), Thomas Reynolds (R-NY), Mike Ross (D-AR), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), Jim Turner (D-TX), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), David Vitter (R-LA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Jerry Weller (R-IL), and Robert Wexler (D-FL).

After a 36-item listing of Syria's various sins, ranging from supporting terror and infringing on Lebanon's sovereignty to developing chemical weapons and "a suspicious nuclear research program," the bill includes an eight-point, unbinding "sense of Congress" that, among other things, Damascus should stop supporting terrorism, withdraw from Lebanon and comply with UN. sanctions on Iraq, and Lebanon should deploy its army to the border with Israel, and Syria and Lebanon should enter into "unconditional bilateral negotiations with the government of Israel in order to realize a full and permanent peace."

The bill also includes an 11-point "statement of policy" that opens with "it is the policy of the United States"-disregarding the inconvenient constitutional point that the executive branch of the government sets foreign policy. Among the "policies" are that "Syria will be held responsible for attacks committed by Hezbollah and other terrorist. groups with offices or facilities in Syria," and that "efforts against Hezbollah will be expanded given the recognition that Hezbollah is equally or more capable than al-Qaeda."

Finally, the bill requires the president to determine whether Syria has stopped doing all the bad things previously listed and whether substantial progress has been made in peace negotiations between Israel and both Syria and Lebanon. If not, the president must prohibit export to Syria of items on the U.S. munitions control list or the list of dual-use items. In addition, he must impose two additional sanctions from a menu of six. The six include prohibiting the export of all products except food and medicine, prohibiting U.S. businesses from investing in or operating in Syria, blocking transactions in which the Syrian government has any interest by any person or with respect to any property subject to U.S. jurisdiction, plus three diplomatic sanctions. …

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