by George Baghdadi
(IPS) DAMASCUS --
Syrian officials have expressed fears that Washington could target Syria next if the U.S. attacks Iraq.
"There is serious cause for concern," says an official. "A strong lobby within the U.S. has been campaigning for action against Syria."
Syria is on the U.S. list of state sponsors of terrorism for its support to the Lebanese resistance group Hizbollah and radical Palestinian factions.
Those groups are listed prominently in the Syria Accountability Act before the U.S. Congress. The act proposes punishing Syria for backing Hamas, the Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah. The U.S. believes Hizbollah was behind the bombing of the barracks in Beirut in 1983 that killed 241 U.S. marines.
Syria is now looking for international support in its effort to check an attack on Iraq.
"The whole international community, especially Europe, must play an active role on the international arena to restore balance into international relations," Syria's Foreign Minister Farouk Al-Sharaa told visiting Swiss deputy Foreign Minister France Van Dienkin earlier this week.
Concern for itself is backed by anger over Iraq. There are few signs of any love for Saddam Hussein in Syria. But there is anger that an Arab nation is in the target of President George W. Bush.
"We are not afraid of the aggression," Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz said Wednesday at the end of a two-day conference in Damascus urging the lifting of United Nations sanctions on Iraq. "No Arab country is free of the threat, even if it takes part alongside America in the aggression against Iraq," he said. The meeting drew hundreds of participants from Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and North Africa. British Labor MP George Galloway, a foe of U.S. war plans, also attended.
Syrian officials say Bush's strategy is a "glaring example" of U.S. double standards. The burning issue for most Arabs is the shedding of Palestinian blood. "It was distressing that in his speech Bush failed to mention Israel's latest deadly raid into the Palestinian territories that killed at least 15 people and wounded about 100 others," an official said.
Syria believes that the crisis over Saddam Hussein's suspected weapons of mass destruction should be resolved through the UN Syria also says it wants Iraq preserved as a nation, with no further suffering for the Iraqi people.
Syrian officials say the U.S. is motivated by its desire for Iraqi¹s nationalized oil, the second largest deposits in the world, not by fear of Saddam Hussein's weapons. Even under the sanctions, Iraq provides the U.S. with 9 percent of its oil supply. Until spring this year Americans were buying half of all Iraq's oil exports. Ouster of Saddam Hussein could give the U.S. full control of that oil.
"America's obstruction of the international arms inspectors' return to Iraq and its attempt to issue a new Security Council resolution that includes a threat of military force against Iraq are intended for the appropriation of its oil and wealth under one pretext or another," the state-owned al-Thawra newspaper said in a recent editorial. Views in the paper usually reflect the thinking of the Syrian government.
Syria is also threatened by loss of trade if Iraq is attacked. Iraq is its biggest trading partner. Trade between the two countries exceeded a value of $2 billion last year.
Britain has alleged that these ties extend to illicit trade below market prices in Iraqi crude in violation of the UN oil-for-food program. Britain alleges that this allows Syria to meet domestic petroleum needs while exporting its own oil at higher prices.
Syria says it is merely testing the pipeline in question, and that all its oil dealings comply with the sanctions regime, which will govern the use of a new pipeline it plans to build.
Iraq has said it is incapable of producing nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons after seven years of UN inspections and rejects as "lies and fabrications" the report in an official British dossier that Saddam could deploy chemical or biological weapons within 45 minutes.
October 10 2002 (http://albionmonitor.com) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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