by Franz Schurmann
after its smashing victory in Iraq, has the White House, both hawks
and doves, suddenly turned on Syria? There is an answer. When leaders
find their top staff tearing each other apart, one way they can reassert
their executive authority is by thinking of another war that can bring
everyone into line.
It's now common knowledge that the Rumsfeld and Powell factions have been fighting each other in Washington almost as stridently as American and Iraqi soldiers in Iraq. Yet, now after the shooting war is over, the war in Washington is heating up even more.
The authoritative As-Sharq al-Awsat (ASAA) put out a leading editorial on April 13 just days after Baghdad fell. It wrote, "Was the fall of Saddam Hussein the easiest part of the 'liberation of Iraq'? According to Washington reports, one might have thought that harmony would prevail in the Bush administration. However, all appearances reveal a big battle within the administration about what direction to move into (post-war Iraq)."
Arab media have speculated that the speed and organization with which elite Iraqi forces abandoned Baghdad to small American forces suggests a deal between the two sides. In other words, Americans and the Baath regime must have been in contact with each other. Already, American soldiers are openly patrolling Baghdad streets with the Baath police.
The ASAA also gave extensive coverage to the issuance by the Pentagon of a deck of cards of the most-wanted list of 52 top Baath party officials, with Saddam Hussein in the No. 1 place. Thousands of these cards were distributed all over Iraq, all promising "proportional rewards" for capture of the officials.
If American special forces were talking with some of these Baath officials, then what would happen if an excited Iraqi burst into the room and demanded his "proportional reward?" Does this mean the left hand in Washington doesn't know what the right hand is doing? Or is it a deliberate move to abort a "victory" that in good part happened with Iraqi cooperation?
If even a handful of top Iraqi officials involved in any deal are "captured," that could undo "victory in Iraq." The Rumsfeld faction clearly wants to wipe out the Baath party, just as the American occupiers in 1945 did to Germany's Nazi party. But it now seems clear that the White House, supported by Saudi Prince Abdullah, wanted to end the war as soon as possible, even if that meant dealing with higher Baath officials, so long as Saddam Hussein was driven from power.
Instead of sorting out the differences dividing its advisers, the White House has conjured a new crisis in the region: Syria. First mention of a possible move against Syria came from the Rumsfeld faction (Rumsfeld and former Pentagon official Richard Perle). Surprisingly, both Powell and Bush shot back with unexpected hawkish words as well. It seems that neither the hawks nor the doves, and especially Bush, wanted to see a blowup in Washington.
But the fissures are apparent. The Powell faction had a victory when Richard Perle resigned (or some say was forced to resign) after he openly threatened Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien for not joining the U.S.-British coalition in a Canadian newspaper. Then Rumsfeld put Powell in an awkward spot by suddenly announcing he had shut down a major oil pipeline on which just about the entire Syrian economy depended. Rumors circulated fast that Israel's port city Haifa would become the big beneficiary of the closure. Powell had specifically said during his hawkish remarks that no sanctions would be applied. He also added that America would talk with Syria, as it is now doing with North Korea, rather than invade.
Powell, who had disappeared from public view when the invasion began, is back occupying the choicest spot in the protocol pecking order -- on the President's right. Powell hates the militarism of the Iron Triangle (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz), which wants to transform the entire Middle East along American values. He believes American is mainly a civic entity that has to be protected in a dangerous world.
Bush shares both of these belief systems, but also wants to be re-elected in November 2004. Endorsing Rumsfeld's warnings to Syria may have placated him, but it also risks a fourth war (the first three are the war on terrorism, Afghanistan and Iraq). But the Iron Triangle might have to take some hits too. Rumsfeld has already waffled on the closed pipeline, saying he doesn't know whether it has actually been shut. And, to boot, Vice President Dick Cheney is having his own troubles in the courts.
By threatening war against Syria, Bush has asserted his authority in Washington. He is calculating that it won't do him any harm in his re-election campaign.
April 14, 2003 (http://www.albionmonitor.net) All Rights Reserved. Contact email@example.com for permission to use in any format.
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