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US Neocons Seek Syria ‘Regime Change’ – OpEd


By Yusuf Fernandez


Shortly after the Tunisian and, especially, the Egyptian revolutions, the map of the Middle East changed. The US and Israel lost one of their two main assets in the region: Egyptian dictator Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt, with a population of more than 80 million, has historically been a key player in the Middle East but Mubarak’s regime turned the country into a US and Israeli client state.

A change in the Egyptian foreign policy would have decisive effects on the region. It would create a strong Arab diplomatic and military front. Israel would be forced to have second thoughts before attacking any other state in the Middle East.

The other pro-US big Arab state, Saudi Arabia, has lost its Arab friend. It is very worried about the events in both Egypt and its backyard, namely Bahrain and Yemen, where people’s revolutions have set an example for the Saudi population.

In this way, the US-imposed Arab fracture -between pro-resistance and US client regimes- could be overcome and would be the most outstanding result of the current Arab revolutions. If the new Egyptian government reflects the demands of Arab and Egyptian public opinion, Egypt will cease to be a US asset, always willing to oppose Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hezbollah.


Some Israeli and US media outlets have openly been discussing if a change of regime in Syria could make up for the disaster that Mubarak’s fall meant for Israel. The evidence of a resurgent Syria and its deepening influence on the region in recent years has frustrated US officials who sought to change Syrian policies persuading the country to abandon its support for Hezbollah, sever its alliance with Iran and put an end to its practice of sheltering Palestinian leaders of resistance groups.

Unlike Egypt or Libya, Syria has reached no agreements with the US on matters such as terrorism and unconventional weapons either. “Syria’s behavior has not met our hopes and expectations over the past 20 months and Syria’s actions have not met its international obligations,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told the Lebanese daily an-Nahar, confirming that the US will accept nothing short of complete subservience.

According to some US analysts, the fall or weakening of the Syrian regime would have a knock-on effect in Palestine and would serve to isolate Hamas in Gaza. Moreover, Iran would lose its main ally in the Arab world and the Middle East. They also think that the installation of a US puppet in Damascus would have as its corollary, the transformation of the Lebanon into an Israeli fiefdom.

Syria is aware of this reality. Shortly after unrest in Syria started, President Bashar al-Assad denounced a conspiracy inspired “in its timing and shape” by the turmoil in other Arab countries. The president was willing to admit that the lack of reforms could be “detrimental”, but he advised against hastiness. He said that “most Syrians have needs that remain unmet,” adding that he will look into these at the right time.

Syria’s friends in Lebanon and Palestine were rapid in showing their support for Assad. In Lebanon, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt said the last speech by President Assad had raised “positive horizons for reform.” Hezbollah’s number two, Sheikh Naim Qassem, claimed Syria’s regime was in “good shape” and warned that attempts to spread chaos in Syria would fail.

For his part, Anwar Raja, a leader of the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, told the RIA Novosti Russian-language service, “Syria is playing a key role in the Middle East as a supporter of the resistance organizations in the Arab world, especially in Palestine and Lebanon. Destabilization of this country would allow the United States and Israel to restore their dominance in the region, which they have lost, especially after the revolution in Egypt.”

This destabilizing campaign is easily perceivable in US media. In a recent opinion article published in the Washington Post, well-known neoconservative ideologue, Elliot Abrams, who was also a key advisor on Mideast policy at the National Security Council (NSC) during the George W. Bush presidency, openly supported a “regime change” in Syria. After insulting Syrian President Bashar al Assad, whom he called “thug”, Abrams claimed that Syria would be the “next regime to fall” in the Middle East.

Using the sectarianism as his weapon of choice against Syria, Abrams claimed a new regime in Syria would be controlled by the Sunni majority. A Sunni-dominated Syrian government, he says, “would never have” close relations with Iran and Hezbollah, and Iran “will lose” its Arab ally and land access to Hezbollah. However, it is noteworthy to point out that other pro-Israeli analysts disagree with this view and fear that changing regimes in Egypt, Jordan and Syria could result in what Israeli media is calling a “Sunni ring,” which would enhance the influence of the Muslim Brotherhood on developments in the region.

Abrams also called for the Obama Administration to take diplomatic and economic measures similar to those taken against Libya before the US and the NATO’s military intervention, to weaken Assad’s hold on power and strengthen the opposition. During the 2006 war between Israel and Hezbollah, Abrams reportedly urged Israel to expand its bombing campaign to include targets inside Syria, a proposal that was also supported by other neocons outside the administration.

Abrams was joined by a Wall Street Journal’s editorial page that urged Washington to support the opposition “in as many ways as possible.” “It is impossible to know who would succeed Assad if his minority Allawite regime fell, but it is hard to imagine many that would be worse for US interests,” the editorial claimed.

Republican Senator John McCain and Independent Senator Joe Lieberman, one of the most notorious Zionist warmongers in the US Congress, said that Obama’s effort to engage rather than shun Damascus had “little to show for it” and declared it was time to back opposition to Assad’s rule. Both of them said that Washington must “continue to speak out loudly and clearly” against Assad’s regime.

Republican Senator Jon Kyl, a fierce critic of all efforts to engage Damascus, said Washington should demand Assad step down and called for US Ambassador in Syria, Robert Ford, to “investigate” Assad’s response to unrest. Kyl claimed that Syria opposed “to the vital national security interest of the United States,” citing its support for Hezbollah and Hamas.

Israel has also taken advantage of the Syrian revolt to present Syria as an unreliable partner in any negotiation on the status of the Golan Heights, a piece of Syrian territory that it conquered in the 1967 war. There has been a continuous increase in the number of Jewish settlements in the Golan Heights in the more than 40 years of occupation and Israel has made it clear that it is not willing to respect UN resolutions, which oblige it to withdraw from this territory.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who is also leader of the right-wing Yisrael Beiteinu, is vehemently against even a partial withdrawal from the Golan Heights. The Israeli government’s aim of creating a Greater Israel ultimately demands a conflict with Syria over control of the Golan Heights and essential water supplies.

Press TV

Press TV is a 24-hour English language global news network owned by Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB). Its headquarters are located in Tehran, Iran. Press TV carries news analysis, documentary talk shows and sports news worldwide with special focus on West Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.

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