Bush accuses Syria of providing the Iraqi resistance with money and manpower
December 24, 2004
The U.S. is considering launching military strike on Syria in an attempt to kill or capture Iraqi Ba'athists, it says are behind the attacks against U.S. targets in Iraq, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post on Friday.
The official added that new U.S. sanctions are likely to be implemented. However, he said that U.S. should be more "aggressive" after Tuesday's attack on a U.S. base in Mosul.
The officials remarks suggested that the U.S. believes the attack on the mess tent, in which 22 people were killed, was planned from inside Syrian territory.
"I think the sanctions are one thing. But I think the other thing [the Syrians] have got to start worrying about is whether we would take cross-border military action in hot pursuit or something like that. In other words, nothing like full-scale military hostilities. But when you're being attacked from safe havens across the border – we've been through this a lot of times before – we're just not going to sit there,” the senior administration official said.
"You get a tragedy [like the attack in Mosul] and it reminds people that it is still a very serious problem. If I were Syria, I'd be worried," he added.
Meanwhile, another U.S. official said that sentiment reflects a "growing level of frustration" in Washington at Syria's reluctance to capture Ba'athists and other operatives, the U.S. claims are organizing attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq.
However, the official cautioned that taking cross-border military action is still a matter of discussion and that a military incursion is still "premature."
The senior official noted that the U.S. frustration increased substantially after last month offensive in Fallujah, which revealed "how much of the insurgency is now being directed through Syria."
However, the U.S. hasn't presented any evidence up till now regarding the extent to which attacks are being organized by Syria.
On Thursday, a report in The Times of London claimed that Syria has become a base for Iraqis to operate. It, moreover, accused Syrian of being involved in those attacks targeting U.S. forces.
The Post reported on Sunday that the U.S. gave Syria with a list of names of people that Washington would like to see arrested. However Syrian authorities haven’t responded to the U.S. demand up till now. The Post quoted a senior government official predicting a confrontation with Syria "unless the Syrians reverse their policy."
The U.S. already deploys some of its troops along the Syrian border with Iraq, conducting air and mobile patrols.
Earlier this week, Bush threatened Syria, saying with new pressures, saying "we have tools at our disposal, a variety of tools ranging from diplomatic tools to economic pressure. Nothing's taken off the table".
"We will continue to make it clear to both Syria and Iran that ... meddling in the internal affairs of Iraq is not in their interest," the president said after talks with Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.
In an interview with a Lebanese newspaper, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage echoed Bush’s threat of new sanctions, saying that Washington wanted Syria to arrest or kill fugitive officials of the former Iraqi regime, who remained at liberty in Syria and who "seem to us to be responsible for funding anti-U.S. attacks in Iraq." "We want them to turn off this faucet," said Armitage.
No immediate plans for new U.S. sanctions
Despite President George W. Bush's recent warnings to Iran and Syria against "meddling" in Iraqi affairs, the U.S. has shown no sign of readying new sanctions.
Bush repeated his warning on Monday, saying that Washington had a variety of diplomatic and economic measures it could take against Syria.
The U.S. accuses Syria of providing the Iraqi resistance with both money and manpower.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said that Washington constantly reviews the Syrian Accountability Act enacted last year to stop Damascus' alleged support of “terrorism”. "But I don't have anything new at this point," he said.
However, officials said that Syria has shown some signs of cooperation in helping to crack down on funding for anti-American fighters and tightening its border patrols.
Syrian authorities have arrested about 2,000 people for trying to cross its border with Iraq.