This story in Haaretz is interesting, particularly since Armitage is generally considered to be firmly ensconced as Colin Powell's closest ally in the US government (so presumably not on Jim Woolsey or Richard Perle's holiday card mailing lists).
In an interview to Egyptian television, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage said that Syria does bear some responsibility for the Be'er Sheva suicide attacks, in which 16 people were killed. The connection is not unreasonable given Syria's ties with Hamas and Hezbollah, Armitage said.
"Syria holds and houses Hamas. Syria is a conduit of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah. It seems to me that Syria does bear some responsibility," Armitage told the interviewer, according to a U.S. Department of State transcript.
When asked to clarify, Armitage said: "President [Bashar] Assad should take a careful look at what his nation is doing and what his government is doing in supporting territory - in supporting violence in the territories and decide whether this is in the long-term interest of Syria."
Syria's decision to expel Al-Qaida from Damascus does not compensate for a lack of action against other terrorist groups, Armitage said.
"It doesn't work like that. If you oppose terrorism, you oppose all terrorism," he said.
Of course in a sense Deputy Secretary Armitage is simply repeating the long-held opinion of the US government - Syria harbors terrorists (as it has for decades). But given how the president is campaigning, broader regional events, the UN action against Syria on fixing Lebanon's presidential election, and the fact that Syria would be relatively easy to defeat (in the sense of invading, occupying Damascus, and knocking down some statues of the president and his late father and saying "mission accomplished" - I'm not saying anything about what would happen after that), I think that directly linking Syria to a recent deadly terror-attack may be significant, as is the "just because they help us on some terrorism issues" line. I wouldn't start wagering on when Bush will invade just yet (if he's reelected that is), but statements like this seem to point to that being a very real possibility if the president is reelected to a second term.Posted by armand at September 11, 2004 04:03 PM | TrackBack | Posted to International Affairs