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NSC Chief Hadley asked Italy for Syria Replacement Name

by susanhu Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 01:44:02 PM EST

Cross-posted from BoomanTribune.com and DailyKos at whataboutbob's request.

National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley asked the Italians to help with regime change in Syria:

I have it on good authority that Steven Hadley, the director of the US National Security Council, called the President of the Italian senate to asked if he had a candidate to replace Bashar al-Asad as President of Syria. The Italians were horrified. Italy is one of Syria’s biggest trading partners so it seemed a reasonable place to ask! This is what Washington has been up to. -- Joshua Landis

Let's take this in. Hadley is calling the Italians, asking for a name as a replacement figurehead? Stunning.

This Stephen Hadley? Whose ass is about to be indicted? Who was a member of the infamous WHIG group that sold the Iaq war? Who has his smudgy mitts all over the Niger forgery story and connived with Karl Rove to smear Joseph Wilson and his wife?

Yup, that Stephen Hadley. In BooMan's "Holy Crap: My Pre-Indictment Stress Syndrome is Acting Up" he quotes Larry Johnson: "My friend told me that Hadley fully expects he will be indicted."

We need to listen to Joshua Landis -- a Fulbright Scholar currently living in Damascus and Beirut -- who is an Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies in the History Department and the School of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma. Landis has become an essential source for newspapers, including The New York Times.

Landis's SyriaComment.com has become one of my must-reads. He writes well. He travels to Beirut regularly. He talks to international reporters daily. And Landis talks to Syrians on the streets of Damascus.

We're not playing "DOOM" here, for chrissakes. You have to know the territory. As Patrick Lang -- a former DIA Chief of the Middle East and Terrorism as well as first professor of Arabic Languages at West Point -- pointed out last night here in "Syria and the Stone Wall":

As Patrick Lang pointed out last night here in "Syria and the Stone Wall":

The Syrian government has a long established and time tested methodology for dealing with external demands placed upon it. It ignores them.

Further, as Joshua Landis logically notes, what can Syria possibly do to placate the Bush administration? "Bashar cannot possibly do what Washington is demanding of it -- give family members to an international court. My guess is that the regime will stick together on this."

But, really, none of that matters!

Cheney and Hadley are hellbent on going after Syria:

US ‘seeks new Syrian leader' as pressure mounts
By Guy Dinmore in Washington
Financial Times

October 9 2005

As it steps up pressure on Damascus, the US is actively seeking an alternative who would take over from President Bashar al-Assad, according to sources close to the Bush administration.

Washington has consulted its allies in an inter-agency search co-ordinated by Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser. The US is also said to be considering military strikes on the Syrian border in response to its alleged support for Iraqi insurgents.

Turkish Press reports that ''both Ankara and western capitals [are debating] by whom al-Assad can be replaced. This matter was also discussed during (U.S. President Bush's national security adviser) Hadley's visit to Ankara."

Professor Landis has come into possession of a "most extraordinary letter from Syria's Ambassador in Washington Imad Mustapha to Congresswoman Sue Kelly." The letter from Rep. Kelly and 100 House members is highly critical of Syria. Prof. Landis has posted the ambassador's reply, [editor's note, by susanhu] [The ambassador's reply letter to Congress is up now.] and makes these key observations:

[The letter from 100 members of Congress ] is a demonstration of the US government's failure to appreciate how it is being railroaded by the administration into a confrontation with Syria. One must read Imad Mustapha's response, copied here, to appreciate just how the railroading is taking place.

Congress is falling for another war trap? Looks like it:

For over a year Syria has been trying to cooperate with the West on the Iraq border, on the issue of terrorism finance, on the issue of stopping Jihadists from getting into Syria, on intelligence sharing, and on stabilizing Iraq.

Washington has consistently refused to take "Yes" as an answer. Why? The only credible reason is because Washington wants regime change in Syria. The US administration is sacrificing American soldiers in Iraq in order to carry out its program of "reforming the Greater Middle East." Two US policies are clashing head to head - the one is stabilizing Iraq and the other is the reform of the greater Middle East. President Bush is placing his democracy policy over his Iraq policy. This is costing American and Iraqi lives.

The world press has failed to get this story, although it has been staring them in the face for months. Human rights activists in Syria have documented for a long time how Syria is arresting Islamists, cracking down on Syrians who go to Iraq to fight by arresting their family members and jailing the fighters when they return from Iraq. Read Razan Zeitouneh's story about Syria's "Preemptive War" against Islamists here. The Syrian secret police have been terrorizing would be terrorists in Syria for many months now. The US has cut off all intelligence sharing with Syria despite repeated Syrian attempts to cooperate on this most important issue. Rumsfeld refused a Syria delegation of top border officials permission to meet with their Iraq and American counterparts just two months ago. Read the story here.

I've read all this before, and quoted sources, that verify what Landis says. Syria has conducted a ruthless crackdown against "Jihadists" -- but none of that matters to Bush's war cabal.

As Patrick Lang wrote here in " Say it isn't so... Please.:

Hey folks, here we go. This guy is nobody in Syria but the Neocon, Jacobin crowd are pushing him as a neo-Lincolnesque figure.


(Yes. It's true. This is from MEMRI. Have a ball with this.)


"Leader of the Opposition Reform Party of Syria: "The Syrian Regime Is Nurturing Terrorism"; "We in Syria Need Peace More than the Israelis"


In an interview with the Kuwaiti daily Al-Siyassa, Farid Al-Ghadri, leader of the opposition Reform Party of Syria (www.reformsyria.net), harshly criticized the Syrian regime, saying that "its crimes are more brutal than Saddam Hussein's." He accused the Syrian regime of nurturing terrorism, and expressed his support for a peace treaty with Israel.

The following are excerpts: ...

And what may become Bush's choices to take over Syria?

As Patrick Lang wrote here in "The End of Ghazi Kanaan":

Why is he gone? Smart money has always been wagered that Rafik Hariri's assassination was the result of a cabal among Lebanese and Syrian security officials who feared Hariri's return to power by election, this time as a "reform" candidate with the full backing of the Bush Administration and, of course, of Chirac's France. In previous iterations of Hariri as PM, Rafik was not a "reform" figure. The circumstances in which downtown Beirut was re-built under Hariri's supervision by the company "Solidere" would not bear close inspection. A lot of money was made by Rafik and his associates in this and other business enterprises.

Kanaan made a "farewell" call to a Lebanese Radio station before he died today. In that interview he said that it was true that Rafik Hariri had been paying him off when both had ruled in Lebanon, but at the same time he said that he, Kanaan, had not been "responsible" for the bad things that had happened in Beirut over the years. I suppose that was a reference to the ultimate culpability of the late Hafez al-Assad.

Was Kanaan's death a case of "assisted suicide?" ...

> Was it Bush's endorsement that doomed him? Could be.

Perhaps all that will save Syria will be wide-ranging indictments by Patrick Fitzgerald that paralyze Hadley's -- and Cheney/Rice/Rumsfeld's -- momentum.

(All emphases mine.)

Thank you Susanhu...I felt that this was of significant international importance, to be relevant to this site. Now I know very little about Syria, except that I know that there has been a long time distrust or animosity between them and the US, though they did support the US in Desert Storm. I also heard on a radio show a year or two back that, despite this difficult relationship, the Syrians had been very helpful in the past through "back channels", in giving the US information about potential attackers of US interests...though that stopped once they became one of the "Axis of Evil". I know people who have worked and traveled there who say the Syrian people are very nice. That's the extent of my knowledge (which is prety sad). But...does the US think that de-stabilizing Syria is going to help the Middle East? Can it get any worse? Without taking sides for or against the Syrian government here, and having no illusions that they are "good guys", I am still very much against another unilateral attack on an independent Middle Eastern country. Has the US gone crazy? Or is this just an attempted distraction from previous illegal behavior that is being investigated. Desperate people can do desperate things...but a war on Syria?

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:07:12 PM EST
And by the way Susan, I took the liberty of a minor edit, for front page space reasons...

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:07:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Has the US gone crazy? Or is this just an attempted distraction from previous illegal behavior that is being investigated.

My guess is both.

by Fran on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:17:17 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, Susan, great diary - full of important information. Had to read it twice.
by Fran on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:28:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I certainly agree with your hope that there is not a new front ahead in the Middle East.
The Ambassador's letter was certainly thorough.  But I must admit something just doesn't smell right here.  With the UN report getting more and more fleshed out over time, with the French and Americans coming to the same point of view and cooperating on the Syrian issue (incredibly hard to believe, as jerome points out below), with the recent history of Syria supporting terror in the Mid East.  It's just a little hard to find them credible.

hopefully diplomacy and some UN led pressure can get us, the world that is, to the right place.

by wchurchill on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 06:50:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is needed is some pressure from the Democrats in Congress. Diplomacy and UN pressure don't work on the Bush administration.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 06:00:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The strange thing in all this Syria flap is that the USA and France are working hand in hand against Syria. They joined forces to get Syria out of Lebanon earlier this year, and now to put pressure on the regime...

I wonder what calculations are going on behind this strange alliance.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:28:17 PM EST
It's not so odd. Lebanon is a French invention. No such country or political region ever existed before the French mandate after the European assault on the Ottoman Empire. The region of Lebanon was simply a cultural and political part of the land now called Syria, going back thousands of years. I remember reading somewhere (what a useful reference to a source, even Ms. J. Miller would be appalled!) Chirac was a big, big friend of Rafik Hariri. You can only marvel how that man (Chirac) gets around. And Lebanon somehow seems to evoke a strange chord of cultural (read Christian) solidarity in some French circles, tending towards the right, right over to the far right. Why should such an alliance be 'strange'? Despite outward appearances, the U.S. and France have a deep understanding of and respect for each other. The show of friction between them is basically a sideshow run for the benefit of the masses. Of course, the disagreement about Iraq was substantial and was also in reaction to the U.K.

Off topic: I wish people on the EuroTrib would stop referring to the area of Europe which is not the U.K. or Ireland as the Continent. The word is so specific to the English point of view (yes English in the sense of the rule Britannia crowd). I'd rather call it 'mainland Europe'. Then we can call the U.K. 'insular Europe' instead of referring to the country by name. Somehow Ireland doesn't seem to fit in one way or the other.

by Quentin on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 05:05:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In the current political climate, we might as well call Britain "Eastern Oceania" and Continental Europe "Western Eurasia".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 05:51:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I use the term sometimes, but with deliberate sarcastic intent, parodying British insular attitudes. Otherwise, as you suggest, "mainland" would be appropriate -- though not even necessary, the fact being that, in today's fast-communicating globalized world <snark>, the tunneled-under English Channel is no great divide at all.
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 05:12:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, you're right, the distinction has become largely meaningless, with or without the tunnel. But the British still often find it irresistible to refer to the 'continent', at least the BBC and some people I have met. The term irritates me, a you-and-me distinction of exclusiveness. There are conceivable circumstances when mainland Europe might be affected and not the Britain and Ireland, for instance animal or plant disease, climate, etc. So the distinction cannot be entirely rejected.
by Quentin on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 06:13:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Syria should be Bush's Czechoslovakia. That is, after the failure of the International Community to avert yet another war of agression, any further action by the US on any other country should be considered akin to the invasion of Poland.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:39:44 PM EST
Interesting that the Lebanon is never mentioned in the US press. Just found this from the Australian:

President linked to Hariri blast

SECURITY forces yesterday arrested a pro-Syrian militant alleged to have telephoned Lebanese President Emile Lahoud minutes before the country's former prime minister Rafik Hariri was killed by a car bomb in February.

The arrest of Mahmoud Abdel-Al intensifies pressure on Mr Lahoud to resign in the face of a damning UN report that accuses Syrian and Lebanese officials aligned to him of conspiring to kill Hariri.

Mr Lahoud, a staunchly pro-Syrian head of state, has denied receiving the call, and has appealed for calm across Lebanon in the wake of the report, which is set to reshape the political destinies of both nations.

The arrest follows the detention of former Lebanese generals, among them the head of Mr Lahoud's security detail.

All are suspected of having played a role in the massive February 14 bombing of Hariri's convoy that killed 22 others.

Does that mean regime change for Lebanon too? And what happened to that story about those Australians that left just after the blast?

by Fran on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 02:45:33 PM EST
Landis' assertion that Hadley called the Italian Senate President, the second highest office in Italy, is very strange. As NSC director, it would appear logical to discuss the matter with Gianni Letta, who is the delegated plenipotentiary for the Italian Secret Services. The Italian Foreign Intelligence Agency, SISMI, has been very active in Syria and Lebanon especially after the Nassirya bombing in November 2003 that left 24 dead. The Syrians claimed to have helped liberate the two NGO workers in Iraq known as the "two Simonas." Nor do I see why Hadley could not have an unofficial conduit to the head of the Services, Nicolò Pollari.

The President of the Senate is Marcello Pera, an ex-professor, expert on Karl Popper, who was fulgurated on the road to Arcore. He is one of the most vociferous Italian neo-cons, lambasting European secular society and the Muslim invasion. He is highly vocal about West's Christian roots, and does not believe that there is such a thing as moderate Islam. In a recent foray he denounced the invasion of Europe as fostering the miscegenation of Europe, a world of half-bloods with no clear cultural identity.

He recently gave a speech at Georgetown which Ms. Rice is reported here in Italy to have not attended because of the title: Christians, Liberals and Cannibals.

Although there is probably a community of feeling and views between Hadley and Pera, I doubt that the opinions of a similar individual would be of any use to sort out the Syrian maze.

by de Gondi (publiobestia aaaatttthotmaildaughtusual) on Sun Oct 23rd, 2005 at 08:05:37 PM EST
US and Syria have been on collision course ever since fall of Bagdad. During the euphoria of conquest there was plenty of target countries being thrown about in Washington. Syria was amongst them.

Part of the US strategy was to isolate Itaq further by putting pressure on Syria (to nudge it to abandon Saddam Hussein's regime). Part of the strategy is to protect Israel (that US sees as its foremost ally in Middle-East). Ofcourse Israel is considerably more powerful than Syria when it comes to conventional war.

However, the biggest bone in US-Syrian relationship has been steadily growing Sunni insurgency. Iraqi Sunnis have been operating out of Syria's hinterlands where might of Syrian army and secret service are weak at best. There is good reason to suspect that there is plenty of corruption involved as well.

Assad's real problem lies with US diplomacy (or rather lack of it). None of his moves on curbing rebels or attempts to close border have been rewarded with any diplomatic or economic carrots.  

Assad appears to try to avoid very nasty internal struggle by turning blind eye to hinterlands and moving his attention to suppressing unwanted religious extremists. Turning on rogue elements would also open country and him to possible coups. With no US help coming to support him, helping US would give him plenty of internal risks but no help. It would simply be counterproductive.

From military standpoint the Syrian border has been steadily heating up. Less than a year ago there was plenty of tough talk that once Iraqis have their own PM they'll start sending commandoes over the border to Syria to deal with Sunni base areas (with US blessing, money, arms and training). Pretty much nothing has been said on the concept since it was discussed about.

Roughly six months ago US troops killed some Syrian soldiers inside Syria and several US bombing missions have been carried out in Syria. The circumstances around these actions appear to indicate that US allows its forces (and/or Iraqi elements) to carry out hot pursuit over the border to Syrian territory at extreme circumstances. Lately ex-US ambassador discussed that US troops are already fighting inside Syria. This would indicate that such actions are becoming more common. There has also been a leak that US policy makers had carried out discussions on whether to bomb Syria to deal with Sunni insurgent base areas. It appears that such option is still on the menu even if it was not allowed. The regime change talk has been flying about for few months too. It does appear that US is preparing itself to situation where they'll start to put very serious pressure on Assad. Pushing UN to accept sanctions (currently Syria has normal trade relations with Europe) would be a major step in destabilization of Syria.

I do not believe US would carry out a conquest of Syria (it would require several available divisions that US does not have) but bombing and over the border raids in hinterlands would be very much a possibility. Israel land war with Syria would be decisive action but diplomatically it would be such a blunder that I do not believe US would condone it. Syrian secret police organizations have also reputation of enough skill to keep current system working. Thus coup or revolt appears unlikely.

Thus logically we should see increasing diplomatic and economic pressure and half-secret bombing campaign in Syrian hinterlands on Iraqi border.

by Nikita on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 02:36:32 AM EST
FYI: I dropped Juan Cole a very brief note, asking him if he'd read this and what his take on it was, and his response:

Thanks, Bob.  I don't have any special knowledge of this, but Josh knows whereof he speaks.

cheers  Juan

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia

by whataboutbob on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 02:44:48 AM EST
Soj has a diary on dKos on this topic.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Mon Oct 24th, 2005 at 11:34:24 AM EST

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