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Much has been said about the probability of Bush invading Iran. There are some well-written dailykos diaries on the subject, e.g., dlindorff's Crime of the Century: Is Bush Planning to Attack Iran?. Scott Ritter has written an excellent book on the subject, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change of Iran. Most recently, we have seen the Administration actively editing the editorial of Leverett, a critic of the Bush Administration's strategy in Iran.  See Raw Story for details.

While the world looks at our posturing with Iran, however, it may be wise to consider an alternative invasion that would achieve some of the same goals of the Bush Administration. There is no viable nuclear threat from Iran, and the threat is merely a pretext for regime change in Iran. It can wait; there are two more years before the end.

This diary considers the likelihood of a Syrian invasion.

Invading Syria offers Bush an alternative, and a much easier project than Iran. Such an invasion would be a smaller bite of the apple of global hegemony,and it could be carried out while the occupation of Iraq continues. And, being a much smaller bite of the apple, Bush's proxy, Isreal, might be able to handle the project on its own. Syria's invasion would be a win-win for Bush, his neoconservative cabal, and Israel. The casualties would be less than would result from an attack an Iran, and the fact that Israel would support an action--and may even provide the bodies and the bombs--would make it much more palatable to politicians in both parties.

The magazine American Conservative has printed some fine pieces critical of Bush's pre-emptive invasion of Iraq dating back to 2003.  In the January 2006, Robert Dreyfuss's article, Syria In Their Sights: The neocons plan their next "cakewalk" he says:

The wider war that the Bush administration seems to be pursuing was telegraphed long ago by the various neocon pundits and prognosticators. Charles Krauthammer used his Washington Post column in March to suggest that the way to advance the "glorious, delicate, revolutionary moment in the Middle East" is to go after Syria. "This is no time to listen to the voices of tremulousness, indecision, compromise, and fear," he wrote. Instead, the Bush administration’s commitment to spreading democracy should take it "through Beirut to Damascus." William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard and co-author of The War in Iraq ("The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there"), helpfully suggested some options that the Bush administration is clearly thinking about now. In The Weekly Standard last year, Kristol wrote, "We could bomb Syrian military facilities; we could go across the border in force to stop infiltration; we could occupy the town of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria, a few miles from the border, which seems to be the planning and organizing center for Syrian activities in Iraq; we could covertly help or overtly support the Syrian opposition. ... It’s time to get serious about dealing with Syria as part of winning in Iraq, and in the broader Middle East."

Since the publication of that piece, the case against Syria, for Bush, has grown.  When Gemayel was assassinated, two separate narratives were told. The standard one is that Syria was responsible.  But, as Robert Fisk suggests,

That little matter of the narrative - and who writes it - remained a problem yesterday, as the Western powers pointed their fingers at Syria. Yes, all five leading Lebanese men murdered in the past 20 months were anti-Syrian. And it's a bit like saying 'the butler did it'. Wouldn't a vengeful Syria strike at the independence of Lebanon by killing a minister? Yes. But then, what would be the best way of undermining the new and boastful power of the pro-Syrian Hizbollah, the Shia guerrilla army which has demanded the resignation of Siniora's cabinet? By killing a government minister, knowing that many Lebanese would blame the murder on Syria's Hizbollah allies?

Whether the Bush Administration was responsible for the assassination of Gemayel is merely an academic exercise beyond the scope of this diary; however, the fact of the assassination supports Bush's plan:

Gemayel’s death, and Syria’s blame for it, strengthens the case of the neoconservatives in Washington -- Israel’s allies in the Administration -- whose star had begun to wane. They can now argue convincingly that Syria is unreformed and unreformable. Such an outcome helps to avert the danger, from Israel’s point of view, that White House doves might win the argument for befriending Syria.

Ritter argues that Iran is not the threat that the Bush Administration suggests, and that they are merely creating a pretext for an impending invasion.  In a recent interview with Amy Goodman, Ritter says:

[T]he Bush administration once again is putting the onus on Iran, saying, "It’s not up to the inspectors to find the nuclear weapons program. It’s up to the Iranians to prove that one doesn’t exist." Why do we go down this path? Because you can’t prove a negative. There’s nothing Iran can do that will satisfy the Bush administration, because the policy at the end of the day is not about nonproliferation, it’s not about disarmament. It’s about regime change. And all the Bush administration wants to do is to create the conditions that support their ultimate objective of military intervention.

If Syria is the next target for Bush, the question becomes will he send American troops, or will he use Israel as his proxy?  

Last week the Israeli website Ynet interviewed Meyrav Wurmser, an Israeli citizen and co-founder of MEMRI, a service translating Arab leaders' speeches that is widely suspected of having ties with Israel's security services. She is also the wife of David Wurmser, a senior neocon adviser to Vice-President Dick Cheney.

Meyrav Wurmser revealed that the American Administration had publicly dragged its feet during Israel's assault on Lebanon because it was waiting for Israel to expand its attack to Syria.

"The anger [in the White House] is over the fact that Israel did not fight against the Syrians ... The neocons are responsible for the fact that Israel got a lot of time and space ... They believed that Israel should be allowed to win. A great part of it was the thought that Israel should fight against the real enemy, the one backing Hizbullah. It was obvious that it is impossible to fight directly against Iran, but the thought was that its [Iran's] strategic and important ally [Syria] should be hit."

Wurmser continued: "It is difficult for Iran to export its Shiite revolution without joining Syria, which is the last nationalistic Arab country. If Israel had hit Syria, it would have been such a harsh blow for Iran that it would have weakened it and [changed] the strategic map in the Middle East."

Originally posted to james risser on Sat Dec 23, 2006 at 02:04 PM PST.

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