Rumsfeld and Bush are clearly prepared to go much farther than they so far have in blundering their way around the Arab world. Even a junior high school student would have greater diplomatic skills that this.
The enemy of freedom is not overseas – it’s right here!
From The Times of London, March 28, 2003
Rumsfeld issues threats to Syria and Iran
From Roland Watson and Tim Reid in Washington
The war in Iraq threatened to spill over into neighbouring countries today after the United States accused Syria and Iran of joining the fight, and warned them to stay out.
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, accused Syria of arming Saddam Hussein with shipments, including night-vision goggles, which he said were a direct threat to US and British forces.
He added that Washington would hold Damascus accountable for “hostile acts” if the traffic continued.
Mr Rumsfeld said there was no question that military supplies, equipment and people were moving across the border from Syria into Iraq. “It vastly complicates our situation,” he said.
Asked if he was threatening Damascus with military action, Mr Rumsfeld said: “I’m saying exactly what I’m saying. It was carefully phrased.”
Turning to Iran, Mr Rumsfeld said that revolutionaries of the Badr corps, which are trained, equipped and directed by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, were operating inside Iraq.
US forces would be forced to treat them as enemy “combatants”, he said, adding that he regarded Tehran accountable. “We will hold the Iranian Government responsible for their actions,” he said.
The surprise threats raised the spectre that the war could suddenly and quickly spiral out of control.
Mr Rumsfeld’s warnings came after Syria this week hardened its opposition to the war. President Bashar Assad of Syria publicly expressed his hopes that Washington would fail in its mission to overthrow the Iraqi regime.
In an interview published yesterday in the Lebanese daily As-Safir, Mr Assad predicted that if the US and Britain occupied Iraq, they would be met by “popular resistance” that would prevent them from controlling it.
He predicted that US troops would become bogged down in Iraq as they did in Vietnam, or forced to abandon the country as they did in the 1980s in Lebanon, now under Syrian dominance.
More ominously, his words were published the same day as a call by the country’s mufti for suicide attacks against US forces. The call by Sheikh Ahmad Kaftaro is unlikely to have come without the approval of Mr Assad’s regime.
Syria is the only Arab member of the UN Security Council. Although it voted for Resolution 1441 which led to the resumption of weapons inspections in Iraq, it has been vehemently opposed to war.
Mr Rumsfeld’s intervention was unprompted, coming at the end of his opening statement at the Pentagon’s daily press briefing.
Quoting US intelligence, he said: “We have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles. These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces. We consider such trafficking as hostile acts and will hold the Syrian Government accountable for such shipments.”