US 'aiming at Syria regime change'
London Independent | October 6, 2005 By Anton La Guardia
Israel predicted yesterday that America would impose fresh sanctions on Syria in an attempt to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.
Shaul Mofaz, the defence minister, said he believed sanctions would follow publication of a United Nations report expected to implicate senior Syrian officials in the murder of Rafik al-Hariri, the former Lebanese prime minister.
"I won't be surprised if Syria gets a red card," Mr Mofaz told Israel radio. "[The United States] will take actions against Syria, beginning with economic sanctions and moving on to others, that will make it clear to the Syrians that their policies do not comply with UN decisions, the US's new world order or the prohibition of sovereign states to support terrorism."
On Saturday, President George W Bush and his national security council are to discuss America's options on Syria, ranging from tightening existing limited sanctions to military action.
Washington regards Syria as a transit point for fighters travelling to Iraq and a safe haven for Iraqi Ba'athists to organise and finance the insurgency. With US troops mounting repeated campaigns against insurgents in Iraqi towns along the Syrian frontier, some senior US officers advocate cross-border "hot pursuit" operations. Others call for assassinations of insurgent masterminds in Syria.
Any action will have to await the outcome of the UN investigation into Mr Hariri's murder in February.
Amid a wave of anti-Syrian anger and pressure from America and France, Mr Assad was forced to withdraw his troops from Lebanon after a presence of 29 years. He reluctantly agreed to allow the UN investigator Detlev Mehlis to question Syrian officials.
Mr Mehlis, a German prosecutor, is due to report by Oct 21. According to leaks, he will name Syrian officials, although it is unclear how far he will point the finger of blame at President Assad.
America has taken soundings from regional governments on possible successors to Mr Assad.
Last modified October 6, 2005