Thursday, October 20, 2005

Rice Increases Pressure on Syria, Iran

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice refused to rule out the use of military force against Syria and Iran. She also asserted that the President would not need to consult Congress before authorizing an expansion of the War on Terror into nations neighboring Iraq. (Boston Globe: Rice won't rule out armed action against Syria, Iran).

The most likely scenario as described by Rice involves military raids against Syrian towns along the Iraqi border in an effort to flush insurgents using those towns as a home-base for terrorist attacks in Iraq. Said Rice, ''I don't want to try and circumscribe presidential war powers. I think you'll understand fully that the president retains those powers in the war on terrorism and in the war in Iraq."

That assertion should generate some interesting debate in Congress over presidential authority in time of war. A move into Syria would be reminiscent of the invasion of Cambodia authorized by President Nixon during the Vietnam War to pursue the Viet Cong terrorist groups based in that neighboring country. Unlike Cambodia, however, Syria has the military capability of retaliating in their own defense. Thus, raids against Syrian towns would constitute an escalation into war with Syria.

Given Syria's unwillingness to contain the insurgency on their side of the border, coupled with their unwillingness to prevent illegal border crossings, such a move by the US military is increasingly likely. It is also increasingly likely that there would be little support for such a move both in Congress and with the American people and would further erode President Bush's faltering approval numbers.

Despite the unpopularity of such a move, it truly is a necessary expansion of the war. The insurgents have been pushed to the border towns and are now operating most frequently out of towns just across the border in Syria. To date, they have operated with impunity because they are thus far safe from military reprisal. Unless Syria heeds the warnings and takes action against the insurgents on their soil, the US hand will be forced and you will see US and Iraqi troops cross into Syria.

The ball is currently in Syria's court. As Condoleezza Rice correctly stated, ''Syria and indeed Iran must decide whether they wish to side with the cause of war or with the cause of peace." The wrong choice will plunge both of them into the midst of open war with the US.


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