Just as Bush is trumpeting claims that Syria is planning to re-intervene in Lebanon, comes a disturbing June 8 story from the New York Sun, claiming that the familiar “regime change” formula is about to be applied to Damascus:
At the State Department, the Bureau of Near East Affairs and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor have asked Congress for explicit legal authority to fund liberal opposition parties inside Syria through regional initiatives that have hitherto focused on reforming American allies such as Jordan and Egypt, two administration officials told The New York Sun.
As in Belarus, Cuba and Uzbekistan, the Syrian opposition (or significant elements of it) seem to be eagerly taking Bush’s bait:
A front-page story ran yesterday in the influential, Saudi-owned Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat, which quoted anonymous Bush administration sources as saying that their “advice to Mr. Assad is to retire.” Arab journalists here on Monday were briefed by Assistant Secretary of State for Near East Affairs David Welch.
The story yesterday prompted an exiled opposition group, the Reform Party of Syria, to send out an e-mail proclaiming that the State Department for the first time had endorsed “regime change” for Syria. “These are the pre-steps to the final countdown of the Assad regime. America is already preparing for the alternative, which is democracy,” the president of the Reform Party of Syria, Farid Ghadry, said yesterday.
So once again, the opposition cedes to Bashar Assad the facile strategy of portraying them as American agents—an epithet which will doubtless also be applied to those sectors of the opposition which do not seek Washington’s aid and tutelage. And if the American left responds merely by rallying around the Assad regime, those sectors will be even more isolated—making us strangely complicit with Bush as well as Assad. So we ask again: where are those sectors in Syria who are both pro-democracy and anti-imperialist, who oppose both Assad and Bush? Finding them and loaning some solidarity strikes us as extremely urgent.