Could it be true that President Bush may have started a new secret, informal war against Syria and Iran without the consent of Congress?
Bush’s most recent speech at the White House, in which he announced the deployment of a few thousand extra troops in Iraq triggered extensive debate among U.S. intelligence, military and foreign policy circles, with many suggesting that the American President’s recent remarks, or actually recent moves carried a secret Executive Order to the Secretary of Defense and to the Director of the CIA to launch military operations against Syria and Iran.
The bare outlines of such order could be seen in Bush’s remarks in which he said:
“Succeeding in Iraq also requires defending its territorial integrity and stabilizing the region in the face of extremist challenges. This begins with addressing Iran and Syria. These two regimes are allowing terrorists and insurgents to use their territory to move in and out of Iraq. Iran is providing material support for attacks on American troops. We will disrupt the attacks on our forces. We'll interrupt the flow of support from Iran and Syria. And we will seek out and destroy the networks providing advanced weaponry and training to our enemies in Iraq.”
"Raising troop levels shows that the U.S. is not ready to go out of the region," says Saeed Laylaz, a political and security analyst in Tehran.
"The U.S. can't go out of [Iraq] at the moment. If they go now, there will be a bloodbath in Iraq, and it will be absolutely harmful for the majority Shias in the country. I don't think Mr. Maliki's regime can stay in power for more than week if the Americans leave."
"It seems these 21,000 new troops Mr. Bush wants to send to Iraq are not just to calm [that] country," says Mr. Laylaz.
"It means the new strategy of the U.S. in Iraq and the region is going to put more actual pressure against Iran - financial and military at the same time."
Same day Bush made his speech, vowing to crush Syria and Iran’s alleged attempts to disrupt U.S. efforts to bring stability to war-torn Iraq, U.S. occupation forces attacked an Iranian consulate in northern Iraq, seizing computers and files, and detaining five diplomats and staff.
And in recent months, media reports warned of a buildup of U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf, which implies Washington’s persistence to ignore the advice of the Iraq Study Group (ISG) to reach out to the Iraq’s two neighbors to help put an end to the spiraling violence in the country that could spread throughout the entire Middle East region.
Similar fears were aroused in Syria.
Analysts say that the American President’s words could be directed at Syria as well.
Syrian Vice President Farouq Al Sharaa said that boosting U.S. troops in Iraq would "pour oil on the fire" in the country.
U.S.-Syrian relations have been severed since the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Al Hariri two years ago.
However, and despite the continues U.S. allegations that Syria is funding and aiding what it calls “insurgents” in Iraq, Iraq-Syria ties have improved since a visit by Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem to Baghdad in November. Muallem’s visit to Baghdad restored diplomatic ties between the two countries after a break of more than 20 years because of Syria’s support to Iran during its war with Iraq. It also resulted in a security agreement that was signed between the two states.
Al Sharaa does not expect the Americans to ease their tough stance against Damascus, says Ibrahim Hamidi, the Damascus correspondent of the Arabic Al-Hayat daily, who met Sharaa earlier this week.
"If the Syrians keep on sending positive messages to the Iraqis, and if the relations with the Iraqis improve, then this may have some impact on Syria's relations with the Americans," says Mr. Hamidi. "But nothing will happen soon. It will take time."
The American President’s mentioning of deploying Patriot antimissile batteries to the region, to "reassure our friends and allies," was aimed squarely at Iran - a point not missed in Tehran.
Their arrival "is part of the U.S. policy direction to create a support umbrella for the Zionist [Israeli] regime through an Islamic country," said Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Mohammad Ali Husseini. The troop surge, he said, will only "extend insecurity, danger, and tension in the country. This will not help solve Iraq's problems."
Bush’s reference to Iran and Syria as enemies of Iraq left many analysts convinced that there is little chance of rapprochement during the remaining two years of Bush’s post, regardless of the results in Iraq.
The American President’s speech also implied intensifying the U.S. efforts to lobby support against Syria and Iraq even among Arab states, or rather, Arab U.S. friends:
“We will use America's full diplomatic resources to rally support for Iraq from nations throughout the Middle East. Countries like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan, and the Gulf States need to understand that an American defeat in Iraq would create a new sanctuary for extremists and a strategic threat to their survival. These nations have a stake in a successful Iraq that is at peace with its neighbors, and they must step up their support for Iraq's unity government. We endorse the Iraqi government's call to finalize an International Compact that will bring new economic assistance in exchange for greater economic reform. And on Friday, Secretary Rice will leave for the region, to build support for Iraq and continue the urgent diplomacy required to help bring peace to the Middle East.”
Iran and Syria denounced Bush's new plan for Iraq that blames them for fueling violence in the country, and they said the plan to send more U.S. troops would only increase bloodshed.
Instead of listening to the Iraq Study Group’s recommendations that Washington reaches out to Syria and Iran to end the current quagmire in Iraq, Bush seems intent to carry out plans to isolate the two countries