Would McCain Negotiate With Syria?

Check out this very interesting interview with the Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha at Foreign Policy magazine. He says clearly that the US raid into

Check out this very interesting interview with the Syrian ambassador Imad Moustapha at Foreign Policy magazine.

He says clearly that the US raid into Syria was a "criminal, terrorist act", that it was done for reasons of US politics, that it blind-sided State who he had been negotiating with...and that Joe Lieberman personally assured him that McCain will negotiate with Syria if he wins.

Foreign Policy: The United States claims its Sunday night raid was undertaken to stem the flow of militants into Iraq. Why do you think this raid happened?

Imad Moustapha: Do we know why? Of course not. The only analysis we have is that they are doing this for pure domestic political reasons that have everything to do with the elections and the electoral campaign. They want to come out with a story.

But we are still waiting for the U.S. administration to come out and tell the American people: “We killed [Abu Ghadiya], and here is the proof that we killed him.” We have presented our side of the story. We have published the photos of the eight people that were killed, their names, and what they were doing. This is our side of the story. Let the United States come with its side.

... Suddenly, after everybody has recognized that the situation has improved dramatically in Iraq, [the United States] comes and they attack a village in Syria. They coldbloodedly murder eight Syrian civilians, villagers who are totally defenseless, totally innocent. This is a terrorist, criminal act.

The implication here is that the Bush administration wanted to boost McCain's standing in the poills with a little shock and awe and, since Iraq just doesn't provide the requisite level of fearmongering any more and attacking Iran would be too big a can of worms to open, they decided to launch a raid into the weaker neighbour.

Ambassador Moustapha continues by pointing out that Syria has had tens of thousands of troops trying to interdict their border with Iraq - at American behest - for years now. (And despite reports to the contrary, seems to have no intention of reducing that presence now.) However the US with its considerably greater resources has done less than Syria has to stem the flow of smugglers and militants.

Why didn’t [the United States] stop [the insurgents] for five years? They are the most powerful, advanced nation in the whole world. Their military size is at least 500 times our military’s size. Their military hardware is zillions of times more advanced than ours. If we can stop them, the United States can do a 10,000-times better job than us.

Each border in the world has two sides. I would say to [U.S. officials]: “We are doing everything possible within our means to stop them. These are porous borders. These are our means and capabilities. Prior to your war on Iraq, we used to have a couple of hundred of soldiers across this border. Because of your invasion and occupation of Iraq, we increased the numbers to tens of thousands.”

...Syria is not a rich country. We were not supposed to build dormitories and posts there just to help the American invasion of Iraq. However, we had to do this for one simple reason: If the United States believed that there are insurgents crossing the border into Iraq, we will not give the United States a pretext to attack Syria.

Well, that plan didn't work for the Syrians. Why not? The ambassador, without naming names, points to Cheney and the neocons and in so doing lays out evidence that Rice and State were blindsided:

...only last month in New York in September, while we were attending the U.N. General Assembly meetings, [U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice out of the blue requested a meeting with our foreign minister. So we sat with her, and the meeting was pleasant. Two days later, this meeting was followed with an extensive, in-depth meeting with Assistant Secretary of State David Welch. Every issue was discussed, and in general the overwhelming tone of the meeting was very positive. He told us clearly that the United States was reevaluating its policies towards Syria. We thought, “Things [are] finally starting to move in the right direction.”

And suddenly, this [raid in eastern Syria] happens. I don’t believe the guys from the State Department were actually deceiving us. I believe they genuinely wanted to engage diplomatically and politically with Syria. We believe that other powers within the administration were upset with these meetings and they did this exactly to undermine the whole new atmosphere.

That would fit well with reports that General Petraeus wanted to go talk to Syria too, but was prevented from doing so by Cheney. The purpose of all this is twofold - to give McCain and Republicans a foreign policy talking point in the lead-up to Tuesday and to perhaps complicate Obama's first few months in office. Just how much of a complication that could be came today as, in reaction to the Syria raid, Iraq wants to remove any possibility that U.S. troops could remain after 2011 from a proposed security agreement now under negotiation. If the the SOFA talks stall and the UN security agreement expires at the end of the year, leaving US forces in a legal limbo, the Bush administration will have deliberately set up Obama for the "crisis" that Republicans have been claiming would come in the first six months of an Obama presidency.

Yet despite the McCain camp's echoing of the neocon/Cheney faction's "no appeasement" rhetoric on Syria, the ambassador charges that they're lying through their teeth in public, again for partisan base-boilstering purposes.

I have reason to believe that even if [Senator John] McCain becomes president of the United States, he will also be inclined to sit and talk with Syria. I can tell you this on the record: Senator Joe Lieberman, who is supposed to be very close to McCain, has said this explicitly and very clearly to me personally.

Then again, maybe Joe was just lying to the ambassador.

Congressman Kucinch "We Must Question the Timing. We are on the eve of national elections and we must be mindful of the Administration's past manipulation of security issues in order to influence public opinion."

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