How Syria Helped US in "War on Terror"

About five years ago I had a visit with Syrian President Bashar Al Asad, a visit when he told me that his intelligence services had uncovered a plot by Al Qaeda that would have killed American servicemen in the Middle East. He turned over the information to the U.S., which was then able to stop the operation, saving the lives of the Americans who were being targeted.

When I asked him what operation that was, he replied that, “The Americans asked me not to talk about it, but if they keep calling us a terrorist state, I will talk about it.”

After I left his office, I asked the U.S. Ambassador to Syria if what he had said was true. His reply was that not only was it true, but that President Asad had been able to stop more than one Al Qaeda attack on American interests.

Those days are gone now, the heavy handed bad-mouthing of Syria by George W. Bush causing Syria to completely stop its cooperation. Despite the results of that incompetence on the part of the Bush Administration, the denunciations by Bush have continued unabated. Bush and his people have been so anxious to please Israel that what might be good for America is no longer the basis for American actions in the Middle East.

At a lunch I attended with Margaret Scobey, who replaced Ted Kattouf as Ambassador to Syria, she commented that, “the problem we have with Syria is that they’re allowing insurgents to cross into Iraq from Syria to fight against our forces there.”

When I asked her why didn’t the United States have American troops guard the Syrian-Iraqi border to stop the fighters, her response was that the U.S. didn’t have enough troops to do so. At another meeting I had with President Al Asad, we discussed the issue, and he asked me to tell President Bush that he would like to have the U.S. Border Patrol come over and teach the Syrians how to prevent people from illegally crossing the border.

But Mr. Bush apparently learned nothing from the incompetence of his actions with Syria. However, one hopes that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi learned her lesson after her recent trip to Syria.

Although she dutifully and properly genuflected before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (The umbrella group for the Israeli Lobby) during the Committee’s recent convention in Washington, D.C., she did not retain even enough mojo to deflect the attacks that came her way because she had the temerity to visit Syria. She also earlier had pulled from legislation working its way through the House a provision that would have required President Bush to get Congressional approval before he makes war on Iran. That was done at the request of the Israeli Lobby. Such a provision might have slowed down Mr. Bush’s steady march to war, but it’s too late now. It’s gone.

What really made trouble for the Speaker was when she quoted Ehud Olmert in precise terms about his wanting to talk peace with Syria, but even the shaky Israeli Prime Minister decided to pile on the Speaker, by denouncing her, joining George Bush, Dick Cheney, The New York Post, and other assorted Middle East experts.

Because the Speaker had spent most of her political career on bended knee before Israel and its Lobby, there was no way she could have not been aware of how touchy things get when it comes to Israel. A case in point was the number of times that Syria and Iran-both members of the Axis of Evil-have offered to join in a “nuclear weapons free Middle East,” which both countries have publicly done.

I seriously doubt that many Americans, or Members of Congress for that matter, knew of the offers by Iran and Syria to keep nuclear weapons out of the area. I don’t think it matters much that both countries made the proposal out of self-preservation-they neither want nor need a nuclear arms race with Israel-but what matters is that both countries made the offer.

It is no secret that Israel has over 200 nuclear warheads plus the means to deliver them. The lesson of Iraq and North Korea is that if you want to avoid being invaded by the United States, you need to develop nuclear weapons, so it should be no surprise to anyone that Iran is now moving toward a weapons program, despite their denials.

As we witness George W. Bush almost on a daily basis threatening to go to war with Iran over the nuclear issue, much of the mainstream media has acted solely as his megaphone. While the media gives heavy coverage to his threats, there is not one word said by anyone in the media about the willingness of Syria and Iran to give up nuclear weapons. The catch here of course is that Israel would have to disarm as well, which is why both the Bush Administration and the media either have scoffed at, or have ignored completely the offer by these two countries.

Although CNN covered the Syrian offer on April 17, 2003, it’s not surprising that their chief anchorman, Wolf Blitzer, fails to mention it today. Before he became a CNN reporter, Blitzer wrote for the AIPAC newsletter, and has always believed it’s his task to protect Israel from all enemies, domestic and foreign.

BBC news covered the nuclear free announcement from Iran’s Ahmedinejad after a meeting he had in 2006 with Kuwaiti leaders, at which the Gulf Arabs expressed concerns about the Middle East becoming rife with nuclear weapons. But after that one story, it also disappeared.

I don’t think we can expect that either CNN, or FOX, MSNBC, or the three major networks would advertise any of these offers, which might, given enough coverage, slow Bush’s steady march to war.

Even if one includes North Korea, there is no more dangerous area than the Middle East, where passions run deep. A conflict there would likely draw in the United States where the neocons and the official Israeli Lobby are already pushing for an invasion of Iran. The outcome would be devastating to the entire area, if not the entire world and something should be done to prevent this coming disaster.

Nancy Pelosi, are you listening? Can you do something about it?

Jim Abourezk served as US Senator for South Dakota, 1974-1980, and practices law in his home state. He can be reached at



James Abourezk is a former US senator from South Dakota. He is the author of: Advise and Dissent: Memoirs of an ex-Senator.