FLASHBACK TO 2003: "MAJOR COMBAT IN IRAQ IS OVER, U.S. WARNS ROGUE SYRIA"
compiled by Cem Ertür
16 April 2014
Living in an age of dis-information, not many people do remember the deadly serious Anglo-American threats of war against Syria on the 26th day of the “shock and awe” genocide in Iraq.
The Guardian, 14 April 2003
Chicago Tribune, 15 April 2003
Le Figaro, 15 April 2003
After Iraq, is it Syria’s turn?
While the GIs [i.e. U.S. troops] take control of most of the Iraqi territory, Washington suspects Damascus’ duplicity
La Stampa, 15 April 2003
Bush: "Syria is a terrorist state"
The White House threatens sanctions, Damascus replies: We do not have chemical weapons. The city of Saddam has fallen too.
Libération, 15 April 2003
Threats against Damascus
Strengthened by their military success in Iraq, the Americans put pressure on Syria, which is accused of having helped Baghdad, and evoke sanctions.
El Pais, 15 April 2003
United States threatens Syria with reprisals for collaborating with Saddam
Aznar will put pressure on Damascus after asking Bush Washington insists that Syria is a “terrorist State” that manufactures weapons of mass destruction.
Le Monde, 15 April 2003
Tikrit surrenders, Syria threatened
The U.S. army takes the fiefdom of Saddam Hussein’s clan.
Washington calls into question Syria’s arsenal and requires Damascus’ cooperation.
Note: A special thanks to Les Blough and Giovanni Carlo Bettinelli for translating the excerpts from El Pais and La Stampa respectively.
The White House this morning [April 14, 2003] escalated sharp diplomatic warnings to Syria, which the [Bush] administration accused of harboring former Iraqi leaders and developing chemical weapons.
Without making a specific threat to Syria, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, at his morning briefing, said repeatedly that "Syria needs to cooperate." He read from a CIA report to Congress last year that Syria had stockpiles of the nerve agent sarin, that it was "trying to develop more toxic and persistent nerve elements," and that it was "highly probable" that Syria was pursuing biological weapons. Fleischer described the document as "authoritative" and said the charge is "well corroborated."
Fleischer declined to dispel the impression that administration was targeting Syria for stronger diplomatic or even military measures. "I can only say to you that it should not be unexpected that the United States for a considerable period of time has said through diplomatic channels that nations that are rogue nations need to clean up their act," he said. "They should not harbor terrorists. They should not produce weapons of mass destruction." […]
"With respect to Syria, of course we will examine possible measures of a diplomatic, economic or other nature as we move forward," [U.S. Secretary of State Colin] Powell told reporters after talks with Kuwait Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammad al-Salem al-Sabah.
"In light of this new environment they [Syria] should review their actions and their behavior, not only with respect to who gets haven in Syria and weapons of mass destruction but especially the support of terrorist activity," Powell added. 
On April 15, Secretary Powell [said] "Iraq was a unique case": "There is no war plan to go and attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or imposing democratic values. ... There is no 'list'..."
UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw (April 14) told reporters in Kuwait: "As far as 'Syria is next on the list', we made clear that it is not... There is no 'next' list... There are important questions which the Syrians need to answer." Straw continued: "There is much evidence of considerable cooperation between the Syrian government and the Saddam regime in recent months... It is very important for Syria to appreciate that there is a new reality now the Saddam regime is gone, and that its policies reflect that new reality... Syria [must] fully cooperate over these questions that have been raised about the fact that some fugitives from Iraq may well have fled into Syria, and other matters including whether they have in fact been developing any kind of illegal or illegitimate chemical or biological arms..." 
[U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said] “Well, first I would say that we have seen the chemical weapons tests in Syria over the past 12, 15 months. And second, that we have intelligence that shows that Syria has allowed Syrians and others to come across the border into Iraq, people armed and people carrying leaflets indicating that they'll be rewarded if they kill Americans and members of the coalition.” 
The White House has privately ruled out suggestions that the US should go to war against Syria following its military success in Iraq, and has blocked preliminary planning for such a campaign in the Pentagon, the Guardian learned yesterday.
In the past few weeks, the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, ordered contingency plans for a war on Syria to be reviewed following the fall of Baghdad. Meanwhile, his undersecretary for policy, Doug Feith, and William Luti, the head of the Pentagon's office of special plans, were asked to put together a briefing paper on the case for war against Syria, outlining its role in supplying weapons to Saddam Hussein, its links with Middle East terrorist groups and its allegedly advanced chemical weapons programme. […]
Faced with rising apprehension over the prospect of a new conflict, [British Prime Minister] Tony Blair also offered categorical assurances to anxious MPs yesterday that Britain and the US had "no plans whatsoever" to invade Iraq's neighbour. Dismissing fears of an Anglo-American invasion as another "conspiracy theory", the prime minister said that Mr Bush had never mentioned an attack on Syria during their regular talks. "I have the advantage of talking to the American president on a regular basis and I can assure you there are no plans to invade Syria," he said. […]
Mr Blair made clear to Syria yesterday that it must not accept high-level political fugitives or weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. "It is important Syria does not harbour people from Saddam's regime or allow any transfer of [weapons of mass destruction] material from Iraq to Syria. I have spoken to President Assad and he has assured me that is not happening and I have said it is important that assurance is valid," Mr Blair told MPs. […]
[The British] defence secretary, Geoff Hoon […] warned that Britain had had concerns for some time about Syria's desire to develop weapons of mass destruction. Mr Hoon referred to a government paper, presented to parliament in February last year, which raised questions about Syria's weapons programme. The document said that Syria was one of five countries attempting to "obtain inventories of longer-range ballistic missiles". The other countries included North Korea, Iran, Iraq and Libya. 
[minutes of the session at the British Parliament on April 14, 2003]
UK Parliament website, 14 April 2003
Conservative Party leader Iain Duncan Smith: […] Does the Prime Minister [Blair] accept that there is a danger that the coalition [countries] will give out mixed messages, particularly with regard to Syria? We understand that the Prime Minister has spoken to President Assad, and that he has sent a Minister to speak to the regime directly. Meanwhile, the American Government have said: "There's got to be a change in Syria ... The Syrians need to know they'll be held to account." Is the Prime Minister's view the same as the [Bush] Administration's in Washington? […]
Prime Minister Tony Blair: […] In relation to Syria, the issue concerns any attempt by Syria to harbour people who are leading members of the Iraqi regime. When the US or anyone else talks about holding them to account, they mean in respect of that matter. I spoke to President Bashar Assad over the weekend, and he assured me that they would interdict anyone crossing the border from Iraq into Syria. I believe that they are doing that. The Foreign Office Minister will be present in Damascus to have further talks on the issue. Some of the wilder surmises in the media at the moment are simply not correct: there are no plans whatever to invade Syria. […]
Liberal Democrats leader Charles Kennedy: […] The Prime Minister also spoke about Syria. A few days ago he said, and I use his words, that Syria should make a decisive break with its previous policies. To which policies was he referring? Were those policies in place when the President of Syria met Her Majesty the Queen officially not long ago? On the radio this morning, the Foreign Secretary [Jack Straw] said that he was unsure whether Syria had been developing chemical or biological weapons. He said that questions needed to be answered. What exactly will those questions be in the course of this weekend's discussions with the President of Syria? […]
Prime Minister Tony Blair: […] On what was said about Syria and the break with previous policies, support for terrorism—terrorism that deeply, adversely affects the Middle East peace process—should stop, and it should stop irrespective of what has happened in relation to Iraq. We have continually made that clear to Syria. On chemical weapons, people are simply pointing out that Syria is not a signatory to the chemical weapons convention. If Syria does have chemical weapons in its possession, it should be a signatory. […]
Tam Dalyell (Labour Party): The Prime Minister said that there were "no plans", as he put it, to invade Syria or to take action against Syria, but does not he know that there are people in Washington with an agenda—James Wolsey in particular—who go on and on about the need for regime change in other countries of the Middle East? Do we have the unambiguous assurance that the British Government will not in any circumstances support military action against Syria?
Prime Minister Tony Blair: I said that there are no plans whatever to invade Syria. All sorts of things may come out of the newspapers about various conspiracy theories to do with parts of the American Administration, but I have the advantage of talking regularly to the American President and I can assure my hon. Friend that there are no plans to invade Syria. What people are saying, however, is that it is important that Syria does not harbour people from Saddam's regime or allow any transfer of [weapons of mass destruction] material from Iraq to Syria. I have spoken to President Assad and he has assured me that that is not happening. I have told him that it is important that he makes sure that that assurance is valid. […]
Anne Campbell (Labour Party): If it is found or strongly suspected that members of Saddam's regime are taking shelter in Syria, or that Syria is hiding weapons of mass destruction, what action would my right hon. Friend take to persuade Syria to give them up?
Prime Minister Tony Blair: We have said that Syria should hand any people from the [Iraqi] regime who may take refuge in Syria to the coalition forces. I have to say in fairness that the President of Syria has said that he does not believe that there are any such people in Syria. In relation to chemical weapons, I have nothing to add to what I said earlier, but there are conventions governing these things to which countries who have such weapons should be signatories. […]
Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party): The Prime Minister says that there are no plans whatever to invade Syria, but [U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense] Mr. Wolfowitz is quoted as saying that Syria is a problem that needs to be dealt with. At the third time of asking, can the Prime Minister give the only commitment that he can give under these circumstances: United Kingdom forces will not participate in an attack against Syria?
Prime Minister Tony Blair: There are no plans to invade Syria, so it stands to reason that we do not intend to invade Syria. When one looks at the statements that are supposed to come out of various parts of the [U.S.] Administration and one analyses their context, one finds that the context is the concern, which is why I spoke to the President of Syria: it is that Syria may be acting in a way, first, to support Iraqi forces, and, most latterly, to give refuge to members of the Iraqi regime. That is the problem with which we are trying to deal. It is being dealt with by my conversations with the President [of Syria], and by the Americans and us making it clear what is acceptable or unacceptable. I suspect that this is another conspiracy theory that in time will fade away, but I have no doubt that it will be replaced swiftly by a fresh one.
Tony Lloyd (Labour Party): The Prime Minister deserves the support of the whole House [of Parliament] in the tone that he has set on the need to build co-operation and on a new spirit with the other permanent members of the [United Nations] Security Council—France, Russia and China. If we are to get back to the tasks of the war on terrorism and the building of the Middle East peace process, that co-operation will be important much further afield. […] In that context, does my right hon. Friend recognise that the loud and strident voices in Washington on the question of Syria lead precisely to the suspicions that have been raised in the House [of Parliament] today? Will he pass on to Washington the words of [European Union's High Representative for Common Foreign and Security Policy] Javier Solana that perhaps now is the time for a rather quieter period from Washington?
Prime Minister Tony Blair: To be fair, often people give the answers when they are asked the questions and that is one of the things that happens when there are constant debates and discussions. I think that the concerns that people have expressed about Syria are very clear and policy has not changed at all in relation to that. There has been a particular concern because of reports that senior [Iraqi] regime figures were taking refuge in Syria. However, the worries about Syria's support for terrorist activity in connection with the Israel-Palestine issue are well known and have been there for a long time. I can only repeat what I said earlier. When my hon. Friend reads the context in which the remarks were made, he will find them a lot less alarming. […]
Andrew Tyrie (Conservative Party): Three times the Prime Minister has been asked about Syria, in response to which he has said that there are no plans to deploy force against Syria. The trouble is that that phrase has been used by the Prime Minister and many others in other contexts just before they have done exactly the opposite—for example, the Prime Minister said, "I have no plans to raise taxes at all." Can the Prime Minister find more forceful language to allay the concerns of the conspiracy theorists?
Prime Minister Tony Blair: Let us not get into manifesto commitments on tax, which were very clear. I think that I have made the position clear enough. If people continue to raise that issue, it can only be because they are not listening to the very clear answer that is being given. I have given that answer throughout our proceedings today and give it again now: we have absolutely no plans whatsoever to invade Syria. I cannot put it any clearer than that. It is clear enough, I think, for most people. What is important is to recognise that no one on the other side of the water, so far as I am concerned, has said that there are such plans. We are in a situation in which I am asked about the latest conspiracy theory. Once it has been laid to rest, I have no doubt that will be replaced by the next one, as I said.
Richard Burden (Labour Party): May I say to my right hon. Friend that I have listened to what he said and have no reason to doubt his sincerity in relation to Syria? However, many of us are deeply troubled by some statements on Syria that have been made by sources around the Pentagon, and sometimes by people in the Pentagon itself and the White House. If we are to win Syria's co-operation for a Middle East peace and its confidence in becoming a full member of that part of the world, would not it be better for the United States to be a bit more unambiguous and to acknowledge to Syria that we have some concern about the fact that parts of its territory have been occupied illegally since 1967?
Prime Minister Tony Blair: The best way to resolve that is through a reinvigorated Middle East peace process that deals with the Syrian track as well. I have engaged in a dialogue with Syria and its President over the past few months precisely to try, through partnership, to deal with the issues of concern in respect of Syria. I hope and believe that we can deal with them in that way. After the debate about whether Syria is harbouring [Iraqi] regime figures—to be fair, the president [of Syria] has made it clear that it is not—and when we get the Middle East peace process back under way, it will be important for Syria and other countries in the region to stop any support for terrorist groups whose aim is to disrupt the very peace process that everyone wants. […]
Mark Simmonds (Conservative Party): I have listened carefully to the Prime Minister's chosen and considered words in response to questions about Syria. I should like him to assure the House [of Parliament] that not only will there be no invasion, but there will be no air strikes and no military incursions into Syria without United Nations resolutions under chapter VII.
Prime Minister Tony Blair: I really do not think that I can make the situation any clearer. If the hon. Gentleman reads my words he will see that they provide all the clarity that anyone could possibly wish for.
 White House Escalates Diplomatic Pressure on Syria
Action Comes as U.S. Suspects Syria of Developing Chemical Weapons
by Dana Milbank, Washington Post, 14 April 2003
Disarmament Diplomacy, No. 71, June/July 2003
U.S. Department of Defense website, 14 April 2003
by Julian Borger, Michael White, Ewen MacAskill and Nicholas Watt, The Guardian, 15 April 2003
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