Overlapping Interests in Bush-Sharon Talks
President George W. Bush’s conversation with Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon on Monday, June 10, rounded off a series of White House consultations with Middle East leaders, starting with Saudi crown prince Abdullah and including Jordanian king Abdullah and Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak. A scarcely noticed omission was Syrian foreign minister Farouk Shara, who called off his planned trip to Washington – for very good reason.
Syria was the key issue on the Bush-Sharon agenda. The Palestinian issue figured no higher than third item down because of the broad consensus between the two leaders. The US president signed on to the Israeli prime minister’s proposition that Yasser Arafat’s administration has a long way to go towards reform before a possible Middle East summit can convene. According to the Bush statement in his joint appearance with Sharon before reporters, the conference is not there yet “because no one has confidence in the emerging Palestinian government.”
That disposed of, debkafile‘s political sources in Washington report that Sharon gave the US president a detailed rundown of the Assad regime’s active backing of terror and its involvement in plans for mega-terror attacks in Israel.
He said that Damascus, seat of the most extreme Palestinian organizations and transit station for al Qaeda operatives moving around the Middle East, was building a powder keg under Israel and regional stability by its massive arming and support of the Lebanese Hizballah; not just thousands of 220mm Katyusha rockets, missiles, artillery and ammunition, but also chemical warheads for the group’s short-range missiles. Syria, said the Israeli prime minister, is topping up Iranian airlifted supplies for the Hizballah of weapons systems and heavy weapons via Damascus.
He added that President Bashar Assad is not acting on his own. He is the recipient of quiet political and financial support from the Saudi crown prince Abdullah. To all intents and purposes, the Saudi rulers are keeping their hands clean of abetting Islamic terrorists; instead, they pay the Syrian leader to act on their behalf. Assad pushes his Saudi patron’s real agenda in the Middle East while the crown prince is free to promote his Middle East peace plan in Washington behind a blameless facade.
On May 21 or 22, the presidential palace in Damascus gave Hizballah leaders the green light – plus logistical and military support – to liaise with the Palestinians for concurrent terror operations inside Israel, by means of the seven or eight Hizballah cells planted across the border. In the Gaza Strip, they operate in conjunction with “popular resistance committees”, Islamic groups and Muhamed Dahlan’s security apparatus; in the West Bank and among Israeli Arabs, they are partnered by the Jihad Islami and the Israeli Islamic Movement under the overall command of West Bank general intelligence and al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades chief Col. Tawfiq Tirawi.
Last month, Syrian military intelligence instructed Syria’s protege, Ahmed Jibril, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, to send Gaza Strip Palestinians a supply of motorized parachutes and gliders made in Spain, Italy and Germany to facilitate incursions across into Israel for mega-terror operations.
In view of the explosive terror build-up orchestrated from Damascus – and coordinated at the strategic level also with Yasser Arafat and Saddam Hussein – Sharon is quoted by debkafile‘s political sources in Washington as advising Bush that a Middle East peace conference, like the one urged by the US State Department, would simply be the cue for a major flare-up on Israel’s northern frontier and/or a mega-terror attack to sabotage any peace efforts. The same applied to any serious consideration of the Saudi crown prince’s peace proposal.
According to debkafile‘s military sources, Bush also conferred with Sharon on America’s military preparations for its campaign against Iraq, in particular, areas of overlapping interests, such as defending Jordan against Iraqi invasion or attack and US-Israel defenses against Iraqi chemical or biological attack on Israel or US military targets in the Middle East.
Tuesday, June 11, the Israeli prime minister zipped round Washington, touring Capitol Hill, meeting leaders of Congress and members of the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Monday and Tuesday, he called on Vice President Dick Cheney, National Security Adviser Condaleezza Rice and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz. He also conferred with American Jewish leaders, before taking off for home via London for a brief encounter with Tony Blair.