Washington Shakes Big Stick on Way to War

US President George W. Bush is straining at the leash.
debkafile‘s Washington sources report that, although the White House and secretary of state Colin Powell are conducting intensive diplomatic bargaining to broaden the US-led bloc for the coming military offensive against the international terror blight, Bush and Vice President Richard Cheney are determined to march on the enemy without waiting for the bargaining to run its course.
Their plan is to launch round one of the campaign against Iraq and the Saudi Islamic terrorist Osama Bin Laden’s Afghan strongholds – expected to last a month or two. When the second round, which will also be directed at terrorist movements other than Bin Laden’s Al Qaeda, is in full flight – only then will the US seek the cooperation of countries hosting the terrorist bases or bordering on them.
US leaders are pushing ahead, even while taking into account that the first US troop advance on terrorist strongholds could unleash a second wave of terrorist violence against US military bases, in an attempt to disrupt the US war effort, maximize American war casualties at the front and at home and demoralize the American people.
Israel is making its own preparations for the coming US campaign. Its air force, navy, missile and air defense units, as well as its air force and navy units based in Turkey are on the ready. So too is the home front. Israelis are terrified of a repetition of the 1991 Gulf War, when 39 Iraqi Scud missiles rained down on the country and the Shamir Government bowed to Washington’s demand not to respond. No one is ruling out an Iraqi counter-strike against Israel if attacked by the United States, but debkafile‘s sources strongly doubt that Israel will stay out of the fray if attacked.
debkafile‘s Washington sources reveal that one of the most drastic steps taken by the US today was to hand a blunt ultimatum to President Bashar Assad, demanding that he close down the offices and headquarters of the extremist Palestinian terrorist organizations operating out of Damascus under the auspices of Syrian military intelligence: the Islamic Hamas and Jihad Islami, both of which habitually practice suicide bomb attacks on Israeli civilians, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine led by George Habash, Naif Hawatmeh’s Democratic Popular Front, The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command, headed by Ahmed Jibril, as well as the PKP, the violent Kurdish Democratic Party.
Assad was presented with a named list of the men to be detained forthwith, some of whom the FBI would request for questioning for leads into the Palestinian terror labyrinth. Assad faces a tough choice here since Syrian military intelligence, an important prop of his regime, is an integral part of that labyrinth. On the other hand, failing to comply with the US ultimatum will count against the Damascus regime as a refusal to cooperate with the American war against terrorism.
Interestingly, debkafile‘s intelligence sources note, the American ultimatum does not include the Lebanese Shiite Hizballah. At this point, the US prefers not to view that extremist group as no part of the Syrian problem. At some stage, the Hizballah will be reviewed in the context of any cooperation developing with Iran and Lebanon. Powell told the CNN Sunday that anti-terror cooperation with Syria and Iran is “worth exploring”.

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