While the Democratic presidential contenders squabble among themselves over an exit strategy from Iraq, most of them agree that Israel had the right to attack Syria last week. That gives Bush a political green light to have at Syria, if not with American troops then at least through Israel.
And thanks to Tom DeLay, invigorated by his recent trip to the region, Congress is near ready to pass legislation giving the president authority to impose sanctions on Syria. The House plans to act this week and the Senate later in the month. Syrians laugh off sanctions on the grounds that they trade with Europe, not the U.S., but Syria is heavily dependent on Iraqi oil, and the U.S. has shut off the pipeline.
Taking out Syria is the next step in the neocon wet dream for remaking the Muslim world. Iran, Saudi Arabia, maybe Jordan, and Libya are the other targets.
Israel is becoming more and more active as a U.S. military surrogate in the Middle East. Last weekend Der Spiegel reported that Israel was ready to launch an attack against Iran's nuclear sites to prevent them from becoming operational. And, basing its reports on U.S. government sources, the Los Angeles Times claimed that Israel could fire nuclear-modified U.S.-made Harpoon cruise missiles from its submarines. The Israeli nuclear arsenal is believed to include 100 to 200 warheads that can be delivered by missiles, planes, and submarines. The Israelis claim there are no restrictions on converting Harpoons so that they can deliver nuclear warheads.
But as the war in the Middle East expands, Israel's role is coming under scrutiny. Israel has been getting about $3 billion in U.S. aid every year, but now because of its own economic problems and the cost of fighting off suicide bombings, it is asking for $4 billion in additional military aid and $8 billion in loan guarantees.