US ‘seeks new Syrian leader' as pressure mounts
By Guy Dinmore
Washington - October 9, 2005 | Source:
As it steps up pressure on Damascus, the US is actively seeking an
alternative who would take over from President Bashar al-Assad, according to
sources close to the Bush administration.
Washington has consulted its allies in an inter-agency search coordinated by
Stephen Hadley, the president's national security adviser. The US is also said
to be considering military strikes on the Syrian border in response to its
alleged support for Iraqi insurgents.
“They are tasking inside and outside the administration with finding an
alternative. They would like to find someone to give them a soft landing,” said
a former official who asked not to be named. “They would probably accept a
military figure but it would be very hard to identify someone to step in and
work with the US.”
A US official in Washington said policy was aimed at “behaviour change”, not
In Cairo on Sunday David Welch, a senior State Department official, spoke of US
concerns over Syria's “interference” in Iraq, Lebanon and the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. “These are very, very difficult issues, and we
would ask the Syrian government not to interfere in such matters.
“It appears they are not listening and it seems that this behavior is not
changing,” Mr. Welch told reporters after meeting Hosni Mubarak, the Egyptian
President George W. Bush, in an important speech last week on the war on terror
and the ideology of Islamic radicalism, denounced Syria and Iran as “outlaw
regimes” that acted as “allies of convenience” to the militants.
The US, Mr. Bush said, would not make a distinction between those who committed
acts of terrorism and those that supported them. Syria and Iran “deserve no
patience from the victims of terror”. Flynt Leverett, analyst at the Brookings
Institution think-tank, believes the Bush administration is looking at mounting
cross-border military operations into Syria.
He said that the objective was to put pressure on the regime and get the message
to Syrians inside or out-side the government that it was time to “dump” Mr.
A US official told the FT last week Syria had made the “unwise choice” of
“allowing its territory to be part of the Iraqi battlefield”.