Former U.S. Secretary of State: Syria, Not Iraq, Should Be Next Target in War Against Terrorism

Published January 11th, 2002 - 02:00 GMT

General Alexander M. Haig, Jr., who has held three high ranking positions in past U.S. administrations, namely - Secretary of State, White House Chief of Staff, and NATO supreme commander, said that Syria, not Iraq, should be the next target in the war against terrorism. 

 

In an interview earlier this week with UPI, Haig said that Syria's "footprints" are much clearer than Iraq's, but added "This doesn't mean that Iraq isn't a more venal threat ... ". 

 

"Syria" Haig declared "is a terrorist state by any definition and is so classified by the State Department. I happen to think Iran is, too." 

 

The downfall of Bin Laden's Al Qaeda terror network in Afghanistan "did not neutralize the venality of other (terrorist) tentacles, such as Islamic Jihad, Hamas and Hezbollah," he explained, organizations that would not hesitate to provide assistance to al Qaeda members. Syria and Iran, he claimed, are the sponsors of these “terrorist” groups, not Iraq. 

 

Haig pointed out that it would take an estimated 100,000 combat troops for the United States to take on Iraq. "We have to recognize that we had far more people over there the first time than we ever needed" he stated, referring to the 1991 war. 

 

"The Gulf War itself was fought essentially by two units." Haig added. "Saddam is not part of a transnational terrorist network. Which is not to say he is not a threat to the entire Gulf region with his growing arsenal of weapons of mass destruction. Because he is”. 

 

Haig set things straight "First and foremost we must go after hydra-headed al Qaeda's global tentacles. These Islamist terrorists look upon their defeat in Afghanistan as the loss of a piece of real estate on the larger canvas of Islamist fundamentalist extremism that has developed roots in some forty Muslim countries and which has cells all over the Western world, including the United States ".  

 

However, the retired General continued "Iraq doesn't belong on this canvas. International terrorism continues to be the mission. So Iraq is not an immediate priority. There are several factors that will determine future targets. First of all, our capability to deal with them effectively and efficiently. Also evidence of their culpability, conflicting priorities with other objectives, and how much time we have before the venality of these regimes becomes a bigger threat than the evidence we have."  

 

Upon being asked whether culpability had been proved in Iraq in the context of “international terrorism”, Haig replied that there has been "a great deal of culpability in Iraq for the past ten years, but not necessarily as a branch of Global Terror, Inc. Iraq is a substantial target, but not an insurmountable one” Haig assured.  

 

“We've proven that. And it won't be as tough a nut next time as Iraq is now a much-weakened state. But we still have to assess the situation against our worldwide commitments, our current forces levels and capabilities, our priorities for dealing with transnational terrorism, and our intelligence with respect to the nature of the targets we develop." 

 

Haig also implied that the United States does not have sufficient troops on the ground in Afghanistan "given the magnitude of the problems we now face (there). A major U.S. force on the ground would convince the world we were in for the long haul recovery of a country devastated by twenty one years of warfare" he said.  

 

"We lost interest in Afghanistan and left it in the lurch after the Soviets pulled out in 1989 - and paid a terrible price for our shortsightedness, witness the emergence of Taliban and al Qaeda. If we are to thwart another round of warlordism and tribal warfare, such as what followed the Soviet withdrawal, and encourage the Afghans to get on with rebuilding their own nation, U.S. assistance, diplomacy and a muscular military presence will be required." 

 

"In Desert Storm", Haig mentioned "we had too many troops; in Afghanistan probably not enough for the major commitment we have made." He blamed the insufficiency of current force levels on the previous Clinton administration. 

 

With all the various commitments made by former President Bill Clinton "and a continued reduction in our manpower base in all the services, we should be asking ourselves whether or not we have sufficient forces to cope with a global war against terrorism that involves several nation states. Sooner or later something had to give. But President Bush, faced with the unprecedented affront of September 11, could not wait to take action. So he had to do what we were capable of doing and he did it brilliantly ... he achieved maximum success despite a number of formidable restraints." (Albawaba.com) 

© 2002 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)


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