In an unusual statement, the White House said it was “increasingly concerned by mounting evidence that the Syrian and Iranian governments, Hezbollah and their Lebanese allies are preparing plans to topple Lebanon’s democratically elected government.”
American officials who were pressed today about the assertion on Lebanon said they had evidence that Syria and Iran were trying to engineer the creation of a new “unity” government that they could control, partly through the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. One senior American official, who did not want to be identified because he was discussing an intelligence issue, said there were also indications of “planning for a more violent” attack on the government, but he gave no details.
In the White House statement, issued by President Bush’s press secretary, Tony Snow, the administration said there were “indications” that Syria was trying to block passage of a statute by the Lebanese Parliament that would cooperate with an international tribunal being put together to try those accused of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. In a warning to Syria, the statement said the tribunal would be established “no matter what happens in Lebanon.”
Syrian intelligence officials, including close family members of President Bashar al-Assad, have been implicated in the attack. Syria has denied being involved in the attack in February 2005, which ultimately led to protests that forced Syria to withdraw its troops from Lebanon after nearly three decades.
In interviews in recent days, senior American officials have alluded less directly to concerns about Syrian and Iranian interference in Lebanon’s affairs. They have suggested that the concerns are one reason that the United States could not engage in negotiations with Syria or Iran, as several leading Republicans, including former Secretary of State James A. Baker III, have urged.
“Talking isn’t a strategy,” the president’s national security adviser, Stephen J. Hadley, said in an interview late last week, before he headed to Iraq. “The issue is how can we condition the environment that that Iran and Syria will make a 180-degree turn,” he said.
The New York Times
November 01, 2006