The Bush Administration is ratcheting up the pressure
The State Department in recent weeks has issued a series of rhetorical broadsides against Syria, using language harsher than that usually reserved for U.S. adversaries. On Friday, the administration criticized a planned visit there by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"It's the new Cuba - no language is too tough," said one of the officials, who like others insisted on anonymity to discuss internal government planning.
The campaign appears to fly in the face of the recommendations last December of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, which urged President Bush to engage diplomatically with Syria to stabilize Iraq and address the Arab-Israeli conflict. The White House largely ignored that recommendation, agreeing only to talk with Syria about Iraqi refugees and to attend a Baghdad conference where envoys from Iran and Syria were present.
Some officials who are aware of the campaign say they fear its real aim is to weaken or even overthrow Assad and to ensure that he can't thwart the creation of an international tribunal to investigate the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. A U.N. report has implicated Syrian and Lebanese officials in the murder.
The officials say the campaign bears the imprint of Elliott Abrams, a conservative White House aide in charge of pushing Bush's global democracy agenda.
Elliott Abrams--with the way Republicans rehabilitate their own, Kyle Sampson will be attorney general in 20 years.