Is the US Encouraging Israel to Attack Syria?

Despite Israel’s repeated insistence that it does not want an armed conflict with Syria, could the United States be encouraging the Israelis to attack Syria, or to goad the Syrians into attacking Israel first?

According to Sunday’s Jerusalem Post, IDF officials have been "receiving indications from the United States that the U.S. would be interested in seeing Israel attack Syria."

It is no secret that relations between the U.S. and Syria are extremely strained. Syria’s Ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, claims he has not met with Bush officials in a year and a half and that, despite blaming Syria for much of it, the administration isn’t willing to talk to him about the Israeli-Lebanese crisis.

Long before the current conflict, the United States described Syria as a "rogue nation" and part of the "axis of evil." As far back as three years ago, United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan thought that U.S.-Syria tensions might destabilize the Middle East.

For its part, Israel allegedly has abandoned its plans to invade southern Lebanon up to the Litani River; nevertheless, Israel has called up 30,000 reservists for training. Israel also bombed positions in Lebanon that are extremely close to the Syrian border – including the Lebanese-Syrian highway, which many refugees have used to escape fighting.

If it is indeed Israel’s plan to widen the scope of the conflict so that Syria must enter the picture, this could explain Israel’s overreaction to the capture of its two soldiers on July 12. It could also explain why the U.S. continues to support Israel in the face of almost universal condemnation for its attacks on Lebanese civilians.

Compiled by Margaret Griffis.