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April 18, 2003

Bush ready to fight war on two fronts (Ted Belman)

Defeat of Saddam does not end US ambitions in the Middle East. The friends of President Bush have grand plans to create an American Imperium - and to consolidate their power at home

Ed Vulliamy in Washington, Sunday April 13, 2003, The Observer

The last shot of the war in Iraq will be the starting pistol for two further campaigns by the administration of President George W Bush. One will be fought in the region: no one really believes America's project is confined to Iraq. The toppling of Saddam is first base in what Michael Ledeen, leading thinker among the neo-conservatives driving foreign policy, calls 'a war to remake the world'.

The second front will be the home one: unlike his father - who lost an election the year after driving Saddam Hussein out of Kuwait - President George Bush junior has also to win what former Clinton aide Sidney Blumenthal promises to be a resumption of 'partisan warfare' at home.

If he succeeds in both campaigns, he will have become the most powerful President in US history, both at home and across the new Imperium of which victory in Iraq is the first footprint.

America's continuing 'war on terrorism' aims to secure Iraq, but then focus on fresh enemies: Syria and Iran. When an aide told Bush last week that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had fired a verbal warning shot at Syria, the President said: 'Good'.

William Kristol, a long-time friend of Bush from Yale days, wrote in a book he co-authored: 'The mission begins in Baghdad, but it does not end there. We stand at the cusp of a new historical era. It is so clearly about more than Iraq. It is about more even than the future of the Middle East. It is about what sort of role the United States intends to play in the twenty-first century.'

When the US was preparing for war, the then director of the semi-official Defence Policy Board, Richard Perle, said one of its advantages would be 'that we could deliver a short message, a two-word message: "You're Next."'

Grand plans for continuing war are devised by neo-conservatives on the edges of the administration, but the group includes key players, not least Vice-President Dick Cheney and eputy Defence Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, regarded as the real architects of war and its aftermath. 'There will have to be change in Syria,' said Wolfowitz last week. And John Bolton, number three at the State Department, warned countries the US has accused of pursuing weapons of mass destruction - including Iran and Syria - to 'draw the appropriate lesson from Iraq'.

'I think we're going to be obliged to fight a regional war, whether we want to or not,' says Ledeen, a pivotal thinker within the neo-conservative group. The logic of the global war on terrorism - and a conviction that a democratic revolution can be encouraged to sweep across the Middle East will take the US into confrontation with other countries, argues Ledeen, since 'we are going to face the whole terrorist network' and 'the terror masters', Syria, Iran and even Saudi Arabia.

Briefings at the Pentagon now mention the Palestinian Hamas and Shia Hizbollah militias, based in Lebanon, far more than they do al-Qaeda. Hizbollah is the cover under which America would act against Syria, described by the Pentagon's number three, Douglas Feith, as 'one of the key international terrorist networks, supported by the Syrians and the Iranians'.

The Deputy Secretary of State, Richard Armitage, argued last week that moving against Syria would be a way of cutting off aid to Hizbollah, which he called 'the A team' of world terrorism.

But Saudi Arabia - with its hold over oil prices - is also coming within America's sights. 'After Hussein is removed, there will be an earthquake through the region,' predicts Max Singer, co-founder of the Hudson Institute think-tank, which recommends a dismantling of the Saudi kingdom by encouraging breakaway republics in the oil-rich eastern provinces.

State Department sources tell The Observer, Israel is integral to plans to attack Syria. They say a guarantee to remove Hizbollah and its sponsorship is a secret ingredient to the Middle East 'road map', agreed between Washington and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.More