Robert Novak

The Syrians, said Wolfowitz, "are doing some things they shouldn't be doing, and the sooner they stop the better it will be for them." While the U.S. is now "focused on winning the war" in Iraq, he added, "I think the Syrians need to know, though, that what they do now . . . they'll be held accountable for." Wolfowitz's bottom line: "There's got to be change in Syria."

Actual support from Damascus for Saddam Hussein may be mainly rhetorical, though Israeli intelligence contends Anglo-American forces have not found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq because they have been transported to Syria. Having long urged U.S. military action to change the Iraqi regime, Israel now offers the rationale for extending military intervention in Syria.

Powell wants to modify Syrian behavior without sending in the Marines. On March 30, he warned Syria (as well as Iran) to stop supporting terrorist organizations. He issued that warning from a venue intended to display U.S. solidarity with Israel: a meeting of The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the pre-eminent pro-Israeli lobbying organization.

The fact that Powell, not Rumsfeld, delivered this message was widely interpreted as a signal that the U.S. has not designated Syria as its next military target following Afghanistan and Iraq. Powell, notoriously unenthusiastic about a military solution in Iraq until the president made his decision, is not signing on to World War IV. He believes (and surely hopes) that Bush shares his outlook.

Powell puts a high premium on pursuing President Bush's road map for a Palestinian state, a prospect that evokes little enthusiasm among Pentagon civilian chiefs and even less in the Israeli government. The secretary of state considers it an essential component for U.S. foreign policy and restoration of the world's good opinion of America. That will be Colin Powell's burden in the months ahead.

Robert Novak

Robert Novak (1931-2009) was a syndicated columnist and editor of the Evans-Novak Political Report.

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