This is huge, if a long time coming:
Political sources in Jerusalem expressed satisfaction Tuesday at the decision by the United States to recall its envoy from Syria following the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri in Beirut.
“This step underscores our argument that Syria’s intentions for peace must be treated with caution,” the sources said.
Before departing, U.S. Ambassador Margaret Scobey delivered a stern note, called a demarche in diplomatic parlance, to the Syrian government, a U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher, announcing the U.S. move, said that it the Bush administration’s “profound outrage” over Hariri’s assassination.
The administration had earlier condemned Monday’s killing in Beirut of Hariri, the billionaire construction magnate who masterminded the recovery of his country and insisted that Syria comply with a UN resolution calling for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon.
White House press secretary Scott McClellan said it was still unclear who was responsible for the attack but the United States was consulting with other members of the UN Security Council about how to pressure Syria to leave Lebanon.
“Syria’s presence in Lebanon is a destabilizing force,” McClellan said. “The terrorist attack further underscores the importance of letting the Lebanese people control their future.”
Via Charles Johnson. Currently, the only nations we don’t have embassies in, to the best of my knowledge, are Sudan, Libya, Iran, Cuba, and North Korea (yes, we have a special envoy to Sudan, and yes, we don’t have representation in Taiwan (unless you count this), but that isn’t out of bad relations, as this is). So this is huge, and for me, quite bizarre. You see, most of my impressions about the Middle East were formed by news coverage of individual countries. Jordan and Syria were the kinds of countries whose leaders had interviews with Time and Newsweek, and spoke like reasoned, sober policy analysts. I can’t count the number of interviews I’ve read with Bashar Assad. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and Iran were the kind of countries that were shady, suspicious, and generally evil, whose leaders were secretive tyrants. So, to me, Assad just doesn’t seem like the kind of person who would assassinate a former Prime Minister, or support international terror. Of course, he is just that sort of person, and I’m quite glad that it’s finally being made clear that his behavior is intolerable. And it’s not surprising that Bush would be taking action. The war in Iraq was spearheaded by the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, which counted prominent neoconservatives Jeanne Kirkpatrick and Richard Perle as members. Those two also belonged to the U.S. Committee for a Free Lebanon, along with Elliot Abrams, Douglas Feith, and Paula Dobriansky, all current or former high level Bush administration figures. So, it’s not surprising that he’s pursuing a policy of getting Syria out of Lebanon.