The Bush administration has persuaded Congress to scrap a
House subcommittee hearing on Syrian weapons of mass destruction.
Congressional sources and government officials said the White House
warned the House leadership that a hearing on Syrian WMD would disrupt
Middle East peace efforts and endanger U.S. troops in Iraq. The White House,
under severe criticism for releasing unconfirmed WMD intelligence on Iraq,
also argued that a hearing on Syrian biological, chemical or nuclear
programs would provoke alarm.
The result was that the House International Relations subcommittee on
the Middle East and Asia agreed to cancel a hearing with Undersecretary of
State John Bolton, responsible for administration policy on
nonproliferation. Bolton was said to have presented a detailed dossier on
Syria's WMD programs, much of which he had planned to discuss in closed
session, for Tuesday's hearing.
The House panel was scheduled to discuss legislation to impose
additional sanctions on Syria unless it ended WMD programs, expelled
groups termed as terrorists and withdrew troops from neighboring Lebanon, Middle East Newsline reported.
The sources said the White House, with the backing of the CIA, pressed
House International Relations Committee chairman Henry Hyde to cancel the
Bolton's appearance. They said it is doubtful whether another such hearing
will be held within the next few months.
Assuming the unassumable
Those who believe that an unplanned, random "Big Bang" explosion of unknown matter caused the formation of the numberless bodies of the cosmos have more faith that fanatics. They also conveniently ignore some obvious points of information: Read on . . .
"The message we got from the White House was that this was a bad idea
and that the administration had everything under control," a congressional
source said. "Then the White House said such a hearing could place American
lives at risk. That argument clinched it."
The State Department, with backing from the CIA, has been dismayed by the
prospect of additional sanctions, which would have imposed a virtual embargo
on Syria. The CIA has quietly designated Syria as having cooperated with the
United States in the war against Al Qaida.
Officials said Bolton was not planning to report any breakthroughs in
Syria's WMD programs. They said the undersecretary's message was to have
been that Damascus has advanced in the development and production of Syrian
chemical weapons warheads for its missile arsenal and progressing toward the
completion of biological weapons.
Last month, the CIA reviewed Bolton's testimony on Syria's WMD programs
and filed numerous objections, officials said. They said the CIA did not
dispute Bolton's data on Damascus but disagreed with his assertions over the
extent of Syria's advancement of its biological and chemical programs and
ambitions regarding nuclear programs.
Officials said the CIA and the State Department's Bureau of Intelligence
and Research have been dismayed by Bolton's assessments of the WMD programs
of a range of so-called rogue states. They said the CIA and the State
Department bureau disputed Bolton's assertion in May 2002 that Cuba has a
biological weapons program. Earlier this year, Christian Westermann, a
senior official in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, disputed
Bolton's claim on Cuba in a closed-door briefing to the Senate Select