"It's time to bring down the other terror masters," Michael
Ledeen of the American Enterprise Institute wrote on Monday --
two days before U.S. troops swept into the heart of Baghdad --
in a piece entitled "Syria and Iran Must Get Their Turn."
"Iran, at least, offers Americans the possibility of a
memorable victory, because the Iranian people openly loath the
regime, and will enthusiastically combat it, if only the United
States supports them in their just struggle," he added. "Syria
cannot stand alone against a successful democratic revolution
that topples tyrannical regimes in Kabul, Tehran and Iraq (news - web sites)."
No one is explicitly advocating force against Syria or Iran
but conservatives inside and out of the U.S. government hope
the Iraq war will signal to Damascus and Tehran that seeking
weapons of mass destruction may be hazardous to their health.
"I hope we could change the regimes without military force
and I would not contemplate using military force in those
places," said Kenneth Adelman, a former Pentagon (news - web sites) aide and early
advocate of toppling Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) by force.
"The combination of totalitarianism and weapons of mass
destruction is a deadly combination for the world," he added.
While some conservatives believe the example of Iraq could
serve to undermine the governments of some of its nondemocratic
neighbors, others simply hope it will dissuade them from
seeking biological, chemical and nuclear weapons.
GETTING THE MESSAGE
John Bolton, under secretary of state for arms control and
international security, told reporters in Rome he hoped Iran,
Syria and North Korea (news - web sites) -- which the United States believes is
pursuing a nuclear weapons program -- will get the message.
"We are hopeful that a number of regimes will draw the
appropriate lesson from Iraq that the pursuit of weapons of
mass destruction is not in their national interest," he said,
citing the three when asked what the post-war period may hold.
A U.S. official played down the idea that the United States
was contemplating using force against Iran or Syria, suggesting
the hawks were simply reflecting the "strategic ambiguity" that
the U.S. has long practiced with potential adversaries.
"When talking about threats from countries that have really
bad track records and don't wish you well, U.S. policy has been
to never rule anything out," he said. "That doesn't mean you're
actively contemplating an invasion or the use of force."
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who on March 28 warned
Syria and Iran not to meddle in the Iraq war, said on Wednesday
the United States had evidence Damascus might be helping
Saddam's relatives and supporters flee the country.
While he did not cite Syria or Iran by name, Vice President
Dick Cheney (news - web sites) said in a speech to newspaper editors that the
United States must "do whatever it takes" to defeat terrorism
and must confront nations that sponsor it.
The United States regards Iran and Syria as state sponsors
of terrorism. U.S. officials believe both are pursuing weapons
of mass destruction, accusing Iran of seeking nuclear weapons.
Iran says its nuclear program aims to produce electricity.
"In removing the terror regime from Iraq, we send a very
clear message to all groups that operate by means of terror and
violence against the innocent," Cheney said. "The United States
and our coalition partners are showing ... we have the capacity
and the will to wage war on terror and to win decisively."
"We have a further responsibility to help keep the peace of
the world and to prevent the terrorists and their sponsors from
plunging the world into horrific violence," he added.
Frank Gaffney, a senior Pentagon official under former
President Ronald Reagan (news - web sites), said he believed that regime change
should be the U.S. policy toward Iran and Syria and said the
United States could not rule out the use of force.
"If the threat metastasizes in such a way that we consider
it to leave us no choice but to use military force then that
would have to be an option," he said.
Gaffney, head of the Center for Security Policy think tank,
said many Iranians would like to see their government change
and the United States should help them through information
flows, economic assistance and possibly covert activity.
"The use of military force is probably genuinely the last
resort here, but I certainly think it's like that we're going
to see efforts made to bring about change in Iran as well as
Syria ... and perhaps elsewhere in the region as a matter of
the natural progression of this war on terror," he added.