State Department accuses Syria of fomenting Israel violence
The State Department is publicly blaming Syria for the clashes between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and unarmed protesters that resulted in over a dozen deaths Sunday, but officials didn’t offer any direct evidence to support that assertion. "We do think that this is an effort by the Syrian government to play a destabilizing role," State ...
The State Department is publicly blaming Syria for the clashes between Israel Defense Forces soldiers and unarmed protesters that resulted in over a dozen deaths Sunday, but officials didn’t offer any direct evidence to support that assertion.
"We do think that this is an effort by the Syrian government to play a destabilizing role," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said at Monday’s briefing in response to a question from The Cable. "It’s clearly an effort by them to take focus off the situation that’s happening right now in Syria. And it’s a cynical use of the Palestinian cause to encourage violence along its border as it continues to repress its own people within Syria."
Toner’s comments follow those of White House spokesman Jay Carney, who said on Monday morning that the United States is "strongly opposed to the Syrian government’s involvement in inciting yesterday’s protests in the Golan Heights. Such behavior is unacceptable and does not serve as a distraction from the Syrian government’s ongoing repression of demonstrators in its own country."
Both spokesmen affirmed Israel’s right to defend its own borders. Neither offered any direct evidence that the Syrian government was directly involved. The violence along the Golan Heights marked the first clashes on the Syrian-Israeli border in 37 years.
A State Department official, speaking on background basis, explained the thinking to The Cable.
"It’s a pattern that we’ve seen. I don’t know that we have any direct evidence, but I think we’re pretty confident that this is something that Damascus has done in the past and we believe they have had a hand in it," the official said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with Jordan’s King Abdullah on Monday morning, and officials confirmed that Syria was among the topics they discussed. The persistent anti-government protests there will also be mentioned in President Barack Obama‘s Thursday speech on the overall U.S. approach to the Arab world.
On Capitol Hill, Syria’s involvement is also regarded as a given.
"It is not surprising that President Assad is using Palestinian protesters to distract from the democratic uprising that is occurring within Syria’s own borders," Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a statement. "But it nonetheless displays a shocking level of cynicism to risk provoking war in order to maintain a grasp on power. President Assad must end the violent crackdown in Syria, stop his collaboration with Iran, and respect Israel’s right to exist."
Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at email@example.com.
Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.
A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.
Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin
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