Amid continuing tensions in the Middle East concerning the United States’ next military target, the Bush administration said yesterday it has no plans to attack Syria in order to overthrow its leadership or impose democracy.

In response to the announcement, some area students of Syrian descent expressed concern over the Bush administration’s criticism of Syria and U.S. policies in the Middle East.

“(The United States) has yet to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq,” said Mazin Hawasli, a sophomore at Washtenaw Community College. “Then they want to start pointing fingers at other countries, who clearly for some time disagreed with America’s foreign policy and backed France when they wanted to veto Resolution 1441, giving America and the U.K. the green light to bomb Baghdad.”

The United States has accused Syria of providing Iraq with weapons and refuge to Iraqi and Baath Party leaders, supporting terrorism and producing chemical weapons. The United States has also said Syrian fighters were allowed to join the war against U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq.

But the Syrian government has repeatedly denied it has any chemical weapons.

“There is no evidence for all the allegations,” LSA junior Lena Masri said.

Hawasli said the difference between the amount of oil Syria holds and Iraq’s vast oil reserves might prevent the United States from attacking Syria.

“We all know that the U.S. has the military power to confront the whole region,” Hawasli said. “It’s because Syria doesn’t contain much of the valued resources as let’s say Iraq, which is oil … America wouldn’t be benefiting anything from going to war with Syria and changing their regime.”

But Masri said oil is not the major issue for going to war with Syria. Instead the U.S. plan to transfer power to Israel is the major issue, she said.

“By attacking Iraq, Syria and even Iran, (Bush) wants to attack the Middle East and shift the power to Israel,” Masri said. “By attacking the Middle East, the balance of power will shift toward Israel.”

“America is yet to understand the political function of how Arabs view America and Israel,” Hawasli said. “As much as Bush finds Saddam as the main issue at hand, the Arab world views Israel as a priority.”

U.S. officials also said they still want to include Syria in the Middle East peacemaking process between Israelis and Palestinians.

“It’s funny how one day you can publicly talk badly about a country all across the world and then talk about how they can be our buddy as long as they don’t let the Iraqis sleep over,” Hawasli said. “I’m lost. One second we point the finger and say that’s the bad guy, then a minute later, all of a sudden we want them to be part of a peace process? Who are we to label the world good or evil?”

Instead of extending the “war on terror” to new countries, Muslim Students Association President Kenan Mossa-Basha said, the United States should be “focusing on nation-building, infrastructure and institutions necessary for normalcy and freedom based on pluralism by the Iraqi people.”

“There has to be a rebuilding of Iraq before pursuing any other initiatives,” added Mossa-Basha, a Business school senior.

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