IS SYRIA NEXT?….Robin Wright seems to have pretty good insight into the Washington diplomatic scene, and her front page article in today’s LA Times makes it clear that she thinks Syria is in the crosshairs:

President Bush again ratcheted up the pressure on Syria amid growing signs Sunday that Damascus will face punitive action unless President Bashar Assad takes swift action on issues ranging from supporting terrorists and acquiring deadly weapons to aiding and abetting Saddam Hussein.

….If the U.S. discovers that Syria is harboring [fleeing Iraqi officials], that could be the last straw, administration officials indicated Sunday.

….The U.S. finally confronted Damascus with intelligence detailing specific officials, ministries and commodities implicated in the illicit trade….”We warned them: ‘If we’re headed to war and it looks like we are, you’re going to be seen as aiding a combatant of the United States. This is zero hour.’ ”

….Throughout Washington, there is a growing sense that the Assad regime must be held to account.

On the other hand, the New York Times ran nothing on its front page and has only a Reuters dispatch on its website at the moment, suggesting that we are considering nothing more than sanctions of various kinds. Likewise for the Washington Post.

Is Wright reading the tea leaves better than her colleagues? I dunno, but the administration is clearly ratcheting up the talk, despite the fact that nothing new seems to be happening. As the LA Times article notes, Syria has been on the State Department list of terrorism sponsors since 1979, and the cross border trade with Iraq has been going on for years. So why start getting tough now, at the very time when there’s no longer a regime to trade with?

It sure looks to me like they’re searching for an excuse to send a battalion or two of Marines over the border. You know, just a mile or so, a police action designed to “protect our troops,” knowing it will provoke a response. If this does happen, Britain almost certainly won’t go along, and that will be the end of the coalition.

Time will tell.

UPDATE: Sam Rosenfeld is officially terrified. On his suggestion I’ve turned on the news (I’m writing this on Monday at 10:30 AM), and sure enough, it’s all Syria all the time. More later.