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James Baker says Bush’s Syria policy is ‘ridiculous’; Sobell finally gives it up

September 17, 2008 | 9:39 pm

Baker Calls Bush 'Ridiculous' on Syria

The Bush administration's refusal to deal with Syria is "ridiculous," said James Baker, a former U.S. secretary of state.

Five former secretaries of state met Monday under the auspices of CNN to discuss what advice they would give the next president.

"I would advise the president to fully engage with Syria," said Baker, who as secretary of state under Bush's father helped convene the 1991 Madrid talks, which for the first time brought Israelis, Palestinians, Syrians and other Arab nations into the same process. "I think it is ridiculous for us to say we're not going to talk to Syria and yet Israel has been talking to them for six to eight months."

The Bush administration has discouraged Israel's talks with Syria, currently held under Turkish auspices. Israel wants to draw Syria away from the Iranian sphere; the Bush administration says it will not engage Syria until it fully disengages from Lebanon and stops its support for terrorist groups.

Also appearing at the session were Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, who served under President Bill Clinton; Colin Powell, who served under the current President Bush; and Henry Kissinger, who served under presidents Nixon and Ford.

Figure in Rosenberg Case Admits Spying

One of the co-defendants in the Rosenberg espionage case has admitted to spying for the Soviets.

Morton Sobell, who was tried and convicted in 1951 with Julius and Ethel Rosenberg on espionage charges, admitted for the first time on Sept. 11 in an interview with The New York Times that he had turned over military secrets to the Soviets during World War II.

"Yeah, yeah, yeah, call it that," he told The Times when asked if he was a spy. "I never thought of it as that in those terms."

Sobell drew a distinction between providing information on defensive radar and artillery, which he did, and the information that, he said, Julius Rosenberg provided to the Soviets on the atomic bomb. He said he believes the Soviets already had obtained from other sources most of the information Rosenberg provided.

Sobell also said he believed that Ethel Rosenberg was aware of her husband's spying, but did not actively participate. Both Rosenbergs were executed for their crimes.

The 91-year-old Sobell, who long had professed his innocence, refused to testify at his trial and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was released in 1969 and currently lives in the Bronx, N.Y.

He spoke as the National Archives released the bulk of the grand jury testimony in the Rosenberg case.

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