Recently, Syria has been in the news quite often and for reasons that are mostly disturbing to Americans fighting the war on terror.
For starters, in April of this year and during the Iraq War, Syria’s Assad allowed the Baathists of Iraq, true thugs and mass murderers, to seek shelter in Syria; they welcomed them with open arms and wallets. Only the US resolve to see these people captured forced Syria to relent and deliver them to the US.
Furthermore, Syria’s Baathists, using their newly acquired position of power on the UN Security Council as one of the 15 rotating members, have opposed the war to liberate Iraq by siding against the coalition that would have removed Saddam Hussein from power. More recently, they reluctantly voted to lift the sanctions against Iraq because they did not want to be perceived as the boat rocker under unanimity of votes in the Security Council.
Today, Syria’s open border is a magnet for terrorism in Iraq, allowing scores of extremist fighters to cross it unobstructed in order to claim more US lives and lives of great servants of humanity like Sergio Vieira de Mello. For those who do not know this area well, there is only one highway between Syria and Iraq and the borders inside Syria are patrolled by a very stingy Syrian army eager to protect the country from infiltrators and smugglers that do not pay corruption money. For Syria to claim to the US intelligence apparatus that it is not aware of fighters crossing its borders is one more lie that history has shown the Baathists are capable of getting away with.
Few days ago, Farouk al-Sharaa, Syria’s foreign minister, declared that Syria would not officially recognize the new Iraqi cabinet announced last Monday by the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, but that Syria was ready to cooperate with it. This is the same foreign minister who on July 27 and while addressing Syrian journalists said of the US administration: ”The Most Violent and Stupid American Administration Ever”. His provocative language is bound to eventually turn into a conflict and possibly place more US soldiers in harm’s way. There is no excuse for Syria not to fight side-by-side with the coalition forces if it really wants to see terror halted in the region.
Moreover, in the last few days the “Baath” newspaper in Syria wrote an editorial claiming that the US occupation in Iraq is the culprit when it comes to lack of security. This means that Syrians are in for a new wave of anti-Americanism in Syria’s Baathist media that will encourage more fighters to cross the borders into Iraq to engage the coalition forces. Are we that stupid to simply accept Syria's manipulations? No partner in war on terror plants hate of their partner knowing well the repercussions this may have for the long term future of our success against terrorism.
Every act that Syria’s Baathists have undertaken since our War on Terror has been against US interests. Yet, some officials in the U.S. administration still support and protect this regime for reasons that are baffling to many. Syria’s Baathists have turned Syria into a terrorist nation that is under US embargo; Syria’s Baathists support the killing of US troops with their open border policy and Machiavellian intentions; Syria’s Baathists support terrorist organizations such as Hamas and provide moral and financial support to Hizbollah, home to one of the most wanted terrorist: Imad Mughnieyh. In Fact, some Syrian analysts, in conjunction with their Iranian brethren, have concluded that the US is sandwiched between Syria and Iran. With this kind of analysis, it is only a question of time before those two countries join in terrorizing US troops openly and publicly.
In his address to the nation, President Bush yesterday committed the US to the democratization of the Middle East as the only mean to stop terror. When will our foreign policy makers understand that now that Iraq is liberated, Syria’s Baathists is the problem that needs immediate attention? Are we to come to this conclusion after more US lives are lost to Syria’s actions in a long history of anti-Americanism?
Farid N. Ghadry is the co-founder of the Reform Party of Syria.