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Time to Get Serious with Syria By: Oubai Mohammad Shahbandar
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, April 14, 2003

Just as the Second World War did not end with the fall of Berlin, Baghdad cannot be the final destination of America and her allies in the war on terror. We cannot afford to fall into the dangerous trap of operational complacency as a result of the inevitable euphoria that follows such a total military victory as Operation Iraqi Freedom. The Axis of Evil has lost a limb, but has yet to be decapitated. From the shores of the eastern Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf, a subtle borderless confederacy of terror continues to operate with impunity; only now, that great terror superhighway linking Damascus, Baghdad, and Tehran will have to take a detour, but has yet to encounter a dead-end.

But why Syria? Wouldn't the disintegration of Saddam and his regime pose a foreboding example to the rest of the Middle East ? And with our military forces now so near to the Syrian border, what threat could Damascus possibly pose?

First, a liberated Iraq now stands in a very delicate and vulnerable geo-strategic position. Much like Poland in 1939, a post-Saddam Iraq faces a two-front danger via Iran and Syria, the latter of whom is for all intensive purposes a willing and strategic satellite for Iranian long-term designs over the region. Without American armed forces in the ground in Iraq, the every looming Iran-Syria nexus would likely pose a serious obstacle to any hope for future political stability in that country.

It is clear with a quick current appraisal of the regional situation that Iran with its core of thousands of Iranian trained Iraqi Shii'tes at its disposal, and Syria, who has proven to be a popular conduit for international Islamsit (particularly the dangerous Hizbullah) mujahedeen, will not hesitate to exploit any opportunities to exert their political influence and stamp their regional hegemony over the Middle East at the expense of a democratic and stable post-Saddam Iraq. 

Just as a monarchial Europe, fearing the proliferation of Republicanism, declared war on the newly formed French Republic, there can be no doubt that Damascus and Tehran shrewdly understand the overriding political and social impact that a stable, prosperous, and functioning democratic Arab state positioned strategically in the heart of the Middle East could have on their own autocratic oligarchies.

A liberated Iraq, much like South Vietnam in its time, cannot possibly ensure its territorial integrity while attempting significant political and social reform with Syria and Iran waiting by the wayside to exploit and propagate instability in the newly freed Arab state. South Vietnam could have only been saved by the elimination of North Vietnam as a threat. Accordingly, all that our American servicemen died for in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and all the military and financial investments that has and will continue to cost our country would all be for naught if we abandon Iraq to the lurking wolves who will do whatever necessary to ensure-as all good dictators do-that they remain at the head of the pack.

There will be many critics who will that Syria has in fact been a supportive ally in the war on terror and has been cooperative in gathering intelligence on terrorists operating out of the region. Unfortunately, what such critics fail to realize is that Syria played a leading role in stabbing the U.S in the back with its dagger of terror. Arguing that we need to maintain cordial relations with the Syrian government on the basis that Syria might offer some token support in lifting that dagger it manufactured would be a tragic act of self-delusion.

Syrian dictator Bashar Al-Assad has for too long orchestrated a duplicitous game of half-truths, deception, and lies designed to lure the world into believing that the Syrian regime  is a  legitimate and active partner in the war on terror. Damascus currently houses the military wing of HAMAS, Ahmad Jibril's Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - General Command,  which maintains active terrorist training campus just outside of Damascus utilized by groups that include the Al Aqsa Brigades, the terrorist branch of Yasser Arafat's Al Fatah, and Islamic Jihad.

The Syrian caudillo continues to refuse U.S government requests to shut down these terrorist breeding grounds on Syrian land, even going so far as claiming that doing so would be a violation of "free speech" (one wonders how many Syrian zip-codes are on the ACLU mailing list). 

The Assad regime's ubiquitous relation with terror mirrors that of Osama Bin Laden's former benefactors, the Taliban.  The fact that Assad is more than willing to play host to a wide spectrum of Islamist terror groups is enough by itself to pose future serious problems for both our troops and Iraqi liberty.

But it is Syria's longstanding occupation of Lebanon and its logistical and political support for the world's second most dangerous terror group Hizbullah that is perhaps the most compelling of all reasons to put an end to the Assad dynasty's reign over the Syrian people. It is under Assad's watch and through Iranian cash that Hizbullah maintains its massive stock of weaponry and influencial political presence in Lebanon's Bekaa valley (a venerable free haven for terrorists-in-training, including numerous Al-Qaeda operatives). Because of this patronage, Hizbullah maintains a highly trained, well-equipped, and willing cadre of Islamist fighters who have recently become even more emboldened in their launching of cross-border raids into Israel. The fact of the matter is that Hizbullah exists and operates at the pleasure of the Syrian-Iranian regimes, and it is more than prepared to put newly liberated Iraq in its crosshairs if it is called upon to do so. Syria remains on the State Department's list of countries that support terror for a reason. And if 9-11 has taught us anything, terror anywhere is a threat to Americans everywhere. Terrorists recognize no borders and cannot be allowed the luxury to ferment at ease in any corner of the globe, let alone a mere couple of hours drive from our forces in Iraq. Unfortunately, Syria has been coddled and handled with care by the West for decades in the false-hope that if we just wish really hard enough then all the bad things that Syria continues to get away with will one day blissfully disappear. As with any alliance, there is a junior and senior partner. Syria is the soft underbelly of Iranian terror capability, and with a repressive regime that functiones along the very same lines that Saddam's did, there is no reason to suspect that we can't achieve the same type of native popular support for military action that would lead to the overthrow of the ruling Ba'ath party (the same party that controlled Iraq). 

The imperative to behead this Syrian-Iranian Hydra of hatred was given by Yossef Bodansky, director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, as early as 1992 in a briefing to House Republicans that provided a very chilling account of the sinister intentions of this terror axis, "The current escalation of the US confrontation with Iraq, including the threat of the resumption of hostilities, is but one phase in the strengthening of a Tehran-controlled strategic axis stretching from the Mediterranean to Iran. This bloc is central to a Tehran government that is making plans for a major war in the region and that has built its strategic plans around the assumption that war is inevitable. The primary objectives of this war will be to evict the US from the Muslim world, primarily the Persian Gulf region, and to 'liberate Jerusalem.' For its part, Syria shares Tehran's political-strategic view and believes that war is virtually imminent." So we know quite well what the intentions of our enemies are. It is now up to the coalition forces to stay the course and display the same determined resiliency and moral fortitude that made the liberation of Iraq possible. The time is ripe for a revolutionary restructuring of this country's place in the international order. We have the opportunity in one masterful stroke to end a nightmare that otherwise threatens to haunt generations of Americans to come.

Our only real obstacle to securing our nation's security is  trepidation and  hesitation. No doubt the falling of Saddam's Stalinist statues reverberated quite loudly within the echo chambers of his despotic soul-mates in the Middle East. Accordingly, we must expect the Syrian and Iranian rulers to take appropriate measures to keep their populace innoculated from catching this Iraqi bug called freedom. That is why the spring of freedom that we excavated in the desert of Iraq must be developed it into a raging river, sweeping away the last vestiges of terror and tyranny from the Middle East- and in turn prevent them from forever reaching American shores.

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