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Syria: The Axis of Evil's Junior Partner By: Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, February 25, 2005


For months many of us have said Syria deserves a place within the “Axis of Evil.” You will recall that President Bush listed North Korea, Iran, and Iraq as charter members. Why stop there, some wondered, since Syria is every bit as oppressive as Iraq and has long been a state sponsor of terrorism like Iran. Syria has deep ties to Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terror groups; has controlled portions of Lebanon like a malicious puppet master for decades; and continues to occupy the Bekka Valley, where it runs terrorist training camps. Any one of these activities ought to have been enough to earn Assad’s regime a place on the list; the combination makes it a lock.

Significantly, Syria has played a key role both in the lead-up activity to Operation Iraqi Freedom and the terrorism we’ve seen in its aftermath. That Syria's machinations are underreported makes them no less influential. Syria has been a reflection of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’athist Iraq for decades. Under the leadership of Basher Assad, Syria molded itself into a fascist, dictatorial state. One of Assad’s heroes was Adolf Hitler. His counterpart was Saddam Hussein. Both were secular-minded, hedonistic Sunni Arabs. They dreamed of unbounded power and the wealth it would bring. They ruled their fiefdoms through intimidation, terror, and profligate corruption, each using ruthless internal intelligence agencies (similar to the Gestapo and KGB) to force hapless citizens to their will. Each surrounded himself with toadies and sycophants, frequently purged those close to him as ruthlessly as known enemies, and dreamed of being the leader of a regional Arab resurgence.

 

Saddam intended to turn power over to one of his now deceased sons, Uday or Qusay. The elder Assad, Hafez, lived long enough to turn power over to his son, Basher, an optometrist, and precocious dictator-in-training. Despite initial myopically self-deceptive hopes that he would be a reformer, the younger Assad has followed in the footsteps of his father. He has increased power by widespread use of the thugs in his intelligence agency, and he is ratcheting up Syria's support for terrorist organizations. Several of the most heinous are openly headquartered in Damascus. Most disturbingly, there are credible reports that Syria has become a welcoming home to Iraqi Ba’athist most-wanted criminals who fled just before Saddam’s statue fell in the square. It is reliably reported that as many as 54 top Iraqi leaders are running the insurgency in Iraq from Damascus. This is the reason many analysts say that while the body of the insurgency is in Iraq, the head hides in Syria.

 

It is well known that huge sums of stolen money – mostly U.S. dollars – were smuggled across the border into Syria around the time of Iraq’s collapse. Even before the war began billions of dollars were electronically transferred into Syrian-controlled banks for safe keeping by Saddam’s regime. Given the generous funding for the insurgents, it is clear that some of those Iraqi criminals from the old regime had access to these funds. US Marines and soldiers searching terrorist bodies during and after the Battle of Fallujah report that each one had $200-$300 in crisp $100 bills in his possession. Their paymaster in Syria had sent them funds to pay them off.

 

A lot of this money came from the Oil-For-Food kickbacks that are already documented to be in the billions of dollars. Plenty of money was on hand to satisfy Saddam’s insatiable appetite for direct and indirect power. These were the funds that were allocated to pay for homicide bombers in Israel and fund al Qaeda training facilities inside Iraq like Ansar al-Islam camps and many other terror-related activities. To this day, the former Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic testifies that an Iraqi intelligence agent passed a large sum of money to 9/11 hijacker Mohammad Atta, but that story has been inexplicably left untouched by our CIA.

 

More menacingly, in the many months of fruitless negotiation and intentional obstruction in the UN Security Council by France, Russia, and China, Syria was a convenient repository for weapons that Saddam needed to hide. There was ample time, and there are many corroborating stories that long convoys of loaded vehicles moved into Syria and returned empty. Iraq has a tradition of hiding things. A squadron of modern, fully functional MiG-29 aircraft was found buried in the desert by inspection teams. Photos of these huge fighter aircraft being dug out of the sand were sensational, but most people seemed to overlook the obvious: if aircraft were hidden in the sands, is it likely that other weapon systems were hidden also? If not buried then relocated?

 

Liberated Iraqi intelligence sources – in cooperation with other international agencies - have quietly identified two sites within Syria and a third in the Bekka Valley that they report have been used to store WMDs coming out of pre-war Iraq. It would have been cheap insurance for Saddam to move his valuable supplies despite the reassurances he received from France and Russia that the US was a paper tiger and would not attack. The simultaneous terrorist attacks on the Jordanian Ministry of Defense and the American Embassy in Amman were designed around classic al-Qaeda truck bombs (ammonium nitrate kicked off by a plastic explosive detonator) with a kicker: the attacking vehicles were going to include poison gas shells placed on top of the explosives. Jordanian investigators who discovered the plot and arrested the terrorists confirm the poison gas. They also confirm that Syria was the origin of the plotters. If Syria did not have its own stockpiles of poison gas, then is it not reasonable to connect the dots to an Iraqi source?

 

Syria has not remained neutral in the war in Iraq. Assad’s ruling coterie is fully complicit with the terrorist training camps located near the Iraq border inside Syria. These camps – also funded by escaped Iraqi Ba’athists with Saddam’s ill-gotten gains – are functioning in a manner similar to how al-Qaeda operated in Afghanistan and pre-war Iraq. Terrorists are brought in from all over the region and trained in Islamist, jihadist ideology. They learn basic military skills and commit themselves to the fight. They are dying in droves in Iraq thanks to the skill of US and Coalition troops and the rapidly emerging Iraqi security forces. Still they have inflicted many casualties on hundreds of innocent Iraqis and have wounded and killed many Americans. We need to take a hard look and ask how long Syria is going to be allowed to continue this illegal interference and provide sanctuary for the terrorists.

 

Syrian fingerprints are all over the assassination of the anti-Syrian former Lebanese president. Now announcements are released that Syria has formed an alliance with Iran. Desperate times breed desperate measures and both the Basher Assad regime and the Mullahs in Teheran fear the next move by America and our allies. Under the radar, both Iran and Syria have extensive technological and weapons ties with Kim Jong-il’s regime in North Korea. Missile and warhead technology, uranium products, and chemical warfare expertise and products have been transferred between and among this nefarious trio. All three rogue regimes oppress their people and are egregious violators of human rights as well as being state sponsors of terrorism.

 

These rogue states have watched America over the past year, wondering what the outcome of our election would be. Now that they know they are scrambling to scratch together a defense against the attacks – economic, psychological, and military – that they know will be forthcoming. The decadent, dictatorial Syrian regime has sealed its fate and will drag its fellow dictators in Iran and North Korea down with it. Freedom is marching unstoppable across the world, sweeping tin-pot tyrants out of the path.

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu has been an Army Green Beret lieutenant colonel, as well as a writer, popular speaker, business executive and farmer. His most recent book is Separated at Birth, about North and South Korea. He returned recently from an embed with soldiers in Iraq and has launched a web site called Support American Soldiers to assist traveling soldiers.


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