- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 5, 2007

Last week the State Department published its annual “Country Reports on Terrorism.” For those who want facts about the radical Islamic Jihad waged against the West, it’s fascinating reading. For simpering solons in Congress, slithering back up Capitol Hill with their vetoed “surrender supplemental,” it is bad news. And for those with any grasp of history, it’s deja vu.

Twenty years ago this summer, a joint “Select Committee” of Congress convened to investigate certain activities of the Reagan administration. In the midst of what became a nationally televised circus, one witness observed: “If you can’t convince those who sponsor terrorism to desist from their support, then you are left to either protect yourself close in or to reach out to prevent and deter the act.”

In the two decades since those hearings, radical Islamic terror has become the most serious threat to U.S. citizens, property and interests since the collapse of the Soviet empire. For years it was “someone else’s problem” because it only happened “over there.” Then, on September 11, 2001, radical Islamic terror blew up in our midst — “close in” was how I put it in 1987. Clearly we had not been doing all we could to “convince those who sponsor terrorism to desist from their support.” And according to the data in this year’s “Country Reports on Terrorism” we still aren’t.

Prepared by the State Department, the report puts it a bit more diplomatically: “Five years after September 11, the international community’s conflict with transnational terrorists continues.” Though “cooperative international efforts have produced genuine security improvements,” the report says “major challenges remain.”

“Major challenges” is the mother of all understatements. The table of “Incidents of Terrorism Worldwide” shows from 2005 to 2006, the number of terror incidents increased from 11,153 to 14,338 — a 25 percent rise. Worse still, 20,494 people died at the hands of terrorists — 5,800 more than the previous year — a 40 percent increase.

Digging into the reports reveals other disturbing indicators. Bombings are up 30 percent and casualties from explosive devices are up 39 percent. Individual suicide bombing attacks — where a terrorist wears or carries an explosive device rather than driving a bomb-laden vehicle — rose 25 percent. More than 50 percent of the victims of these attacks by Islamic radicals were other Muslims. Among those casualties, more than 1,800 children — an 80 percent increase from the previous year.

Despite these horrific trends, no leading Islamic leader or cleric has denounced those who recruit, indoctrinate, train and arm the suicide bombers who kill children. By contrast, after last month’s murders at Virginia Tech by a deranged Korean-American student, the government of the Republic of Korea, dozens of Korean-American community groups and the killer’s family all expressed remorse and condolences for the victims.

In a glaring indictment, the report again cites Iran as “the most significant state sponsor of terrorism.” Governmental organs of the Tehran regime — specifically the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the Ministry of Intelligence and Security are identified as “directly involved in the planning and support of terrorist acts.” Both Iran and Syria routinely provide “safe haven, substantial resources and guidance to terrorist organizations.”

The Syrian government is also implicated for providing “political and material support to Hezbollah and political support to Palestinian terrorist groups.” The report contains a litany of offenses — to include political assassination in neighboring Lebanon, providing assistance to terrorist organizations that have killed Americans, offering refuge to known terrorists and allowing “foreign fighters and terrorists to transit through its borders into Iraq.”

Critics will use this year’s Country Reports to “prove” that this upsurge in lethal terror is the consequence U.S. engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan — where slightly more than half of all attacks occurred in 2006. But such a claim ignores the global nature of the radical Islamic assault and presumes that state sponsors such as Iran and Syria would desist if we simply “pulled out.”

Those who insist on removing U.S. troops from Iraq should clarify how such a withdrawal will alter the behavior of those who rule in Damascus and Tehran. Critics of the current Iraq campaign should also explain how “disengagement” would have prevented the September 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

Rather than using this year’s “Country Reports on Terrorism” as a bludgeon for scoring domestic political points, policymakers should use the data and analysis to develop better tools for thwarting transnational Islamic terror. Despite a dramatic increase in radical Islamic attacks and casualties, the report makes clear that the strength — and vulnerability — of these terrorist organizations remains the need for state sponsorship.

“De-funding” Islamic terror must become a top priority. As Saudi authorities discovered this week when they prevented what could have been a devastating attack on their oil infrastructure, lip service to cutting off the flow of Wahhabi petrodollars to Sunni terror groups and turning a blind eye to Iranian terrorism invites catastrophe. The plot was apparently discovered by allied intelligence in Iraq. Good thing for those of us who already feel the pain at the pump.

Oliver North is a nationally syndicated columnist, founder and honorary chairman of Freedom Alliance and the host of “War Stories” on Fox News Channel.

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