- The Washington Times - Monday, April 21, 2003

The past and continuing policies of Syria pose a triple threat to America's security interests. Those threats are sufficiently central to our interests that all necessary means should be used to end them. Should President Bush not resolve them, it is unlikely that his Middle East and anti-terrorism policies will ever be judged a success.
The first threat is that Syria's unsteady, inexperienced and politically obtuse president, Bashar Assad, may permit his country to be a base for Saddamist or other guerrilla efforts to undermine a democratic Iraq. Second, Syria may continue to support Hezbollah and other terrorist organizations' attacks on Israel thus undermining any chance for an Israeli-Palestinian peace. Third, so long as Syria supports Hezbollah a terrorist organization of global reach which is at least as capable as al Qaeda there can be no successful war on global terrorism.
Thomas Friedman, the New York Times' astute foreign-affairs columnist, adds a fourth point: So long as Syria effectively rules Lebanon (through its 20,000 troops in country and its strong support for Hezbollah), Lebanon the only Middle Eastern Arab country which has had a functioning democracy and is hard-wired for globalization cannot provide the Middle East with the democratic and commercial skills necessary to pull it out of its primitive, violent conditions.
On the first point, harboring Saddamists who are attempting to undermine Iraqi democracy, the early signs are encouraging. Bashar Assad seems to be sufficiently intimidated at least for the moment. But, it is on the second and third points Syrian support for terrorism targeted at Israel and the United States that success is both critical and unlikely (without military action.)
A number of economic inducements are being planned to nudge Syria into compliance: passage of the Syria Accountability Act to place economic sanctions on Syria, enforcement of the USA Patriot Act to confiscate Syrian assets, and action to block U.S. companies from doing business with Syria. We are in favor of using these or other such devices, but we are not hopeful. Economic sanctions rarely if ever work. Even the most successful sanctions those used against South Africa only worked in combination with massive internal racial violence which intimidated the white minority government.
And, let us be unambiguous. There is no chance for Israeli-Palestinian peace without an end to organized terrorism against Israel. We hope and believe that President Bush is prepared to lean much harder on Israel than Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his supporters care to contemplate (Israel must give up the settlements, but not yield to the demand for a right of return.) But this should occur only after organized terrorism has been dismantled. Syria suffocating Hezbollah along with Egypt, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states effectively pressuring Yasser Arafat and Hamas to desist from terrorism are the necessary preconditions to success. And, worse for the United States, without a true peace between the Palestinians and Israel, we can never hope to win the battle against fanatical Islamic terrorism.
The stakes in Syria are that high. With Syria out of the terrorism business, Iran the other strong supporter of Hezbollah and other Lebanese and West Bank terrorism would find it geographically very difficult to continue its support. The passage has been Teheran to Damascus to Lebanon's Bekaa Valley to the West Bank and Israel. Syria is the link that must be broken.
Of course, peaceful means would be preferred. But the link must be broken and soon. If Mr. Assad cannot be induced to smash the terrorism that Syria keeps alive, then the U.S. military must do the job. The inevitable worldwide outcry would be formidable. But it would be a price worth paying.

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