- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 9, 2003

The Israeli air raid that destroyed a training camp near Damascus on Sunday suggests that Israel has begun a new phase of its campaign to deter terrorism against its citizens. For close to 30 years, Israel, despite being the target of hundreds of attacks from terrorist groups supported by Syria, had refrained from launching retaliatory strikes against the Arab country. Sunday’s early morning raid should be a wake-up call for Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose regime is in a very precarious position.

Despite its extensive arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Syria’s military (in serious decline since the collapse of its foremost military patron, the Soviet Union) is no match for Israel’s. Syria’s military weakness was on display four years ago, when its northern neighbor, Turkey, demanded that then-President Hafez Assad (father of the current strongman) end his support for the terrorist Kurdish Workers’ Party or face an invasion. Assad the elder capitulated, and the Kurdish terror group was effectively put out of business. Today, Syria is under heavy fire from the Bush administration over its role in permitting foreign terrorists to cross the border into Iraq to commit sabotage and stage hit-and-run attacks on the 160,000 coalition troops there.

In May, Secretary of State Colin Powell laid down the law to Bashar Assad, demanding that he close the border to terrorists trying to infiltrate into Iraq and end his support for terror groups. Mr. Assad promised to do that, but did virtually nothing. As a result, there’s a growing consensus on Capitol Hill for comprehensive sanctions against Syria. The House International Relations Committee voted 33-2 this week in favor of sanctions against Damascus.

From 1974, when then-Secretary of State Henry Kissinger brokered the Israeli-Syrian disengagement agreement ending the Yom Kippur war, through Sunday morning, Israel acquiesced to the following rules of the game: As long as Syria keeps the Golan Heights quiet, Israel won’t attack — even if the Ba’athist regime allows terrorist organizations to run their operations out of Syria, as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad currently does from Damascus. If Israel wanted to send a message to Syria, it would have to limit itself to attacking targets in Syrian-occupied Lebanon. Syria could support terrorism, secure in the knowledge that Israel would not retaliate against perpetrators operating from its sovereign territory.

The Israeli raid and President Bush’s statement that Israel has the right to defend itself make it clear that the rules of the game have changed. Both send a forceful message to Mr. Assad: Get out of the terrorism business or face the wrath of some much more powerful neighbors.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide