- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said yesterday that, despite Syrian promises to clamp down on terrorists crossing into Iraq, he has seen little action.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell extracted a promise Sept. 22 at the United Nations from the Syrian foreign minister that Damascus would stop terrorists moving from its soil into Iraq to kill soldiers and civilians from the United States and other coalition members.

“It’s a tough military mission and a tough political mission, but I sense a new attitude from the Syrians,” Mr. Powell told reporters then.

But 12 days later, Mr. Rumsfeld said he has yet to see Syria follow through.

“There have been meetings lately, and whether they’ll change their way and be more helpful prospectively, time will tell. But I’d like to see it,” Mr. Rumsfeld told the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. “It’s too early to say there’s been any progress at all, in my view.”

In a speech with a question-and-answer session billed as a progress report on the war on terrorism, Mr. Rumsfeld upped the pressure on Syria by accusing it of directly aiding terrorists making their way to Iraq.

The Syrians “have used their border with Iraq to facilitate terrorists moving back and forth, money moving back and forth, and they’ve been unhelpful,” Mr. Rumsfeld said.

The Bush administration has dispatched two delegations to Syria in recent weeks to deliver blunt warnings of reprisals if the government of Bashar Assad did not stop the border crossings.

Iraq is the scene of nearly daily car bombings carried out by suicidal jihadists, some or most of whom enter through Syria and meet up in Fallujah and elsewhere with members of Abu Musab Zarqawi’s terror network, U.S. officials say.

Mr. Rumsfeld, told The Washington Times last month thatmoney and operatives were flowing in from outside sources — specifically mentioning Iran — to fund the Iraq insurgency.

“Syria has been notably unhelpful,” he added yesterday.

In making such frank remarks, Mr. Rumsfeld seemed to side with the view of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Syria harbors a number of anti-Jewish terrorist groups, including the Iranian-financed Hezbollah. “We don’t, at this point, see a change in Syria’s position,” Mr. Sharon said last month.

In the overall war on terror, Mr. Rumsfeld listed a series of accomplishments, including the ouster of the Taliban from Afghanistan and that country’s pending national elections.

“Have there been setbacks in Afghanistan and Iraq? You bet,” the defense secretary said. “It is often, on some bad days, not a pretty picture at all. In fact, it can be dangerous and ugly. But the road from tyranny to freedom has never been peaceful or tranquil.”

He heaped praise on three moderate Muslim leaders — Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and Iyad Allawi of Iraq — who are attempting to lead their people away from the terrorist teachings of Osama bin Laden and other jihadists.

Mr. Rumsfeld defended Gen. Musharraf’s decision not to imprison Abdul Qadeer Khan, the renowned Pakistani weapons scientist who ran an elaborate and profitable black market in nuclear materials that aided Libya and North Korea. The CIA discovered the Khan network and informed Pakistan.

Gen. Musharraf has survived at least two assassination attempts. Punishing Mr. Khan could further infuriate Pakistani militants already angry about Gen. Musharraf’s tilt toward the United States.

“I’m not going to stand here and criticize Musharraf for the way he handled it,” Mr. Rumsfeld said. “Every day when he gets up, he’s walking on a tightrope. And, by golly, he is a courageous person, and he’s a skillful person, and the world is very lucky he’s there doing what he’s doing.”

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