Monday, October 27, 2003

Five large explosions made yesterday the deadliest day since Saddam Hussein was ousted from power. Evidence is mounting that many of the difficulties in pacifying Iraq are coming from outside the country. Yesterday, during the mayhem, the U.S. Army captured a man throwing a grenade at a police station in Baghdad. This terrorist holds a Syrian passport and is suspected to be Syrian. His car was full of dynamite and mortar rounds. The series of attacks appears more coordinated by the day, and Syria’s role in undermining Iraqi security looks to be serious.

Foreign fighters are not the only ones providing aid and comfort to the enemies of Iraqi reconstruction. As more Syrian links to attacks in Iraq are exposed, the European Union (EU) is increasing economic links to Syria. In Damascus, a weekend business conference funded by the EU brought together 180 European officials and business executives and 226 of their counterparts from Syria, Lebanon and Jordan. The goal was to strengthen business cooperation and pave the way for a Syrian-EU trade pact by the end of the year.

It is clear that this European coddling of Syria is a direct response to the growing movement toward American sanctions against the nation. One Syrian analyst, quoted yesterday by the Financial Times, removed any doubts. “Syria is rushing to deflect U.S. pressure,” he said. “A closer relationship with Europe will help our government feel more secure.”

Sanctions have attracted strong bipartisan support in Washington. The House of Representatives voted 398-4 only two weeks ago for new sanctions on Damascus. President Bush’s spokesman, Scott McClellan, made the White House’s position very clear. “Syria needs to change course, change its behavior, stop harboring terrorists,” he said. U.S. officials have been particularly frustrated by Syrian refusal to shut down training, fundraising and logistical activities by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Syria.

American efforts to get tough on Syrian acquiescence to and sponsorship of terrorists have provoked the predictable rejoinders from the usual apologists for terror. Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said the sanctions were obviously the result of Jewish influence in American politics. Lebanon blamed the “Zionist lobby.” The 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Conference voted to condemn U.S. sanctions on Syria without a word condemning Syrian terrorist affiliations.

And of course, there’s France. “History has shown us that they were not effective and created more problems than they solved,” said French President Jacques Chirac about sanctions. His government is pushing the EU’s policy to increase trade with Damascus. Monsieur Chirac seems to have forgotten that French business deals with Saddam Hussein did not encourage democracy in Iraq. It is difficult to determine whether the European Union is for us — or for the terrorists.

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