Thursday, October 16, 2003

Serious About Syria?

The House recently passed, with only 4 dissenting votes, a measure giving the Bush administration options for sanctions against Syria. The measure is said to have broad support in the Senate, as well. Syria is considered a rogue nation, which sponsors terrorism and even protects the leaders of Arab terrorist organizations.

Here are a couple of interesting facts about Syria - once again, these are not items you are likely to see on the news. The topics of the three-letter agencies are more likely to accuse America of bullying the poor, misunderstood Syrian Government.

Syria is currently ruled in much the same way as was Iraq during the reign of Saddam Hussein. All of the power is held by ba'ath Party President Bashar al-Assad, a son of the previous Syrian president, who died in 2000. Interestingly, according to Syria's constitution, al-Assad was not old enough to become president, but he controlled the army and the constitution was quickly amended to allow him to become Syria's elected ruler - there was only one candidate. Syria is also noted for human rights abuses over the course of the past 35 years -especially the crackdown of anti-Syrian figures in Syria and Lebanon.

While hostile towards Sunni fundamentalist terror organizations, like al-Qaeda, Syria does provide great amounts of financial and logistical support to nationalist Arab terror groups, such as Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Fatah-the-Intifada, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Lebonese Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Syria also cooperates a great deal with Iran and did so with Iraq, prior to the US led action against the Hussein. In many cases, these organizations maintain well-appointed, clearly marked offices right in Damascus.

Syria has extensive WMD capability, mostly Chemical and Bio, and the capability to deliver them great distances. It is believed Syria purchased 150 SCUD-Cs (an extended range missile) from North Korea in 1991 and SCUD -Ds in 2000. Syria has also occupied all of Lebanon and has a great deal to do with the shaping, if not the actual operation, of the current Lebanese government. Syria possesses the ability to produce several hundred tons of chemical and biological weapons per year.

Is Syria a significant threat to the United States? No more than Iran is, in my opinion. The significant threat Syria poses today is absolute in two areas. First, they are providing the material support and capability to others who wish to do harm to US and other coalition forces in Iraq. Secondly, Syria has strong-armed Lebanon to ensure there is no peace between Lebanon and Israel.

Should we be serious about bringing Syria to task for its actions? Yes, Syria is involved in the proliferation of WMD at home and abroad, is actively hindering peace initiatives and is conducting a campaign which results in the loss of American lives overseas. Military action is a long way away, but sanctions will not work - we don't do a lot of business with Syria as it is. Syria is best combated today by forcing them to lose their grip in Lebanon and the only folks up to that task are the Israelis. Maybe that will change, but I am not encouraged - taking into consideration our waning support of our own actions in Iraq.