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March 13, 2007

Syria Up To Old Tricks In Lebanon

If you thought that Syria's interference in Lebanon ended in late 2004 when the UN told Syria it was time to end its interference in Lebanon's affairs and recognize Lebanese sovereignty, you'd be mistaken. Syria has never really accepted international law, and it doesn't appear that it has any plans to begin now. Now we learn that Lebanese police have busted a Syria-based terrorist network grouping operatives from three Arab nationalities on charges of carrying out the twin-bus bombings north of Beirut last month and planning further attacks:

The culprits hold Syrian and Saudi identification documents. Two of the held operatives are Palestinian refugees from the camp of Yarmouk near the Syrian capital of Damascus.

The bust, according to one source, also included confiscating a "large quantity of explosives" that were hidden in the Beirut apartment of Syrian suspect identified as Mustapha Siyor.

Members of the network, according to the source, infiltrated into Lebanon from Syria last November under the cover of the so-called "Fatah-Islam" group, which was set up by Syrian intelligence with the objective of carrying out terrorist attacks to destabilize Lebanon and block the ratification of the international tribunal which would try suspects in the 2005 assassination of ex-Premier Rafik Hariri and related crimes.

Siyor's cell had been operating under cover from an apartment in Beirut's Christian neighborhood of Karm el-Zaytoun, which is part of the capital's Ashrafiyeh district, the source said.

The daily newspaper al-Moustaqbal reported on Nov. 30 that Syrian President Bashar Assad has sent 200 terrorists to Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon to assassinate 36 Lebanese public figures.

There are even reports from Lebanon that indicate the group had been planning a large attack on UNIFIL forces stationed in southern Lebanon as part of the UNSC Resolution 1701.

And yet there are policymakers and analysts in the US that feel the Bush administration's present policy of isolating Syria is going nowhere, and engagement with Syria is the answer. But is it?

As Michael Young points out at The Daily Star, The framework for the "engage Syria" pundits is that we should do so because of Iraq. They say that the Syrians pose a deadly threat in Lebanon, which is all the more reason to be talking with them." Isolation, the argument goes, also isolates the US. If Washington negotiates, it can use its weight to bring about desirable outcomes.

However, as Young suggests, there are several problems with this, and there is very little chance that engaging Syria will do anything but bolster Asaad.

Dealing with Iran on Iraq may be inevitable; dealing with Syria is not, particularly after Assad burned more bridges to the Sunnis by trying and failing to seize control of the Iraqi Baath Party. The Syrians have to be made to realize that their regime can only last if they make fundamental concessions in the region. Assad is too brittle to demand more than recognition of his survival.
In other Syrian related news, there are reports of an ongoing Syrian military buildup along its border with Israel - including the recent deployment of missiles - is alarming some Israeli analysts who warn that Tehran's support for Damascus is aggravating the threat against the Jewish state. Etc., etc., ... ad nauseum.

And these are the people the likes of David Ignatius would have us bend over and show our backside too?



Posted by Richard at March 13, 2007 1:29 PM





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