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Syria: Unofficial member of the "Axis of Evil"

By Carol Devine-Molin
web posted February 28, 2005

Now's the time to revamp and redefine the phrase "Axis of Evil", which originally represented the rogue regimes of Iran, Iraq and North Korea as cited by President Bush. With the ouster of Saddam Hussein and Iraq's ongoing democratization, that infamous designation clearly no longer applies to Iraq. However, it would be fair to add Syria to the list. Because Syria continues to enflame and destabilize the Middle East through violence, it now deserves to be dubbed a full-fledged member of the "Axis of Evil".

Reasonable people have to wonder: What are Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and his inner circle thinking? Syria's recent actions are not only abhorrent, but ill conceived and well-capable of resulting in retaliatory strikes. The Syrians apparently have no qualms about stoking the fires of the Middle East "pot-au-feu". Frankly, Assad and his advisors are not only exhibiting extremely poor judgment, but they're devoid of vision. They're continuing on the same sorry path that's not conducive to the best interests of Syria and the Middle East in this modern era. Assad, once considered a master tactician like his father, is now viewed as a rather foolhardy leader, engaging in actions that will inevitably backfire. The tipping point has arrived -- The pleas for jaw-jaw as opposed to war-war are soon destined to fall on deaf ears. Syria's opponents are poised to respond to its vicious provocations, if Syria doesn't promptly change its ways.

Syria has been implicated in horrific actions that might very well spur retaliatory strikes, including: a) the murder of a former Lebanese prime minister, b) the recent terror attack in Tel Aviv, Israel, and, c) the training of Iraqi insurgents in terror warfare such as beheadings and bombings. Understandably, in the mode of an Agatha Christie novel, there's a significant list of those having ample motives to strike out against the culprit Syria, most notably the nations of Israel, the US, and Iraq, and the Lebanese grassroots, anti-Syrian protestors seeking to cast off the yoke of Syrian occupation.

A civil war in Lebanon -- with protestors fighting pro-Syrian elements -- could conceivably erupt in that very volatile nation. A growing number of Lebanese seeking "Sovereignty Restoration" want Syrian troops and intelligence agents out of their nation forthwith, which has widespread support among members of the international community as demonstrated by UN resolution 1559. Moreover, many inside Lebanon and abroad believe that Syria either condoned or orchestrated the recent assassination of the much beloved former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. As cited in a piece by MSNBC, French lawmaker Pierre Lellouche adroitly observed, "I don't see how an assassination of such size could have been planned without Syria's knowledge. It's ludicrous to say the opposite".

As for Israel, the tiny nation is keeping its options opened, despite its belief that the Islamic Jihad organization, in conjunction with Syria, were behind last week's Tel Aviv terror attack aimed at disrupting a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians. As cited in an Associated Press article, "Israel's defense minister on Saturday blamed Syria and a Palestinian militant group based there for a suicide bombing that killed four Israelis outside a Tel Aviv nightclub and shattered an informal truce, prompting him to freeze plans to hand over security responsibilities in the West Bank. Syria denied the charges". However, Syrian denials mean nothing to the Israelis who are well aware that the Syrian leaders are pathological liars. Since the US has urged Israeli restraint, Israel is now seeking official condemnation of Syria at the United Nations. However, Israeli airstrikes against Syria remain a distinct possibility. Israel has enacted retaliatory airstrikes against Syria in the past for terrorist actions.

Moreover, it now appears that Syrian intelligence agents have been providing Iraqi insurgents with terror training. Surprising? Not especially, given Syria's well entrenched history as a state sponsor of terrorism. Guerrilla strikes by Ba'athists and terrorists inside Iraq are the bane of coalition forces and the Iraqi people. Therefore, Syria's meddling has direct implications for Americans serving in Iraq, and for their families. That being said, expect average Americans to galvanize, and demand that Syria be held accountable. Syria cannot engage in heinous activities with impunity. As noted by the Associated Press, "Iraqi state television aired a video today showing what the US-funded channel said was the confession of a captured Syrian officer who said he trained Iraqi insurgents to behead people and build car bombs to attack American and Iraqi troops. The video also showed an Iraqi who said the insurgents practiced beheading animals to train for decapitating hostages". The anti-American crowd might reject this news release -- I don't. The Ba'athist government in Damascus is well motivated to aid their Iraqi Ba'athist brethren.

Make no mistake, the Middle East is currently in a transformation mode. Syrian autocratic rule has much to fear from the ripple effect generated by fledgling democracies in Iraq and Afghanistan. We already see movement, albeit baby-steps, toward democratization by Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia. And, with the aid of the US, which is abundantly committed to freedom for the peoples of the Middle East, the future in that region appears promising.

Carol Devine-Molin is a regular contributor to several online magazines.

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