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News and views on Israel, Zionism and the war on terrorism.

April 28, 2003

Coming down to the short strokes

A few days ago, I advised that Victor Davis Hanson in Time is on our Side included one paragraph on Syria in his otherwise fine review of the aftermath.
Somewhere amid all of this hysteria, we were told in one 24-news cycle that we were ready to "invade" Syria. Yet — no matter how odious the Syrian dictatorship — there is little likelihood the United States will use force to liberate Lebanon, expel its terrorists, publicly hunt down refugee Iraqi Baathists inside Damascus, or topple the regime.
I found this very disturbing because I didn't want it to be true. After the flurry of attacks on Syria, then nothing, except for a visit to Damascus that Powell has announced.

What is going on here. I thought the intention was to clean out Lebanon.

My concerns increased when the so called regime change in Ramallah was so warmly embraced notwithstanding that it is not much of a change at all. I began to wonder if the road to peace in the Middle East ran through Jerusalem rather than the other way around. Was Bush going to impose a settlement on Jerusalem as a means to achieve a New Middle East.

Bush appeared to have all he could handle to make the war on Iraq justify itself beyond regime change. Was Bush going to suffer premature evacuation and go home before the US found itself in a quagmire?

Debka thinks not.,
The three-point US ultimatum to Syrian president Bashar Assad, revealed last week by DEBKAfile, stands today more firmly than ever. Most Europeans and Israelis underrate Washington’s determination to make him hand over the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction he has hidden in Syria. It is therefore worth repeating that the Bush administration views the Syrian president as deliberately concealing the proof that would fully justify America’s war on Iraq. Washington will not be denied. If the banned arsenal is not surrendered publicly or discreetly (surfacing for instance on the Iraqi side of the frontier with Syria), the United States will take action to recover it. Rumsfeld’s visit to the region followed by Powell’s is a demonstration for Assad’s benefit that the American ultimatum has teeth.

Even ahead of those two demonstrations, on Saturday, April 26, Tom Lantos, a California Democrat and member of the House International Relations Committee, spent 90 minutes with Assad in Damascus. This was not his first sensitive mission on behalf of a US president – Clinton and later Bush. Lantos is also a firm friend of Israel and his choice as emissary to Damascus to prepare Powell’s visit was deliberate.

Coming out of his interview with the Syrian president, Congressman Lantos said: “I told (Assad) that Syria’s position in the US dropped dramatically as we saw the transfer of military equipment from and through Syria to Iraq, and a large number of Syrian fighters joining a doomed and dying regime in Iraq. This was a very bad and historic mistake, and the time is long overdue to correct the course of Syria’s policy.”

Lantos went on to point out that Saddam’s ouster gives Syria “a historic opportunity for the beginning of a new relationship” with the United States.” However, Lantos added, “We find that there should not be headquarters of terrorist organizations in Damascus. These should be closed… Secondly, the ongoing support and supply of Hizballah military activities through the airport in Damascus must end.”

The US congressman thus laid stress on two of the three points contained in the ultimatum handed to Assad. He warned the Syrian ruler to stop sponsoring terrorists. DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources add that he also noted that while the US government appreciates Syria’s steps to return fleeing Iraqi leaders to US forces in Iraq, it is not satisfied with the pace of this process and would like to see it speeded up. Syria has handed over only four high-ranking Iraqis of the 11 in US hands. The demand to give up Iraq’s banned arsenal was left to Powell.

Washington’s real, updated Middle East road map, the one guiding its current policies, is thus revealed. Clearly, Abu Mazen will not be let off more lightly than Bashar Assad. This does not mean that Israel will escape demands for concessions, even painful ones, but not before the blight of terror is seriously addressed by the two Arab regimes.

The Syrian president must take tough action against the Hizballah, as well as the Jihad Islami, Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups headquartered in Damascus; the Palestinian prime minister and his government will be required to actively beat down the Fatah, the Al Aqsa Brigades as well as the Jihad Islami and Hamas organizations in Palestinian areas. Assad will not be let off the hook.

If the Palestinian “reformists” fail, they will be denied US backing for Palestinian independence and statehood. (I made the same point in my Palestine is not on the Road Map.)

The Bush administration did not extinguish Saddam Hussein’s reign of terror in order to tolerate and treat with terror-sponsoring regimes in Damascus and Ramallah. If that message does not register, then another two regime changes lie ahead.

To drive this point home, last Thursday, Powell, in a telecast to the Arab world, said Thursday, that terrorism must end if peacemaking between Israel and the Palestinians is to have a chance of succeeding.
We are certainly down to the short strokes. I wonder what those "painful concessions" are?