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

April 28, 2003

U.S. to step up pressure on Syria

Present American policy assumes that any nation supporting terror is a threat to the United States and therefore must be stopped in whatever manner it takes to accomplish this goal. That standing up to terror nations in the Middle East is viewed by some people as being a policy "dictated by Israel" is simply a display of anti-Israel and anti-Jewish rehetoric rather than a recognition of a war against terror begun after 9/11.
WASHINGTON — The Bush administration will use the weight of its military victory in Iraq as leverage to press Syria to curtail support of terrorist groups, primarily the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah, according to administration officials.

The request will call for shutting down terrorist training camps and halting cargo flights from Tehran, Iran, to Damascus, Syria, that allegedly carry weapons, personnel and other supplies for Hezbollah, which operates in southern Lebanon under Syrian authority, a U.S. official said.

The United States also will ask Syria to close the Damascus offices of terrorist organizations.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is to visit Damascus next month, is likely to deliver the new demands.

"When you look at the state sponsorship of terrorism, you have got to be concerned that Hezbollah is becoming the heir apparent of al-Qaida," a U.S. official said.

The message to Syria will be part of a broader bid to promote the Bush administration's "road map" for an end to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict while pressing governments to sever sponsorship of terrorist organizations.

Hezbollah is responsible for the 1983 bombing that killed more than 200 Marines in Lebanon, a 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Argentina and many other acts.

In recent years, it has set it sights on Israeli targets, firing rockets and staging attacks from Lebanon while also expanding links with militant Palestinian groups, according to terrorism experts.

Putting pressure on Syria to shed its support of terrorist groups is not a new U.S. tactic. But the renewed requests will carry with them the force of the sudden, sizeable U.S. military presence in neighboring Iraq. That diplomatic dialogue will occur against a backdrop of U.S. claims that Syria actively aided Iraq in the war. Syrian President Bashar Assad denies those accusations.

But the change in the polite, functional U.S.-Syrian relationship is unmistakable, as is the administration's use of victory in Iraq as a new, potentially powerful weapon in its war on terrorism.[more]