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by mark dameli
Thursday, Mar. 11, 2004 at 11:54 AM
State sponsored terrorism is synonymous with Syria and more closely with the Assad regime. During the reign of Hafez al-Assad, and continuing with his son Baschar, Syria's al-Baath Party has embarked on strengthening its political hand by using the crudest of methods: Terrorism.
Syria's application of terrorism has been regional in nature and mostly against the country of Israel. Israel, to protect its citizenry living in the North, has tried to counter balance the Syrian involvement with Hezbollah by supporting its own militia in the south of Lebanon made up of Christian conscripts opposing the Syrian presence in Lebanon. The raining of rockets by Hezbollah on the State of Israel is triggered with an on-off button under the right hand of the Assad family in Damascus. The US State Department has labeled Syria a terrorist state (web site).
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, Syria -along with Iran- gives the Lebanese militia Hezbollah “substantial amounts of financial, training, weapons, explosives, political, diplomatic, and organizational aid,” according to the State Department. Iranian arms bound for Hezbollah regularly pass through Syria, experts say. Syria, which has effectively occupied and controlled neighboring Lebanon since 1990, has also let Hezbollah operate in Lebanon and attack Israel, often ratcheting up regional tensions.
Syria has also provided training, weapons, safe haven, and logistical support to both leftist and Islamist Palestinian hard-liners. The far-left Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command and the fundamentalist Palestinian Islamic Jihad have their headquarters in Damascus, and other terrorist groups, including the Islamist group Hamas and the leftist Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, maintain offices there.
From 1980 until 1998, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which sought an independent Kurdish state, used Syria as a headquarters and base of operations against neighboring Turkey. Recently, Syria signed the Adana Agreement with Turkey and relinquished support for the KWP.
Syria signed a free trade agreement with Iraq in 2001 and is the primary conduit for Iraqi oil pumped and sold in defiance of U.N. sanctions, thereby providing Saddam Hussein with a large source of illegal income. U.S. pressure on Syria to curtail the flow of Iraqi oil has been unsuccessful.
Syria has weapons of mass destruction and the ballistic missiles to deliver them, according to U.S. defense and intelligence reports. Syria has an active chemical weapons program, including significant reserves of the deadly nerve agent sarin. Its research programs are trying to develop even more toxic nerve agents. It also has a biological weapons program, but experts say Syria is incapable of producing and “weaponizing” large quantities of dangerous germs without substantial foreign help. Syria is not currently trying to build or buy nuclear weapons, experts say.
Syria has not ceased its support for terrorists.
The Syrian Government still provides terrorists with safe haven, allows them to operate over a dozen terrorist training camps in the Syrian-controlled Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, and permits the Iranian Government to re-supply these camps. Since its designation as a state sponsor of terrorism, Syria has expelled a few terrorist groups from Damascus, such as the Japanese Red Army, but these groups already were of marginal value to Syrian foreign policy. Meanwhile, Damascus continues to support terrorist groups opposed to the peace process. Although Syria recently made a show of "instructing" terrorists based in Damascus not to engage in certain types of attacks, it did not expel the groups or cease supporting them. This suggests Syria's determination to maintain rather than abandon terrorism. George W. Bush should make clear to Syria that it will remain on the list of state sponsors of terrorism until it shuts down training camps and other facilities in Syria and the Bekaa Valley and prohibits the re-supply of terrorist groups through Syrian-controlled territory.
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