Wednesday, September 13, 2006

For What Do We Thank Syria?

It seems that this week, even just temporarily, Syria got what it wanted out of yesterday’s attempted terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy in Damascus. The world – and the United States, specifically – was able to sidestep the reality that Syria is a state-sponsor of terrorism, and we were treated to the paradoxical praise being given to the authoritarian government of Syria for stopping a terrorist attack that – can we really discount the possibility? – Syrian agents may have helped to perpetrate.

There’s no U.S. ambassador in Syria, and there hasn’t been since early 2005. When the assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri occurred in Beirut, the fingerprints so obviously led to the Allawite Dictatorship (the Allawites are a religious minority in Syria, yet they run the government with an iron-fist like the minority Sunnis in Iraq did under Saddam Hussein). Our ambassador was recalled. And the U.N., in one of its rare laudable moments, agreed that elements within the Syrian regime were probably responsible for the assassination of Hariri.

Damascus, along with the Islamic Republic of Iran, funds and helps supply Hizballah, which launched the attacks on Israeli troops in July which led to a war that lasted over a month and devastated Lebanon and segments of northern Israel (the aftereffects of which may just topple the current government in Jerusalem, leading to fresh elections before too long). Syria is also suspected of aiding Sunni Iraqi insurgents in Iraq to carry out terrorist attacks against Shiites and coalition troops serving there.

Are we really supposed to believe that a day after the world commemorated the fifth anniversary of the worst-ever terrorist attacks in history, on September 11, 2001, another terrorist attack – which took place in the capital of an authoritarian country that has a history of sponsoring terrorist attacks elsewhere – was in no way, shape or form connected with the regime in Damascus? We’re talking about a regime that regularly sponsors groups which have killed or wish to kill American citizens. Coincidence? Hardly.

We’re talking about a country that every so often says it wants peace with Israel, but at the same time won’t allow you into the country if there is any evidence at all – even an article of clothing with a concealed tag having Hebrew on it packed at the bottom of your luggage – that you’ve ever visited the Jewish state (of course, diplomats are another matter).

We’re talking about a country that has no intention of stopping its support for terrorism suddenly getting credit for stopping a single terrorist attack. How many appeasement-minded, utopian-dreaming Europeans will see what happened on September 12 and say “Hey, maybe al-Assad isn’t so bad after all.”

How many appeasement-minded Americans will do the same?

This morning I saw an article on the Time magazine website, with the title “Why Syria May Be the Real Victim of the Attack”. The article itself does not apologize for the Syrian regime’s faults and terror sponsorship, and points out that the government in Damascus may be finally reaping what it has sown. Oh, lament for poor Syria! Forgive them, for they know not what they do!

I’m sorry, but…I feel they know exactly what they do.

These terrorists had two car bombs. Only one went off. How is it, exactly, in a tightly-controlled society, where supplying-information-on-your-neighbor is official policy, that such an elaborate plot could be planned and then even have the slightest chance of being executed without someone in the Syrian government knowing about it? It seems not too long ago – and it wasn’t – that Syria was on its highest level of war-readiness in Damascus, with anti-aircraft batteries in place just in case Israeli warplanes decided to punish Syria for its support of Hizballah terrorism.

Even if the car-bombs were assembled in one of Syria’s outlying regions, it stands to reason that Syrian security forces should have come upon the terrorists at one time or another – if the Syrian regime is innocent of this crime – as they moved to carry out their attack. If, somehow, the attacks were planned and the bombs readied in Damascus itself, and the Ba’athists in charge were totally unconnected with the plot, it still seems logical that Syrian agents should have been able to uncover it before too long.

It may very well be that a group affiliated with al-Qaeda, or some other terrorist group, managed to outwit Syria’s secret police, bypass most security preparations in the capital, and begin to carry out a terrorist attack on a U.S. Embassy not only with American troops within the compound but surrounded by thirty Syrian security troops on the perimeter. One of four terrorists was captured; the other three were killed in a firefight. It may be that Syrian interrogators grill the captured terrorist and gain insight into some new threat not only to America’s embassy in Syria, but the dictatorial regime itself there.

If the attack was subcontracted, those who carried it out might not necessarily be able to finger those ultimately responsible. It could be that the Syrian government – or elements within that government, as in the Rafik Hariri assassination – had something to do with this yesterday’s terror strike. After all, the Syrian government allowed its people to burn down two foreign embassies last fall in the wake of the Muhammad cartoons printed in Europe. Maybe the Syrians helped plan it. Or maybe they knew about pending action against our embassy, and just decided to let things play out.

Though its government hosts the offices of many a terror group, by “preventing” a terrorist operation it might have actually been responsible for, Syria managed to turn itself from a villain into a hero a day after we marked five years since 9/11. It just seems awfully, awfully convenient for Damascene PR purposes that this happened at the time, and in the way, that it did.

In a somewhat chaotic environment like the West Bank or Gaza Strip, terrorists have many places to hide and freely plan attacks against Israelis – and it’s even easier when the most prominent Palestinian terror group runs the government. But in Damascus, the tightly-controlled capital of an ordered, well-established dictatorship, it’s not as if freedom of anything, let alone movement, exists and allows for the sort of secret planning of random terrorist attacks that a democratic environment such as exists now in Spain, London, or the United States might provide.

When the Syrian ambassador in Washington blames Israel and the U.S. for Muslim extremism, and so blithely ignores Arab authoritarianism and omits home-grown Islamic fundamentalism as a cause for events like 9/11/01, 3/11/04, 7/7/05 or attempted attacks like 9/12/06 in Damascus…something’s wrong, and it isn’t with us. Even the New York Times blames our presence in Iraq for the terrorism within Iraq.

But, the thing is, we’re not forcing Islamic terrorists to carry out attacks against their fellow Iraqis, or against our own troops. The terrorists – and there are too many people who willingly forget this – are making the deliberate choice to slaughter their own people and target our soldiers in the name of Allah, Muhammad and the Qu’ran. Those Iraqis who are opposed to our presence could just as easily march peacefully in demonstrations, but they would likely be killed outright by insurgents for daring to bravely assemble freely despite their fear.

Anyway, Syria’s hands are too covered with the blood of innocents, killed over the years in numerous terror attacks which were carried out by groups Damascus sponsors, for me to even begin to try to trust what representatives of that regime may say. In the wake of yesterday’s foiled attack on the U.S. Embassy, the thanks given to the ordinary members of the Syrian security forces may very well be deserved. They did put their lives on the line, whatever their government may have chosen to do with or without their knowledge in this instance.

As for the Allawite regime itself…well, I think that Bashar Assad and all his minions, as well as those in the “Old Guard”, can go to hell. They’ll not receive my thanks, even if they remotely deserve it.

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