Saturday, April 12, 2003

The Case For Syria

Once again I had the pleasure of catching James Lileks on the radio yesterday during his weekly appearance on the Ian Punnett show on FM 107. Lileks was even able to deliver a well deserved "I told you so" (after being prodded repeatedly by Punnert to do so) on his pre-war predictions of the outcome of the struggle. Punnett then began challenging Lileks on reports that after Iraq the US might next turn its sights on Syria for regime change. Now Ian is usually an intelligent and reasonable man, but he seemed completely ignorant about why the US would want to go after the Syrians and tried to claim that Bush had never indicated that the US had any intentions for military action in the region beyond Iraq. Lileks patiently argued that Bush had rather clearly laid out the blueprint for the war on terror in his 2002 State of the Union speech, including taking on countries that supported and harbored terrorists. And as Lileks explained it, the Axis of Evil was not necessarily limited to Iraq, Iran, and North Korea and if a country's actions merited inclusion the US would certainly allow them to join the club.

I wasn't able to listen to whole segment with Lileks but afterwards I came up with a few reasons of my own that dictate possible action against Syria. And as Lileks said it's not as if we're talking about marching on Damascus next week or anything. I would imagine a few sternly delivered diplomatic warnings to the Syrians to cease and desist and to heed the lessons of Iraq would be a good place to start. Anyway here's a list of my potential causi belli:

* At a minimum Syria has allowed and possibly encouraged foreign jihadists to enter Iraq from Syria during the current war. Now in a way I guess we should be thankful for the opportunity to deal with these folks in Iraq instead of somewhere else but assisting our enemy combatants during wartime is not something we're going to look highly on. I believe that the Syrians now have finally sealed their border with Iraq but only after thousands have already entered the country.

* Sent arms and equipment to Iraq after the start of the war.

* Syria has probably allowed Iraqi leaders sanctuary there and possibly hidden Iraqi WMD as well.

* Has occupied Lebanon for years, installed a puppet regime, and still has over 20,000 troops there.

* Syria has long been a sponsor including supporting such groups as Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad, among others. These groups have carried out numerous attacks against Israel and also against the US particularly in Lebanon in the 80's. In fact more American troops died in the 1983 bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut than have been killed up to this point in the war with Iraq. Syria was possibly actively involved in the attack or at least had knowledge of it beforehand.

* Other than the Palestinians, the Syrians are probably the biggest stumbling block to peace in the Middle East with their support of terrorism against Israel and refusal to negotiate meaningfully with the Israelis.

* The Syrian government is Baathist and in many ways cut from the same cloth as Saddam's regime. It is repressive, autocratic, and has carried out many abuses against its own people.

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