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Jewish World Review Jan. 30, 2002/ 17 Shevat, 5762

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Iran & Syria up the ante
in Arafat's war on Israel

http://www.jewishworldreview.com --
THE use of female suicide bombers is a frightening new twist in the already twisted Palestinian war of terror against Israel.

Yasser Arafat may not have personally chosen the young woman who blew herself up on Jerusalem's Jaffa St. on Sunday, killing one person and maiming scores of innocents. But Arafat is responsible for almost every other atrocity of the 15-month-old intifadeh.

As if Arafat weren't doing enough to destroy Mideast peace on his own, he is getting increasing help from two of the region's worst troublemakers: Iran and Syria.

Iran's mullahs have been long sworn to scuttle the peace process. Together with their Lebanese-based Hezbollah stooges, they were knee-deep in the recently thwarted attempt to smuggle a shipload of arms to Arafat's terrorist armies.

And although Syria has no great love for Arafat, it has always been a place for Palestinian extremists and has become increasingly attractive to the Islamic fanatics who are behind the bloody campaign of suicide bombings in Israeli cities.

The White House is furious with Arafat for not stopping the bloodshed. But even if the increasingly isolated Palestinian leader cracked down on the terror gangs, as he endlessly promises to do, Islamic terrorist organizations -- and Arafat's own Fatah extremists -- would probably just relocate to Syria.

In fact, the fix is already in. According to reliable Mideast intelligence sources, Hamas senior operatives asked for a promise of asylum during a secret meeting on Dec. 3 with Syria's vice president, Abdel-Halim Khaddam.

The Hamas leaders, who included Khaled Masha'l, the foreign emissary, reportedly told Khaddam that they fear international pressure may force Arafat to drop his revolving-door policy of arresting and later releasing Hamas operatives. Now, said the Hamas leaders, Arafat may feel compelled to take "serious action" - which in reality will mean letting Hamas chiefs (and, reportedly, Islamic Jihad activists) flee to Syria with the help of the Lebanese-based Hezbollah. Among the candidates for Syrian asylum: Salah Shehade, head ofHamas' Gaza operations, and Adnan al-Ghoul, a senior member of Hamas' Izzedine al Qassam military battalion.

Masha'l reportedly requested an urgent meeting with Syria's president, Bashar Assad. Although Khaddam promised to recommend that Assad consider the request positively, he stressed that Syria is "under heavy pressure" on terrorism. Nonetheless, he added, Syria "could not sit idly by in these times."

Syria is already home to any number of extremist and terrorist organizations, including Turkey's murderous Kurdish separatists and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, an organization that has been linked to the downing of Pan Am Flight 103.

To be sure, Syria was among the first to announce that it was joining President Bush's global coalition against terrorism. And surprisingly, given its dismal record, Syria is a member of the United Nations Security Council. But Assad, like his late father, doesn't consider Palestinian terrorists to be terrorists.

Neither does Iran. In the mind of Tehran's leaders, people like that woman in Jerusalem who self-detonate and kill innocent shoppers and children are martyred resistance fighters. The Iranians, who are busily developing nuclear weapons, also are stirring up trouble in neighboring Afghanistan.

The Bush administration has been trying to revive the Mideast peace process. Meanwhile, some officials have sought to warm up U.S. relations with Iran and Syria. There is an impossible conflict between these two goals. The administration must have no illusions about both nations' treacherous mischief-making.


JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report, a columnist at the NY Daily News and a senior fellow at the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Demoracies. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.

Richard Z. Chesnoff Archives

© 2002, N. Y. Daily News