Jewish World Review Oct. 27, 2003/1 Mar-Cheshvan 5763
Richard Z. Chesnoff
Syrians still play footsie with terror
True, several groups were advised by their Syrian handlers to close the offices that they used to disseminate propaganda and direct terrorist activities in the West Bank and Gaza.
But as I learned during a research project for Washington's Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, the closures were a sham. Terrorist groups like Hamas simply moved to more anonymous offices in Damascus' sprawling residential districts. Some didn't even play the game. Islamic Jihad, the organization that carried out the recent bloody suicide bombing in Haifa, operates from the same location it has used since 1999.
"About all the Syrians did," says one Mideast intelligence source, "was disconnect Islamic Jihad's known phone lines, then allocate them new secret ones."
In an attempt to fend off Washington, the head of the Syrian military security department, Hassan Khalil, has coordinated a series of smoke-and- mirror moves. Beginning in May, major portions of the Palestinian terrorist operation - and its arms - were transferred out of Syria proper and into those parts of neighboring Lebanon that are under the direct control of Syria or its proxy, Hezbollah.
Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says, "Israel will not be deterred from defending its citizens and will hit its enemies any place and in any way." The Bush administration, which has reiterated Israel's right to defend its citizens, would serve the war on terror well by supporting his position.
The administration also should back the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act that passed the House this month and is now before the Senate. This long-ovedue piece of legislation would ban U.S. sales of dual-use items to Syria and impose diplomatic and trade sanctions until Damascus stops supporting terror and ends its occupation of Lebanon.
The President also should postpone sending a new U.S. ambassador to Damascus
and demand that Syria cough up the estimated $3 billion in Iraqi oil revenues
it hid for Saddam Hussein. Like his late father, Hafez, Bashar Assad can be
moved only by a strong arm.
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