Holding Syria Accountable

by | Jul 23, 2002

Following the horrific events of September 11, President George W. Bush bravely asserted his administration’s policy toward terrorism. The United States, from here out, was to hold not only terrorist organizations, but also state sponsors of terrorism, responsible for their actions. Contrary to the criticism by American defeatists and European leftists, the United States was […]

Following the horrific events of September 11, President George W. Bush bravely asserted his administration’s policy toward terrorism. The United States, from here out, was to hold not only terrorist organizations, but also state sponsors of terrorism, responsible for their actions. Contrary to the criticism by American defeatists and European leftists, the United States was able to successfully prosecute a war against both Al-Qaida and the Taliban. America showed that it was serious in its efforts.

With the carnage rising in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the administration must stay the course and continue to advance its counter-terrorism policy. Given the numerous recent homicide bombings in Israel, it should put particular pressure on those regimes that continue to sponsor terror against the Jewish State. Aside from Iran, there is perhaps no other state that provides so much ideological and material support for Palestinian terrorist organizations as does Syria. Just days after assuming the presidency of the UN Security Council, an Islamic Jihad homicide bomber struck in Megiddo, Israel, killing over a dozen persons. Islamic Jihad, it should be noted, has its offices in Damascus.

There is thus no more important piece of counter-terrorism legislation pending in Congress than the Syrian Accountability Act of 2002. Introduced in the House (H.R. 4483) by Representatives Elliot Engel (D-NY) and Dick Armey (R-TX) and in the Senate (S. 2215) by Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rick Santorum (R-PA), this bill would penalize Syria not only for its support of Palestinian terrorist organizations, but also for its non-conventional weapons program and, most importantly, its continued illegal occupation of Lebanon.

Contrary to the musings of the Arabist lobbies in Washington, Syria is the real occupying power in the Levant. Through its support for Hizbullah, Syria abuses Lebanon’s sovereignty to wage a proxy war against Israel. It also uses its military presence to transfer surplus labor power into Lebanon and to proper up its puppet regime in Beirut. Political dissent is stifled. Those who reject this illegal presence are condemned as “Zionist agents.” The true voices and wishes of the Lebanese people are silenced by one of the most economically backward and politically repressive states in the region.

Following the logic of Bush’s “You are with us or you are with the terrorists” speech, it would follow that the Administration would push for holding Syria accountable. Unfortunately, this does not appear to be the case. Indeed, there exists a real schism between Congress and the White House on this matter, with the latter allegedly making quiet comments to Damascus that said legislation will not pass. The State Department continues to view Syria as a potential partner in the war against Al-Qaida.

We, as Americans, must not be blinded to some stark facts: Syria actively supports Hizbullah, an organization responsible for the homicide bombing murder of 241 U.S. Marines in Beirut in 1983. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, an organization that hijacked four commercial airplanes in September 1970 and has conducted attacks on Jewish civilian targets around the world, also has its headquarters in Damascus. More recently, the Syrian secret police brutally crushed a pro-Christian, anti-Syrian rally in Beirut. Couple that with its state-sponsored anti-Semitism and its chemical weapons program and it becomes increasingly clear that Syria is neither a potential partner against terrorism, nor a regime America with which should continue to do extensive business.

Syria, like Iran, must be held accountable, and punished for, its continued support for terrorist organizations that have American blood on their hands. It is for a very good reason that the State Department has placed Syria on its annual list of state-sponsors of terrorism. This pariah regime should be treated like North Korea, not like a potential friend who has yet to choose which side it is on.

Lebanese-Americans and their allies have made it a priority to expose Syria’s support for terrorism and its illegal occupation of their historic homeland. Although the network media focus exclusively on the Palestinian conflict with Israel, Lebanese-Americans know that Syria, not Israel, is the source of conflict and political instability in the region. The Syria Accountability Act of 2002 will go a long way in giving an important political voice to the patriotic Lebanese-American community and could spur a nationwide campaign for universities to divest holdings in Syria. Passage of this act will also be a victory for both America and Israel in their joint war against Islamic terrorist organizations.

Jonathan Eric Lewis is a New York-based journalist and writer. His work has appeared in the "Wall Street Journal"; "New York Sun"; and "Forward." He is the author, most recently, of the essay, "Iraqi Assyrians : Barometer of Pluralism" (Middle East Quarterly, Summer 2003)

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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