Sunday, March 06, 2005

Column: Looking Forward

When I read the story last night about the fall of the pro-Syrian regime in Lebanon all I could say is wow! -- I said it a few times. If things were moving fast in this region, I thought to myself, they had just shifted into a much higher gear.

The fall of the puppet regime in Lebanon threatens Bashar Assad's leadership in Syria. Not only is Syria dependent economically to a great extent on the fruits of its Lebanese occupation, one ostensibly made to prevent a civil war, but Assad has essentially admitted his role in international terror -- one that he has long been denying -- by surrendering to Iraq Saddam Hussein's half brother on the same day (Sunday) as the regime resigned.

Along with Saddam Hussein's half brother, Assad surrendered 29 other former Iraqi Baathists leaders of the Iraqi "insurgency." This move can really mean only one thing. Assad is trying to wash his hands of his terror connections in fear of the approaching tide of democratic reform that is sweeping the area and threatens to bring down upon him the full scrutiny of America as it pursues the War on Terror.

Surely knowing that the release would draw American attention to his involvement with Iraqi "insurgents," Assad may have been calculating that if he surrendered these Saddam loyalists he would deflect further attention away from himself and the full extent of his terrorist activities. This calculation was desperate and mistaken and will backfire in a painful way for Assad.

Already, instead of softening up, America is mounting the pressure on Assad in light of both the fall of the regime in Lebanon and the harboring of Saddam loyalist leaders.

Republican Senator from Kansas, Sam Brownback, said in a telephone interview with the Wichita Eagle during a flight home from a visit to Iraq; "We really have to confront Syria on allowing these groups to operate out of Syria ... The ties to command-and-control of these operations go back onto Syrian soil."
Knight Ridder reported:

"The Bush administration made clear Monday that it has no intention of easing up on Assad, saying it was closely following developments in Lebanon. It also announced that President Bush plans to meet next month at the White House with the patriarch of the country's Maronite Christians, one of the main anti-Syrian factions."
"Syrian military forces and intelligence personnel need to leave the country," White House spokesman Scott McClellan said."

Meanwhile, on Monday, the day following the fall of the pro-Syrian regime and the surrender of the Baathists, Assad said in an interview that he thought the United States might attack his country, but did not believe a strike was imminent, revealing the extent of his concern over his new situation and his desire to win sympathy and protection. But while that might gain him some support and sympathy in certain corners it will do little to veer the Bush administration off course from bringing him down.

Miichael Ledeen, posting on National Review Online's blog, "The Corner," in an early to press commentary on the developments in Lebanon had this to say:

"Today Beirut, tomorrow Damascus, Riyadh and Tehran. And then we will see what is left of the terror network.

War is waged in many ways, and we possess the most lethal weapon in the world: the desire for freedom. President Bush ha--uniquely among world leaders--understood the nature of this moment and given it voice. We should be celebrating the fall of the Lebanese puppet regime, and we should be demanding referenda and free elections in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Sometimes tyrants can be brought down without firing a shot. It is happening every month. The so-called "realists" (actually reactionaries, as my pal Roger Simon never tires of reminding us) are now talking about making deals with the tyrants. This would be a terrible mistake. This is our moment, and the tyrants know it (I'm preparing a longer explication for tomorrow) let's win the whole thing.

Come on, guys, get with the program. Join the call for a referendum in Iran: "do you want an Islamic republic, yes or no?" That is the death knell of the mullahs, and the downfall of the world's greatest sponsor of terrorism."

Ledeen's piece should be interesting and instructive as to how the Bush administration will move forward on this news. I'm not going to miss it.


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9:42 AM  
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1:39 PM  

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