Friday, February 18, 2005

Iran, Syria and Bush

The Washington Times, Op-Ed:
Over the past few days, media critics of President Bush's tough stance against Iranian and Syrian roles in supporting terrorism have started to level a patently false charge against the administration: that its recent criticism of these rogue-state regimes has magically transformed them from being friendly (or at least neutral) toward the United States into enemies.

To hear the carping about Wednesday's announcement that Tehran and Damascus were forming an alliance to resist pressure from Washington, one would almost think that neither of these regimes had considered supporting terrorism until Mr. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice began criticizing them the other day. This is nonsense. Iran and Syria have been allies (and part of an axis supporting terrorism) for almost a quarter century. And Syria was up to its eyeballs in supporting terrorism well before that.

After he seized power in a 1970 military coup, Syrian President Hafez Assad (father of current dictator Bashar Assad) frequently employed terror to settle political scores. After Syria occupied Lebanon in 1976, it killed scores of Lebanese politicians who refused to bow to its dictates, among them Druze leader Kamal Jumblatt. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Syrian agents targeted a diverse array of enemies, ranging from Egypt (for making peace with Israel) to the prime minister of Jordan to the Muslim Brotherhood. Targets also included the American consulate in Istanbul and the French ambassador to Lebanon.

Following the 1979 Iranian Revolution, the radical Shi'ite regime became Syria's closest ally and partner in terrorism. Tehran and Damascus became very close following Saddam Hussein's 1980 invasion of Iran. In 1982-83, Syria and Iran allowed Hezbollah to set up headquarters in the Bekaa Valley of eastern Lebanon and permitted more than 1,000 Iranian Revolutionary Guards to base themselves there. Hezbollah, operating with Syrian and Iranian support, carried out a devastating series of bombings against the American embassy, U.S. and French military barracks and other targets, killing more than 300 Westerners during the 1980s.

Hezbollah was also behind the kidnappings of Western hostages and the murders of Lebanese Jews during that period. These actions succeeded in driving American and French peacekeepers out of the country and preventing an Israel-Lebanon peace agreement from being implemented. ...

The above is just a small fraction of the evidence of Iranian and Syrian collaboration in supporting terrorism for close to 25 years. It is ludicrous to assert that Mr. Bush is responsible for this. The truth is that Mr. Bush is the first president to confront the Tehran-Damascus axis in a serious way.