Thursday, March 31, 2005

Lebanon's Peril

Syria has promised to withdraw from Lebanon. Well, at least it's poorly trained draftees. But what about it's intelligence people? Ralph Peter's has a few points and suggestions on Lebanon's Peril.

"The question now is: How much damage does Syria intend to do on the way out?

While a commitment from Damascus to the U.N. has a whiff of a pimp's promise to a hooker, international pressure will force the Syrians to honor their word. The problem lies in what the agreement omits. Getting the 12,000 or so remaining Syrian troops out of Lebanon certainly matters. But ridding the country of Bashar Assad's 5,000-plus intelligence operatives is what really counts. And Damascus has been coy about their removal.

Syria's troops are bums with guns — largely undertrained draftees with unreliable equipment. They can't act without being seen by all. They'd be hard to use effectively.

The intel and security boys are another matter. Some function overtly, an acknowledged presence. But many work in the shadows. And there's no place on earth where the shadows grow longer and darker than in the Middle East.

If the intelligence personnel — overt, covert and clandestine — aren't removed, the Syrian menace remains as grave as ever. Their agents don't merely spy and report. They bribe, bully, blackmail — and kill."
Assad Jr. has agreed to quickly, in my opinion, to withdraw from Lebanon. He must have something up his sleeve.
"Syrian intel operatives were behind the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Even if they worked through Hezbollah or contract killers, Syrian agents doubtless sponsored the recent terror bombings in Christian enclaves, as well.

What does Syria want? Enduring control of Lebanon, its people, its foreign policy, its wealth and its strategic location. Assad and his cronies regard Syria as Saddam Hussein regarded Kuwait: an integral part of the homeland, hewn off by outside powers.

How will Syria try to get what it wants? Subversion. Terror. Resurrecting yesteryear's fears and hatreds. By bribing, blackmailing and murdering. By igniting a new civil war, if Damascus can get away with it.

Who will do it? Those intelligence operatives, if they stay behind. Along with Hezbollah dead-enders who want nothing to do with true democracy, civil liberties or a just peace with Israel.

Like the 21st-century IRA and Saddam's Baathists, Hezbollah has become a deadly mafia whose immediate goals are self-perpetuation and power.

Even if there's a formal withdrawal of Syrian intel agents, it's extremely unlikely that the undercover operatives would go home. And Syria will continue pulling the strings in Lebanon's own penetrated and compromised security services — which need to be purged. "
There is no doubt in my mind that Assad Jr. will try to dosome thing to keep his influence over Lebanon. Syria has always veiwed Lebanon as a part of Greater Syria, much like Saddam viewed Kuwait as another provence of Iraq.
"If Assad and his henchmen try to destabilize Lebanon, the Syrian government must pay a painful price. Even if that requires military action.

Thus far, Assad has literally gotten away with murder in Iraq by feigning innocence and intermittent cooperation. Our reluctance to call him to account may have led him to believe that he can pull a sleight-of-hand trick in Lebanon, withdrawing troops publicly while attacking the country in the netherworld of terror.

There's an impressive international consensus for getting the Syrians out — lock, stock and hookah. Terrified of being deprived of influence in the changing Middle East, even the French have aligned themselves with America on this issue. Assad will try to divide us, to cut backroom deals. We must hold the French to an Anglophone standard of reliable behavior — no secret handshakes between Paris and Damascus."
There is another point Peters has made. We have not been holding Assad Jr's. feet to the fire on Iraq. A very large percentage of these so called "insurgents" are foreigners that have come to Iraq through Syria. Then of course there are the French. Who knows what Chirac will do to try to keep French influence in Lebanon? It will be a difficult task to keep the French from trying to cut a deal. Just look what the French did with Iraq.

Peters concludes with a rather strong recommendation on how to deal with Syrian duplicity and any attempt to destabilize Lebanon.
"Our successes in the Middle East have changed the region's political direction. Freedom and democracy are gathering momentum. But the course of reform could still be reversed among the failure-haunted Arabs. Lebanon is the next potential crisis and a critical test of our will. President Bush must continue to make our resolve explicitly clear, if we hope to prevent the ruin of Lebanon's convalescent society and economy.

If the Syrian government attempts to destroy Lebanon, the Damascus regime itself must be destroyed. "
I find myself in agreement with Peters. Syria must not be allowed to have any more influence over Lebanon and may need to be hit militarily, if they try to destabilize Lebanon. - Sailor

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