Syria's Cruel Intentions; the View from Damascus

The Washington Times (Washington, DC), August 10, 2004 | Go to article overview
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Syria's Cruel Intentions; the View from Damascus


Byline: Farid N. Ghadry, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

On Aug. 2, the Pentagon moved considerable troops and equipment to the Syrian border to intercept what is believed to be an ongoing threat to the stability of Iraq from insurgents funded by loyalists to Saddam Hussein in Syria. According to U.S. officials, the United States has become tired of pressing Syria for action to supervise their border and is taking the initiative to do the work herself.

And to add insult to injury, Undersecretary of State Dick Armitage issued a warning on Aug. 6 through an appearance on Lebanese television that more sanctions could be on their way against Syria if the government does not rein in the insurgency infiltrating Iraq.

This is not the first time that Syria's actions, or lack of, have frustrated the United States in the region. Earlier this year, Syria refused to make good on its promise to refund what may be up to $2 billion in Iraqi money taken at the behest of Saddam's loyalists to fund a war of attrition against the coalition-led forces in Iraq. Further, Syria has refused to contain Hezbollah in Lebanon, even though the whole notion of Lebanese struggle has become a moot issue ever since Israel vacated south Lebanon in 2002.

Syria boasts an army of 400,000 soldiers. Yet, it has skirted the issue of patrolling its own borders, citing distance and logistical complications. What very few people know is that most of the Syrian soldiers are deployed around the country protecting sensitive infrastructures that are essential to sustaining the rule of the Assad clan. Any re-deployment plan would amount to breaking down a system of defense that the Ba'athists in Damascus are not willing to take. They fear that another uprising like the one that happened on March 12 of this year in the Kurdish region of Syria could spell the end of their rule.

But now that the United States has taken the initiative to protect Iraq from Syria's incoherent strategy, the risks Damascus has taken, in not patrolling their own borders, have multiplied several folds.

For sure, the Ba'athists have miscalculated the U.S. resolve. Thousands of U.S. troops on the border can spell more danger for Damascus than the choice of controlling the insurgents seriously.

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