Syria and Jihadists; Do All Roads Lead to Damascus?

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Byline: Walid Phares, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Was Syria behind the attacks in Israel? To most Middle East experts, the answer is not about Syria's support for jihad against the Jewish state. That is cast in stone. Instead, inquiry is about Damascus' practical role in the ongoing suicide attacks and related activities by Palestinian radicals at least since the al-Aqsa intifada of September 2000. The answer is yes and it is not a secret.

For years, if not decades, the Syrian Ba'ath Party has adopted an ideological attitude toward the peace process as a whole. Hafez Assad, shrewd and implacable dictator of Syria, has bypassed all opportunities to reach an agreement with the various Israeli governments. Beyond what international law can claim for him - i.e., Syria's own territorial losses in an offensive war, the late Syrian President Assad blamed the late Egyptian President Anwar Sadat for the Camp David agreement in 1979. He then killed the May 17 agreement between Lebanon and Israel in 1983. He opposed the Oslo process until he died in 2000. The Assad doctrine survived through his son, Bashar. When the United States and Israel offered the ultimate agreement to the Palestinians, Damascus was the first to reject it and support the al-Aqsa Intifada that followed.

Last but not least, as soon as Mr. Bush and Prime Ministers Sharon and Abbas met in Sharm el-Sheikh with leaders from the Arab world to introduce a "road map for peace," the Ba'athist government of Syria was the first regime to call for its downing. And, as usual, action would follow. Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) and company would launch the "istishadi" operations (suicide) followed by Israeli punishments. So, Syria is strategically committed to a war against any peace with Israel.

Out of Lebanon, with more than 30,000 soldiers and security operatives, all radical Palestinian groups are operational. Under Hezbollah auspices, every single faction within the Palestinian jihadist world has a clone organization training, fund-raising and planning.

In Syria, Hamas, the PIJ and myriad other groups, all listed on the State Department table of terror, had their own headquarters. …