Iraqi Interim President Ghazi al-Yawer, Jordan’s King Abdullah and United States intelligence officials have accused Syria of funding and supporting the Iraqi insurgency. President al-Yawer is blunt in his accusation against Syria,”there are people in Syria who are bad guys, who are fugitives of the law and who are Saddam remnants who are trying to bring the vicious dictatorship of Saddam back.” Syria is said to be harboring Saddam’s Ba’athist allies, freeing up funds for insurgency, providing material support such as weapons, as well as facilitating the movement of jihadis into Iraq.
Syria’s actions should come as no surprise, as it has the most to lose with the successful establishment of democracy and an American-friendly government in Iraq. As explained in The Keystone State, the invasion of Iraq completed the encirclement of Syria with nations with strong relationships with the United States:
With American forces in Iraq, the line of communications between Syria and Iran has been severed. Syria is now surrounded by nations with an American military presence, and none of them are particularly friendly; Turkey to the north, Israel to the south, Jordan and Iraq to the east, and the United States Navy’s 6th Fleet to the West in the Mediterranean.
Syria’s neighbors are not merely vassals of the United States, they have their own reasons to dislike the Ba’athist Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Asad. Israel and Syria are historic enemies, after fighting numerous wars, Israel’s occupation of the Golan Heights after the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Israeli attacks on Syrian SAM batteries defending the terror haven of Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, and a host of other confrontations. Turkey and Syria almost came to blows in 1998 over Kurdish guerillas [Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)] operating in Syria. Jordan is wary of Syria after a chemical attack directed by Zarqawi through Syria was thwarted last spring. These nations have taken it upon themselves to form alliances: Turkey and Israel have military, economic and diplomatic ties, as do Jordan and Turkey.
Since the fall of Saddam’s regime in April of 2003, diplomatic pressure has been placed on Syria to not interfere with the insurgency in Iraq. Syria has also been pressured to withdraw from Lebanon, which it has occupied since 1976. The United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1559, which calls for the removal of Syrian troops and an end to Syrian involvement in Lebanon’s local politics.
Syria has also been on the receiving end of both the threat and application of force. Within the past year, Israel has assassinated the leader of Hamas in the Syrian capitol of Damascus, attacked terror camps inside Syria and launched air strikes against the Bekaa Valley. The United States also threatened to launch attacks against the Bekaa Valley earlier this year.
The American public will not accept Syria’s involvement in the murder of their young men and women in Iraq. Either Syria will withdraw their support for the Iraqi insurgency and work to shed its support for terrorists, or it will likely find itself in either American or Israeli crosshairs. Based on the isolated position of Syria, America’s military options in case diplomatic solutions fail are unlimited. Actions can include a lockdown of the Syrian border in Iraq, violations of Syria airspace and territory from the Iraqi border and the Mediterranian Sea, covert operations, air and/or ground strikes against insurgent bases and supplies inside Syria, attacks against terrorist camps in the Bekaa Valley (it is believe al Qaeda is operating here, as well as Hezbollah), airstrikes against Syrian military infrastructure, WMD sites and/or civilian leadership, and finally, a full scale invasion.
Slate’s Fred Kaplan documents the poor state of Syria’s armed forces as well as Syria’s WMD inventory and capabilities. The alliance between Iran and Syria must also be taken into consideration, as Iran may become desperate if their remaining ally in the region is threatened. The current insurgency in Iraq is tying up a significant amount of American military assets. The political backlash from such an attack from the world community and fears of an Iraqi-style insurgency in Iraq makes this option difficult. But not impossible.
It must be noted that Syria’s encirclement by unfriendly Turkey, Jordan, Israel, Iraq and the U.S. Navy makes the possibility of an Iraqi-style insurgency unlikely as there is no foreign government bordering with Syria that is willing to open its borders to the influx of foreign fighters. Syria is risking plenty by defying diplomatic efforts and halt its assistance to the Iraqi insurgents. President Asad knows the implications of success in Iraq, and is acting in desperation to prevent the upcoming elections. If Syria continues on this path it must be made to account for its actions.
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