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SYRIA - Why The Syrians Are Passive.

Ms Rice said that during her May 15 meetings with the Iraqi leaders in Kurdistan and in Baghdad she heard "particular concerns about Syria, about the gathering of terrorist networks there and the transiting of those networks across the Syrian border". She said: "Syria is badly out of step in the region. It's standing in the way of the Iraqi people's desire for peace if it is willing to let its territory be used in this way". Yet in all her discussions before leaving Iraq she could not get a convincing explanation as to why the Syrian regime has been passive about the use of its territory by the Salafi insurgents.

Ms Rice sharply criticised Syria on May 16 for what she called unwillingness to close its borders to terrorists she said were to blame for some of the violence in Iraq. She aid of Assad's regime: "Their unwillingness to deal with the crossings of their border into Iraq is frustrating the will of the Iraqi people", and leading to the deaths of innocent Iraqis.

Rice said: "We're going to go back and look again at what the neighbours can do to get the Syrians to stop support for these foreign terrorists who we believe are gathering on Syrian territory and coming across... The Syrians are under a lot of international pressure now. They are really out of step with the rest of the region".

Asked if Syria was trying to meddle in Lebanese elections which began on May 29, Ms Rice said: "It would not surprise me. But the reason it was important to get the [Syrian] troops out [of Lebanon] was because it was an artificial Lebanese politics and now that the overt presence at least is gone I'm sure that the Syrians will continue to try to play their role with the Lebanese". She said that while Syria was militarily out of Lebanon it needed to remove its intelligence.

It is widely rumoured that there are between 1,000 and 5,000 Syrian secret agents in Lebanon. Some of them are said to be within heavily fortified Palestinian refugee camps and other are believed to be with Hizbollah, the Shiite guerrilla organisation which financed by Iran and fighting a proxy war in South Lebanon on Syria's behalf.

The US has long accused the Damascus government of exporting terrorism. The pressure includes successive American sanctions against Damascus which, in their cumulative effects, have already resulted in a situation where Saddam's Baathist regime had been in before the US-led an invasion of Iraq and the overthrow of that regime.

Close aides to President Assad have repeatedly said after Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon that they fail to understand what exactly Washington wants of Damascus other than the long list of demands made public by US officials. They suspect that the US wants to see the Assad regime overthrown. But they warn that if the regime collapses the situation in Syria could be much worse than that of Iraq at present, with the danger of the country being split at least into four parts.

A dismemberment of Syria would lead to the emergency of an Alawite state, a northern state with Aleppo to be its capital and either to control or lose the oil-rich Deir El-Zor region bordering with north-western Iraq and with Turkey, a southern state with Damascus as its capital, and southern-most enclaves of Hourani and Druze communities. The situation then would be similar to that of Yugoslavia, with a series of massacres between rival communities.

This, some Syrian experts warn, could lead to partition in Lebanon, with the Christians having their own state, and the Shiites and Sunnis either having a joint state or fighting against one another.
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Publication:APS Diplomat Fate of the Arabian Peninsula
Geographic Code:7SYRI
Date:May 30, 2005
Previous Article:SYRIA - The Caliphate.
Next Article:SYRIA - The Worst Case Scenario.

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