Across the Bay

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Cauldron of Instability

I was always amused when hearing how Syria was an element of "stability" in the ME. It always drew a chuckle from me.

We've also pointed out how one of the ways the Syrian regime is able to preserve a semblance of stability at home, beside brutal repression, was to export its own instability to its neighbors:

It is worthwhile to note that a state fearful of sectarian conflict runs a regional policy in Lebanon, Iraq, and Israel that aims to provoke elsewhere its own worst nightmares at home.

The destabilization of Lebanon and Iraq are well known. But in recent days Syria's destabilizing role surfaced again in the Tel Aviv bombing:

"The order for the Tel Aviv suicide bombing came from Damascus and when the operation was complete the report went back to Damascus," Olmert told a visiting group of US senators, according to his office.

He noted that the Iranians, using Syria as a mediator, were funding and guiding terrorism against Israel. He also mentioned the strengthening ties between the two states and Hamas. "There is a channel of communication between Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority," claimed Olmert.

It is interesting to note how Syria's role as Iranian proxy is now commonly acknowledged (see my post below).

Syria's role surfaced once more in neigboring Jordan, long a target of Syrian destabilization.

Relations with the Jordanians have been bad for a while, especially after Bashar publicly ridiculed Jordan's "Jordan first" policy (and of course, the "Lebanon first" policy) in his speech at the Arab Lawyers Conference in Damascus. He charged that it was a cover for (what else?) servitude to the Israelis and Americans. The Syrian "newspapers" followed with the usual over-the-top Arabist garbage, slamming Jordan (and Lebanon) left and right.

That immediately developed into a mini-crisis. However the Jordanians did not reply officially. Instead, they let their papers do the talking. Indeed, Jordanian writers ripped Bashar and his regime to shreds. The Syrians offered an official pseudo-apology.

But that was peanuts in comparison to the latest development:

Jordan said on Tuesday a group of Hamas militants arrested last week were close to staging attacks inside the kingdom on orders from the Palestinian group's Syrian-based leadership.
"Security interrogations with the detained suspects had proven they received instructions to execute operations from leaders of Hamas and specifically one of the military officials of Hamas currently based in Syria," government spokesperson Nasser Joudeh told Reuters.
Jordan said last week that rocket launchers and highly combustible explosives seized from a secret Hamas arms cache in the kingdom had been smuggled from Syria, where the Palestinian militant groups' exiled leadership is based.

An Arabic AFP report had more from Nasser Joudeh:

"Security services have monitored movement and operations over a long period of time, and they seized weapons and explosives that were stored and attempted to be smuggled from a neighboring state [i.e. Syria], and the smuggling was foiled." He added, "we did not declare each time weapons were seized that they came from Syria. We declared the last episode. There may have been other incidents."

As I said, there's a long history there. To watch this dynamic between Syria, Syrian-based radical Palestinian groups, and Jordan, is to watch a rerun. In fact, the Iran-led axis, in which Syria, Hezbollah, and the Palestinian rejectionists are all proxies, is itself a throwback to the ME of 40 years ago. Bashar's rhetoric, as well as his policies, are unmistakably from that era. Who said the Baath doesn't recycle its garbage?

Only this time instead of Nasser leading the freak show, we have Ahmadinejad.

Addendum: Speaking of freak shows, here's something for your viewing pleasure.