Across the Bay

Monday, August 20, 2007

Assad: Al-Qaeda's Travel Agent

I have long discussed on this blog the Assad regime's collusion with jihadi movements in Iraq and Lebanon and elsewhere, regardless of the useless, and easily disproved, conventional "wisdom" that somehow Assad's "secular" regime simply "cannot" work with jihadists, just like somehow Iran's Shiite theocracy absolutely "cannot" work with Sunni jihadis, even when we know that they do and have done so in the past.

Sen. Joe Lieberman picks up the topic of Syria's collusion with al-Qaeda in Iraq in his piece in the Wall Street Journal today, pointing out how the Damascus International Airport is a hub for terrorists:

Before al Qaeda's foreign fighters can make their way across the Syrian border into Iraq, however, they must first reach Syria--and the overwhelming majority does so, according to U.S. intelligence estimates, by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al Qaeda travel in the Middle East, and the most vulnerable chokepoint in al Qaeda's war against Iraq and the U.S. in Iraq.

Sen. Lieberman is certainly not the first to point this out. Last month, the French Le Figaro ran a report which discussed how "Syria serves as a rear base" for jihadists.

It gave a pertinent example regarding Damascus Airport, and how Syria is in collusion with jihadists:

Last year, an attempt on the Amman Airport was barely thwarted after the arrest of Mohammad al-Darsi upon his entry on Jordanian soil. He had left Libya a few days earlier to go to Damascus, where a jihadist recruiter dissuaded him from going to Iraq, directing him towards Jordan instead, where he was to self-detonate among the travelers at Amman Airport.

For the Jordanians, who had flagged -- in vain -- Darsi's arrival in Damascus, their neighbors [the Syrians] are buying their security by tolerating jihadists on their soil.

In the ongoing discussion about non-state actors in the Middle East, it's crucial not to ignore the role of states. In this case, to quote Barry Rubin again, Syria along with Iran are essentially functioning as, or are basically the closest thing to, state sponsors of al-Qaeda jihadism.

Update: Michael Goldfarb provides the following relevant quote from Sen. John McCain on this issue:

With regards to Syria (the WWS asked whether he agreed with Senator Lieberman's Op-Ed in today's Wall Street Journal), McCain said that

"There's a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for the disarmament of of my great and enduring heroes is George Schultz, who said 'Never point a gun at anybody unless you intend to shoot it.' We've got to stop pointing our guns but be prepared to shoot. I'm not sure I would bomb the [Damascus] airport but I would certainly make it clear to the Syrians...I would probably go back to the Security Council...but we have to make clear that there are consequences...I don't have a real good answer in the short term, except starting to enforce the existing sanctions, the existing investigations...including concluding the investigation into the assassination of the Prime Minister of Lebanon."