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Jewish World Review Nov. 19, 2001/ 4 Kislev 5762

Richard Z. Chesnoff

Richard Z. Chesnoff
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Consumer Reports

Our partner Syria?
Give me a break --
THE Taliban may be on the run, but the battle is far from over. So I wonder if you were as relieved as I was to learn that Syria has joined President Bush's global coalition against terrorism. I mean, who better to have at your side during a war on terrorism than one of the world's most steadfast sponsors of terrorism?

The list of terror gangs that Syria still sponsors and/or hosts is truly impressive: Hamas, Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad, the Kurdish Liberation Front, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine - you name 'em, they got 'em. Take it from this longtime visitor to Damascus: there are so many terrorists hanging around that local hotel lobbies resemble the bar scene in "Star Wars."

Times and attitudes do change. Who would have believed a decade ago that Russia and China would become part of the global alliance? But there are limits to the political stretch of imagination.

And any lingering doubts about Syria's real attitude toward state-sponsored terrorism were dispelled during British Prime Minister Tony Blair's recent visit to Damascus. After an appeal by Blair for an end to Palestinian terrorism, Syrian President Bashar Assad actually compared Hamas and Islamic Jihad to World War II's French Resistance. As I recall, France's freedom fighters targeted Nazi soldiers and Vichy collaborators - not women and children in pizza parlors.

If they weren't still a threat to peace in the Mideast, the Syrians would almost be a sick joke. For example, Defense Minister Mustafa Tlass has actually blamed the Sept. 11 attacks on Israel. At a meeting with delegates from the British Royal College of Defense Studies, Tlass said the Mossad, Israel's secret service, planned the bombings as part of a "Jewish conspiracy" to embarrass the Islamic world. The Mossad, Tlass told his flabbergasted visitors, gave thousands of Jewish World Trade Center workers advance warning not to go to work on Sept. 11.

But Syria's high jinks go way beyond such nuttiness. It still occupies major chunks of neighboring Lebanon. It controls the movements of the Hezbollah terrorist movement. It continues to facilitate Iranian arms shipments to Hezbollah's gangs in southern Lebanon. And it calls the shots when Hezbollah decides to lob rockets into Israeli homes.

Syria is not our only unlikely "ally" in the war on terrorism. What about our new buddies in Iran? And how about Palestinian dictator Yasser Arafat, the granddaddy of all modern terrorists? Arafat has personally manipulated the current intifadeh that has all but wrecked the Mideast peace process, leaving scores of civilians, including Americans, dead or injured.

It proves again that you have to be even more careful about choosing your coalition partners than you do about choosing your friends.

JWR contributor and veteran journalist Richard Z. Chesnoff is a senior correspondent at US News And World Report and a columnist at the NY Daily News. His latest book, recently updated, is Pack of Thieves: How Hitler & Europe Plundered the Jews and Committed the Greatest Theft in History.

Richard Z. Chesnoff Archives

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