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Thursday, July 19, 2007

Syria smuggling arms and trying to obtain Shaba Farms

An al-AP dispatch this morning indicates that the Syrian government is being uncooperative on two issues of importance to the West.

First, it should come as no surprise that the US has finally found evidence that the Syrians are allowing arms to be smuggled across their border to terrorists in Lebanon including Hezbullah and Fatah al-Islam.
The United States accused Syria and Iran on Wednesday of playing a negative role in Lebanon and said there is clear evidence of arms smuggling across the Syrian border to terrorist groups.

US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad made the accusations after a closed Security Council meeting to discuss progress on a UN resolution that ended last summer's war between Israel and Hizbullah guerrillas backed by Syria and Iran.

"We also made it clear that we condemn all efforts to destabilize Lebanon and expressed particular concern with regard to the arms transfers that are taking place particularly across the Syrian border," Khalilzad told reporters after the session.

Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari dismissed allegations that arms were being smuggled across his country's border with neighboring Lebanon.

"We denied it many times and we are still denying it," he told reporters after the meeting.


Khalilzad said there was clear evidence of "arms transfers to terrorist groups" inside Lebanon.

"There is evidence of preparations by groups such as Fatah al-Islam, preparations by groups such as PFLP-General Command that is also carrying out some preparations for attacks. There are arms that are coming in for Hizbullah," he said.

Ja'afari claimed the information about arms smuggling provided to the Security Council came only from Israeli intelligence and none of it was from Lebanese authorities.

However, UN Mideast envoy Michael Williams said "virtually all" of the arms smuggling documented in the secretary-general's report to the Security Council last month came from the Lebanese government or Lebanese security agencies.

"I think the situation is very serious," he told reporters.
If the information is capable of independent evaluation its source ought not to matter. But don't expect anyone to crack down on the Chinless Ophthalmologist of Damascus anytime soon. He has Ehud K. Olmert as his ally in fooling the world that he's actually interested in 'peace' talks.

The second area in which Syria has been uncooperative is - surprise - Shaba Farms. You will recall that last week, the UN in its infinite wisdom changed its mind and decided that Shaba Farms belonged to Lebanon and not to Syria, and that therefore, seven years after the fact, Israel has not complied with Security Council Resolution 425 (which called for an Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon) and must return give Shaba Farms to Lebanon. I stand by what I wrote about this subject last week:
I would like to see something in writing from the Syrians that says that they agree that the Shaba Farms is Lebanese. That won't happen so long as the anti-Syrian Siniora government is in power in Lebanon. Israel is handling the matter with 'kid gloves' out of fear that any kind of statement from the UN could lead to war with Hezbullah. But France and the US are pressuring Israel to concede the territory in the hope of strengthening the Siniora government.
France and the United States are also ratcheting up their pressure on Israel, in the belief that a withdrawal from the Shaba Farms will strengthen the government of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora. U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will be coming to the region next week, pressed Olmert during the Second Lebanon War to withdraw from Shaba to bolster Siniora. Olmert refused, saying the move would be viewed by Hezbollah as a victory. Israel and the UN discussed Shaba ahead of the release two weeks ago of the periodic report on the implementation of Resolution 1701. The UN wanted to include a clause stating that Shaba was Lebanese and urging a solution. This would have been a departure from 1701, which states that the fate of the farms is to be resolved in the determination of the border between Lebanon and Syria.
Lest any of you get the wrong impression, if Israel concedes Shaba Farms, this will not be the end of Hezbullah demands. The next set of demands is already waiting. And the Siniora government has bigger problems that the Shaba Farms won't help resolve.
Too bad the Olmert-Barak-Livni government doesn't know how to say no. Let's hope they are gone before this becomes a major issue.


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