Powered by WebAds

Monday, August 20, 2007

Shut down Damascus international airport

In a column in today's Wall Street Journal, US Senator Joe Lieberman ('Independent Democrat' - Conn.) argues that al-Qaeda's biggest asset in Iraq - suicide bombers - enters Iraq through Syria and enters Syria through Damascus' international airport. He asserts that the US must insist that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad gain control over traffic at the airport and that European airlines that fly there must stop doing so while Damascus airport is a transit point for terrorists.
Recently declassified American intelligence reveals just how much al Qaeda in Iraq is dependent for its survival on the support it receives from the broader, global al Qaeda network, and how most of that support flows into Iraq through one country--Syria. Al Qaeda in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers--approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al Qaeda handlers in Syria, from where they are taken to Iraq to blow themselves up to kill countless others.

Although small in number, these foreign fighters are a vital strategic asset to al Qaeda in Iraq, providing it with the essential human ammunition it needs to conduct high-visibility, mass-casualty suicide bombings, such as we saw last week in northern Iraq. In fact, the U.S. military estimates that between 80% and 90% of suicide attacks in Iraq are perpetrated by foreign fighters, making them the deadliest weapon in al Qaeda's war arsenal. Without them, al Qaeda in Iraq would be critically, perhaps even fatally, weakened.

That is why we now must focus on disrupting this flow of suicide bombers--and that means focusing on Syria, through which up to 80% of the Iraq-bound extremists transit. Indeed, even terrorists from countries that directly border Iraq travel by land via Syria to Iraq, instead of directly from their home countries, because of the permissive environment for terrorism that the Syrian government has fostered. Syria refuses to tighten its visa regime for individuals transiting its territory.

Coalition forces have spent considerable time and energy trying to tighten Syria's land border with Iraq against terrorist infiltration. But given the length and topography of that border, the success of these efforts is likely to remain uneven at best, particularly without the support of the Damascus regime.

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.

Syrian President Bashar al Assad cannot seriously claim that he is incapable of exercising effective control over the main airport in his capital city. Syria is a police state, with sprawling domestic intelligence and security services. The notion that al Qaeda recruits are slipping into and through the Damascus airport unbeknownst to the local Mukhabarat is totally unbelievable.

This is not the first use of the Damascus airport by terrorists. It has long been the central transit point for Iranian weapons en route to Hezbollah, in violation of United Nations Security Council sanctions, as well as for al Qaeda operatives moving into and out of Lebanon.

Now the Damascus airport is the point of entry into Iraq for most of the suicide bombers who are killing innocent Iraqi citizens and American soldiers, and trying to break America's will in this war. It is therefore time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for al Qaeda in Iraq.

When Congress reconvenes next month, we should set aside whatever differences divide us on Iraq and send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime, as we did last month to the Iranian regime, that the transit of al Qaeda suicide bombers through Syria on their way to Iraq is completely unacceptable, and it must stop.

We in the U.S. government should also begin developing a range of options to consider taking against Damascus International, unless the Syrian government takes appropriate action, and soon.

Responsible air carriers should be asked to stop flights into Damascus International, as long as it remains the main terminal of international terror. Despite its use by al Qaeda and Hezbollah terrorists, the airport continues to be serviced by many major non-U.S. carriers, including Alitalia, Air France, and British Airways.
Expecting Syria to take action to prevent terrorists from using its airport is as unrealistic as expecting Iran to stop developing nuclear weapons. In each case, the West has talked itself blue in the face while the fascist dictatorship continues to act as it pleases. Threatening Syria will only ensure that when the will is finally there to act against it, the action will be much more difficult to carry out because the Syrians will be better prepared. Now - before the Syrians get their newly purchased, Russian supplied anti-aircraft systems in place - is the time to act. And acting against Syria now should be relatively simple. Max Boot noted last month:
We could announce that we will use our airpower to shut down the entire facility, Syria’s only international airport, until Bashar Assad cuts off the influx of terrorists into Iraq. This would be a relatively low-risk option from the American viewpoint, but it would impose considerable pain on Syria.
But letting the Israelis do it is an even better option for the US:
If the US were to try to do this, they would have to worry about Nancy Pelosi and her friends taking a return trip to visit the Chinless Ophthalmologist. But if Israel does it, the only Israelis Bashar would let in anyway are Arabs, which would neutralize most of our moonbat left. If Israel's Arab MK's want to visit Bashar in solidarity, which they have done in the past, I would let them go, but not let them come back.

Israel has more motivation too. Damascus Airport is the primary trans-shipment point for Iranian arms headed to Hezbullah terrorists in Lebanon.

How does this sound: Stop shipping arms to Hezbullah or we shut your airport down.
And stop shipping terrorists to Iraq. Not next month or in three months. In seventy-two hours. And if you ship any before then, we shut you down immediately and destroy your runways too.


Post a Comment

<< Home