Skip to comments.Syrian Accountability Act to Combat Terrorism
Posted on 12/18/2003 1:39:38 PM PST by bdeaner
Syrian Accountability Act to Combat Terrorism
By Jim Hauser
December 18, 2003
WASHINGTON (Talon News) -- Last week, President Bush signed into law H.R. 1828, the Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003. The legislation calls on the president to impose sanctions on Syria to discourage support for international terrorist groups and the occupation of Lebanon.
The bill demands that Syria end support for terrorism; halt the development of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) along with medium- and long-range missiles; and withdraw the roughly 20,000 troops it has deployed in Lebanon.
It also calls on Syria to "enter into serious unconditional bilateral negotiations" with Israel in order to secure "a full and permanent peace."
Additionally, Syria must close its borders to any military equipment and anti-US militants bound for Iraq, where U.S.-led forces have weathered deadly attacks since ousting Saddam Hussein in April.
President Bush issued a statement that indicated he construed the law's requirements as tools, not directives limiting the White House's historical prerogatives in shaping foreign policy.
"My approval of the Act does not constitute my adoption of the various statements of policy in the Act as U.S. foreign policy," Bush added.
Syria has long been suspected of providing support for terrorist organizations among other things, and was officially named in the text of the bill as a state sponsor of terrorism.
According to the most recent Department of State Patterns of Global Terrorism Report: "[Syria] continued in 2001 to provide safe haven and logistics support to a number of terrorist groups."
Among the terrorist groups named are Ahmad Jibrils Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command (PFLP-GC), the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Abu Musa's Fatah-the-Intifadah, George Habashs Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and HAMAS which continued to maintain offices in Damascus.
Syria is suspected of providing Hizballah, HAMAS, PFLP-GC, the PIJ, and other terrorist organizations refuge and basing privileges in Lebanons Bekaa Valley, under Syrian control.
United Nations Security Council Resolution 425 issued in 1978, called for the withdrawal of Israeli and Syrian troops from Lebanon.
Israel subsequently withdrew all of its armed forces from Lebanon in accordance with the resolution, as certified by the United Nations Secretary General.
Even in the face of this United Nations certification that acknowledged Israel's full compliance with Resolution 425, more than 20,000 Syrian troops and security personnel occupy much of the sovereign territory of Lebanon.
Syria is accused of permitting attacks by Hizballah and other militant organizations on Israeli outposts at Shebaa Farms, under the false guise that it remains Lebanese land, and is also blamed for attacks on civilian targets in Israel.
Syria is also in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 520 issued in 1982 which calls for "strict respect of the sovereignty, territorial integrity, unity and political independence of Lebanon under the sole and exclusive authority of the Government of Lebanon through the Lebanese Army throughout Lebanon."
As a result, the Israeli-Lebanese border and much of southern Lebanon is under the control of Hizballah which continues to attack Israeli positions, allows Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other militant groups to operate freely in the area, and maintains thousands of rockets along Israel's northern border, destabilizing the entire region.
On February 12, 2003, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet stated the following with respect to the Syrian-supported Hizballah: "[A]s an organization with capability and worldwide presence [it] is [al Qaeda's] equal if not a far more capable organization... [T]hey're a notch above in many respects, in terms of in their relationship with the Iranians and the training they receive, [which] puts them in a state-sponsored category with a potential for lethality that's quite great."
Syria is also believed to have been receiving between 150,000 and 200,000 barrels of oil per day from Iraq at a substantial discount per barrel in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 661 and subsequent resolutions.
Recent estimates indicate that as much as 230,000 barrels of oil per day were shipped from Iraq to Syria in March 2003, or up to 60,000 barrels per day more than in February 2003.
Syria's illegal imports and transshipments of Iraqi oil have earned Syria $50,000,000 or more per month as Syria continues to sell its own Syrian oil at market prices. At the same time, the illegal oil shipments have earned Iraq approximately $2,000,000 per day.
Syrian President Bashar Assad promised Secretary of State Powell in February 2001 to end violations of Security Council Resolution 661 but this pledge was not fulfilled.
The Syrian government has also been accused of having illegal weapons programs.
On May 6, 2002, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, John Bolton, stated: "The United States also knows that Syria has long had a chemical warfare program. It has a stockpile of the nerve agent sarin and is engaged in research and development of the more toxic and persistent nerve agent VX. Syria, which has signed but not ratified the [Biological Weapons Convention], is pursuing the development of biological weapons and is able to produce at least small amounts of biological warfare agents."
According to the CIA's "Unclassified Report to Congress on the Acquisition of Technology Relating to Weapons of Mass Destruction and Advanced Conventional Munitions," released January 7, 2003: "Russia and Syria have approved a draft cooperative program on cooperation on civil nuclear power. In principal, broader access to Russian expertise provides opportunities for Syria to expand its indigenous capabilities, should it decide to pursue nuclear weapons."
In 1990 the United Nations Security Council issued Resolution 661and subsequent resolutions to restrict the sale or supply of "weapons or any military equipment" to Iraq.
The Government of Syria is accused of utilizing the railway network linking Mosul, Iraq, to Aleppo, Syria, to transfer a wide range of weaponry and weapon systems to Iraq.
On March 28, 2003, Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld warned: "[W]e have information that shipments of military supplies have been crossing the border from Syria into Iraq, including night-vision goggles."
"These deliveries pose a direct threat to the lives of coalition forces," said Rumsfeld. "We consider such trafficking as hostile acts, and will hold the Syrian government accountable for such shipments."
Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY) who reintroduced the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 along with Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) issued a statement condemning the Syrian government for its actions.
"It is time for the Administration and Congress to get tough with a charter member of the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism," said Engel. "Syria needs to get out of Lebanon, clean out the terrorists, and stop building weapons of mass destruction."
"The Syria Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Restoration Act of 2003 is the right first-step," he concluded.
If Syria refuses to comply with the conditions stated in the bill it could be faced with a number of sanctions.
They include restricting US exports and business investment, downgrading US-Syrian diplomatic ties, imposing travel restrictions on Syrian diplomats in the United States, freezing Syria's assets in the United States, and restricting overflight rights for Syrian aircraft inside US airspace.
Syrian President Bashar Assad promised this week to continue talks with the United States despite the approval of the bill.
"We are optimistic about our dialogue with the United States, which has never ended," Assad said while visiting Greece to seek a better trade relationship with European countries.
However, Mahdi Daklallah, the editor-in-chief of Al-Baath, the ruling Baath party's official newspaper, said the law sought to reduce Syria's political clout in the Middle East.
"[Washington is] trying to modify Syrian policy on the Arab-Israeli conflict and Iraq," Daklallah said. But he vowed that Syria would not cave in, despite its willingness to "bend" to U.S. demands.
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