Belmont Club

Hope and experience

Ynet quotes a Washington Post story saying that the Obama administration may revive sanctions against Syria after attempting to make nice to Damascus because it has renewed support for Iraqi insurgents. ” According to report, interrogation of Tunisian terrorists confirmed suspicions that Syrian pipeline operated by al-Qaeda in Iraq is back in business.” The WaPO wrote:

The revival of a transit route that officials had declared all but closed comes as the Obama administration is exploring a new diplomatic dialogue with Syria. At the same time, Washington remains concerned by Syrian activities — including ongoing support for the militant groups Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as activities involving Iraq.

On Wednesday, acting Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey D. Feltman and National Security Council official Daniel Shapiro arrived in Syria for their second visit since Barack Obama’s inauguration as president. Two days later, however, Obama renewed U.S. sanctions against Syria, accusing Damascus of supporting terrorism in the Middle East and undermining Iraqi stability. …

Gen. David H. Petraeus, head of U.S. Central Command, told Congress late last month that the al-Qaeda in Iraq pipeline through Syria had been “reactivated.” Gen. Ray Odierno, the U.S. military commander in Iraq, confirmed Friday that “some elements of foreign fighters continue to traffic through Syria.” But officials have been careful not to directly accuse Damascus of supporting the traffic.

The problem that would face the Obama administration if neither Syria nor Iran were willing to dance to Washington’s tune is what they would do for an encore after having tried engagement without success. Would they return to the “failed policies” of the Bush administration or would they return to the “failed policies” of their own administration? The natural inclination would be to revert to type. The Clinton Administration was big on a combination of sanctions and politics, which were blamed by Osama Bin Laden for killing half a million children. It’s now forgotten but useful to remember that Osama bin Laden declared a fatwa on of Bill Clinton. From one point of view 9/11 was the culmination of a series of unanswered attacks that included the Khobar Towers, attacks on two US embassies in Africa and the near sinking of the USS Cole. What signal was sent in this fatwa?

Those youths will not ask you (William Perry) for explanations, they will tell you singing … O William, tomorrow you will know which young man is confronting your misguided brethren! A youth fighting in smile, returning with the spear coloured red. … Those youths are different from your soldiers. Your problem will be how to convince your troops to fight, while our problem will be how to restrain our youths to wait for their turn in fighting and in operations. … I remind the youths of the Islamic world, who fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia-Herzegovina with their wealth, pens, tongues and themselves that the battle had not finished yet. … Your brothers in Palestine and in the land of the two Holy Places are calling upon your help and asking you to take part in fighting against the enemy -your enemy and their enemy- the Americans and the Israelis. … Usamah bin Muhammad bin Laden Friday, 9/4/1417 A.H (23/8/1996 AD) Hindukush Mountains, Khurasan, Afghanistan.

It is sometimes argued that one ought not to take the words of Islamic radicals seriously. What signal should President Obama see in Syria’s actions? Time will tell.

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