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February 20, 2005
Hariri Assassin Traveled Through Syria For Murder: Lebanon

The self-proclaimed suicide bomber of Lebanese statesman Rafik Hariri traveled through Syria from Iraq to get to Lebanon, an investigative judge announced today, providing further circumstantial evidence tying the Assad regime to the political assassination. The London Telegraph also reports that the assassin had open al-Qaeda ties, pointing to an even bigger problem for Damascus:

Rachid Mezher, the senior investigator for the Lebanese military tribunal, said that the organisers had been recruited from Islamist groups linked to Syria and operating against the US-led coalition in Iraq. ...

Investigators believe that a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the 60-year-old billionaire's convoy last Monday, killing him and 14 others. Judge Mezher said that a video in which a fanatic called Ahmed Abu Adas said the attack was the work of "Victory and Jihad in Greater Syria", an unknown group, was a genuine claim of responsibility.

Abu Adas, 23, a Palestinian Lebanese believed to have fled the country, attended two Beirut mosques known to be recruiting grounds for the Ansar al-Islam group, linked to the Jordanian extremist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Investigators suspect that the mosques have ties to Sheikh Abderrazak, a Damascus cleric who has helped fighters travel through Syria to Iraq. The Beirut attack bore similarities to suicide bombings carried out in Iraq by al-Zarqawi, who has increasingly strong ties to al-Qaeda.

Bashar Assad has a big problem on his hands if this gets corroborated. The Bush Doctrine against terror proclaims any state that engages in or supports terrorism against American or Western targets, and specifically al-Qaeda's organization, makes itself a fair target for our war efforts. Syria has already been singled out by Bush himself during the SOTU speech, an unusual step intended to warn Assad against this very kind of action. The Pentagon already believes that Syria has surreptitiously supported the Zarqawi terrorists in Iraq that attempt to hijack freedom for the Iraqi people and target US military forces. This clumsy and transparent move on Assad's part will remove all doubt as to his involvement in terror.

Forget the Lebanese unity and their demands for Syrian withdrawal for the moment. Damascus now has to look eastward first, to the 150,000 American troops in Iraq that threaten to swamp Syria and pluck Assad like an overripe grape off a diseased vine. The same force humbled the region's largest and most battle-tested army in three weeks, and Syria knows that it has no chance at all of resisting it. Assad just painted a big "Kick Me" sign to Damascus' back. Prior to this discovery, any operation against Syria would have been seen as an overreach by the US against Syria. Now, however, Adas' connections to Zarqawi and Syria, once corroborated, will demonstrate that the Syrians have played an active role in supporting the terror in Iraq and that action against Assad would in fact help cripple Zarqawi.

The only argument against all of this is one that claims that Bashar Assad cannot possibly be this stupid. However, the evidence has begun to mount that he may well be. It provides yet another reason for Arabs to embrace democracy as opposed to strong-man rule. The leadership tends to improve as they face more and more accountability for their actions and policies. The US should prepare to act against Syria if they determine with solid evidence that Assad has indeed been dumb enough to violate the Bush Doctrine, and Adas appears to go a long way toward that conclusion.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 20, 2005 7:23 AM

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