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September 9, 2005
The Syrian Safety Valve

The BBC reports that Syrian forces attacked Islamist militants in the northeastern part of its country, killing one and wounding a number of others, coming on the heels of an earlier battle which killed five Islamist terrorists. The area where the fighting took place appears near to where Iraqi and American forces complain of unfettered border-crossing of terrorists into Iraq, but that apparently did not play into Syria's calculations as much as self-preservation:

Syrian security forces have clashed with Islamist militants in Hasaka, north-eastern Syria, killing one and detaining two others, reports say. ...

The incident came days after Syrian forces killed five alleged members of the militant group Jund al-Sham in a gun battle in the north-west.

The authorities accuse the group of planning bomb attacks in Damascus.

The group's activities have been monitored by security forces since it said it had carried out a bomb attack on the Egyptian Sinai resort of Taba in October last year which killed 34 people.

The group was also responsible for a suicide bombing on a theatre in Qatar in March which killed a British teacher, it said.

We need to deconstruct this timeline just a bit, as the Syrians seem to want credit for sitting on their hands. Jund al-Sham took credit for the Taba bombing in October, and again for the suicide bombing of a Qatar theater in March. That puts their last attack six months ago, hardly making this seem like a priority for the Syrians, although they will gladly accept the notion that this proves they intend on cooperating against Islamist aggression. The record more than suggests that Assad had willingly ignored Jund al-Sham while their aggression got directed elsewhere, against its enemies in the region -- only drawing the ire of Syria when its plans to attack Damascus got leaked.

Sorry, but that doesn't qualify as cooperation, but merely defense in the last extreme.

It does point out why Assad refuses to close the border between Iraq and Syria. He wants Jund al-Sham and others like them inside Syria to have easy access to Iraq. It keeps them from getting locked inside his own country, to plot against him and his not-so-firm grip on power. Iraq provides a safety valve for the Islamofascist terror impulse in that region, and if Iraqis and Americans get killed, so much the better. In fact, in Assad's view, each terrorist that doesn't survive to cross back into Syria represents a lessening of the security threat to his rule.

The only way to get Assad to close that border is to ensure that the cost of leaving it open far outweighs the benefits of keeping it open. The US needs to make plain that any further delay in providing border security will draw an appropriate and escalating response from the Americans and Iraqis in that region.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 9, 2005 6:16 AM

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