October 30, 2008


Syrian haven for killers, then and now (Rafael Medoff, 10/29/08, THE JERUSALEM POST)

During the 1948 War of Independence, there were so many Nazi fugitives in the Syrian army, including a number of commanding officers, that when the Hagana (soon to become the IDF) defeated the Arab forces in Haifa, its terms for a truce included a provision that "European Nazis will be delivered to [the British] military [authorities]." [...]

IN THE aftermath of the US war against Saddam Hussein's regime, there were media reports that some Iraqi war criminals had found shelter in Syria. More recently, evidence has emerged of al-Qaida forces finding haven in Syria. US officials have estimated that 90 percent of foreign terrorists entering Iraq are arriving via the "uncontrolled gateway" of the Iraq-Syria border.

Yet the American response to Syria's shelter-the-killers policy, then and now, has reflected a certain ambivalence.

After World War II, the US declined to use economic or diplomatic pressure to secure Syria's surrender of Nazi war criminals for prosecution. Improving American relations with the Arab world was considered a higher priority than bringing Alois Brunner and company to justice.

In our own time, although US troops have in some isolated instances crossed into Syrian territory while chasing terrorists, there had never been a large-scale raid comparable to this week's, nor one involving aircraft.

And while the Bush administration has designated Syria a sponsor of terrorism and imposed the requisite sanctions, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and her aides recently met with Syrian officials to seek a "thaw" in relations.

Does this week's US air raid demonstrate a rejection of the "thaw" approach or does it simply reflect the latest bump in an ongoing tug of war within the administration over how to deal with Syria?

The likelihood is that President Bush is less liberated by his own lame-duck status than by that of the Israeli government, where no one can really prevail upon him to lay off their ally.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 30, 2008 8:07 AM
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