May 30, 2007
The Memorial Day weekend had most of us focused on the continued high casualty rate suffered by our military personnel serving in Iraq, but there has also been a "surge" of violent conflict in the lands next to Israel. In the Gaza Strip, which is now governed by the Palestine Authority, there has been a virtual civil war between the currently-dominant Hamas terrorist group and the Fatah faction of Yasser Arafat that used to run the PLO. Israeli armed forces intervened on a small scale to prevent the violence from getting out of control. In Lebanon, the Army has started to crack down on Hezbollah, which has reverted to its old thuggish ways of intimidation via terrorism and assassination, evidently at the behest of the government of Bashar Assad in Damascus.
The upsurge in political violence in both Israel and Lebanon can only be understood in the context of the broader showdown in the Middle East region. Washington Post: "Many government officials and residents see one prime mover in the assassination, the fighting in the north and the bombs: Syria, Lebanon's larger, historically oppressive neighbor." Yes, the very same country that Nancy Pelosi recently visited to "build bridges" in the Middle East, and that Diane Sawyer visited to interview President Assad earlier this year. With his elite mannerisms and clear English diction, he seems not to fit the mold of tyrranical despot, but that is what he really is. Whether he wanted to play that role in life, that's the legacy his father left him: a regime whose power rests solely on brute force. Fortunately, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice is under no illusions about the nature of Assad and his regime, and even through supreme difficulties, she will make sure that the appropriate degree of U.S. pressure is brought to bear so that Damascus refrains from overt support of international terrorism.