Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) writes today in the Wall Street Journal that the U.S. “road to victory” in Iraq goes through Damascus, and urges Congress to “send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime“:
The United States is at last making significant progress against al Qaeda in Iraq–but the road to victory now requires cutting off al Qaeda’s road to Iraq through Damascus. [...]
It is therefore time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for al Qaeda in Iraq.
When Congress reconvenes next month, we should set aside whatever differences divide us on Iraq and send a clear and unambiguous message to the Syrian regime, as we did last month to the Iranian regime, that the transit of al Qaeda suicide bombers through Syria on their way to Iraq is completely unacceptable, and it must stop.
Lieberman’s approach to confronting terror in the Middle East has only produced more violence and chaos. Shortly after the Iraq invasion — a move that Lieberman championed — he claimed the war would bolster the U.S. ability to take on Syria:
With victory in Iraq all but certain, U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman said Tuesday the United States should use what he called “very aggressive diplomacy” to handle Syria and other countries suspected of harboring terrorists.
“I certainly hope military action won’t be necessary against Syria,” Lieberman said. “I would guess that it will not be, and part of the reason it will not be is because we were willing to use our power in Iraq and made a very strong point there.” [AP, 4/15/03]
In an April 9, 2003 interview with NBC, Lieberman said the U.S. had “earned some strength” in its position vis a vis Syria because of the “mighty display of force in Iraq.” In fact, the very opposite of Lieberman’s prediction has occurred. The war in Iraq has bolstered the Assad regime in Syria, which now rests more comfortably knowing U.S. military options are limited. Moreover, Syria’s influence in the region has grown, not diminished, as a result of the Iraq war.
In an attempt to begin to repair the administration’s disastrous course in the Middle East, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) led a bipartisan congressional delegation to Damascus recently to personally address U.S. concerns about Syria’s influence in Iraq. Pelosi delivered a “clear and unambiguous message” to Bashar Assad, “insisting that his government block militants seeking to cross into Iraq and join insurgents there.”
Lieberman’s response to Pelosi’s efforts to address Syrian support for terror was to attack, criticize, and smear her. Falsely implying Syria was behind 9/11, Lieberman said he “strongly disagreed” with Pelosi’s trip, calling it a “mistake” and “bad for the United States of America.” Lieberman has argued that talking Syria is like the “local fire department asking arsonists to help put out the fire.” His “message” to Syria should be viewed as such — not diplomacy, but rather another step towards military confrontation.
UPDATE: A McClatchy analysis demonstrates that Syria is not a major exporter of violence to Iraq. Looking at the origins of the suicide bombers in Iraq since 2003, only 8 came from Syria, compared to 53 from Saudi Arabia.