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Phares on Syrian Commando Reports

syrian_forces.jpgSeptember 7, 2008
By W. Thomas Smith Jr.
Spoke this evening with Dr. Walid Phares, director of the Future of Terrorism Project for the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, on the subject of the recent reports of Syrian commando (special operations) forces having crossed into north Lebanon, and the Lebanese Army's dismissing the reports as "untrue."

Phares, currently on a European tour, is in Brussels tonight where he has been briefing legislators and EU officials on the evolving situation in Lebanon and the broader Middle East.

According to Phares:

"Despite much wishful thinking on the part of the U.S. - and particularly Europe - that Damascus is moving toward a measure of good behavior; the Syrian regime is irreversibly committed to extending its regional dominance back into Lebanon [Syria officially withdrew in 2005, though Syrian intelligence operatives have remained in Lebanon, and Syria continues to provide operational support to Hezbollah]. It is not a question of choice: It is a question of Syrian regime doctrine. The Assad clan hasn't been able to digest the fact that it was compelled to withdraw its forces from Lebanon in 2005. On the day he delivered the announcement of withdrawal, he activated his second army, his pro-Syrian militias and Hezbollah, which would commit to attacking the Cedars Revolution on every possible front.

"The reports of a possible penetration by Syrian commandos into northern Lebanon do not come as a surprise. Assad already has made public his interest in linking up with the Alawite militias north of Tripoli. Remember what he told Lebanon's President Michel Sleiman, a couple of weeks ago. He asked Sleiman to redeploy Lebanese troops from the south to the north. And keep in mind that many units of the Army deployed in the south had already been infiltrated by Hezbollah.

"So Assad wants Lebanese Army units - led by officers friendly to the Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah axis - to be dispatched to the north, a strong anti-Syrian Sunni enclave. Additionally, he [Assad] wants to send-in his own "SS," in a move in which they would deploy with the Alawite militias in northern Lebanon.

"Hence, the reports regarding Syrian commandos being sent across the Syrian-Lebanese border should not surprise observers.

"The bigger picture is that -- while Hezbollah is taking control of the heights of Mount Lebanon from Jezzine to the Cedars -- the Syrians are filling the void of the remaining sectors escaping their control; that is north of Tripoli.

"Look at it this way: while the theatrics surrounding the so-called dialogue are taking place in Beirut to keep international media busy with photo ops and empty statements, the real action is occurring on the ground. In short, Lebanon is being slowly reoccupied by the Syrian-Iranian axis. And to assume otherwise is sheer naiveté."

Our previous report with updates may be seen here.

Additional information will follow.

- Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. online at uswriter.com.

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