Syria's clandestine warfare in Lebanon

Ralph Peters:

SYRIA'S troops are going home. Before Lebanon's spring elections. Damascus made the promise in writing. To the United Nations.

The question now is: How much damage does Syria intend to do on the way out?

While a commitment from Damascus to the U.N. has a whiff of a pimp's promise to a hooker, international pressure will force the Syrians to honor their word. The problem lies in what the agreement omits. Getting the 12,000 or so remaining Syrian troops out of Lebanon certainly matters. But ridding the country of Bashar Assad's 5,000-plus intelligence operatives is what really counts. And Damascus has been coy about their removal.

Syria's troops are bums with guns — largely undertrained draftees with unreliable equipment. They can't act without being seen by all. They'd be hard to use effectively.

The intel and security boys are another matter. Some function overtly, an acknowledged presence. But many work in the shadows. And there's no place on earth where the shadows grow longer and darker than in the Middle East.

If the intelligence personnel — overt, covert and clandestine — aren't removed, the Syrian menace remains as grave as ever. Their agents don't merely spy and report. They bribe, bully, blackmail — and kill.

Syrian intel operatives were behind the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. Even if they worked through Hezbollah or contract killers, Syrian agents doubtless sponsored the recent terror bombings in Christian enclaves, as well

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Like the 21st-century IRA and Saddam's Baathists, Hezbollah has become a deadly mafia whose immediate goals are self-perpetuation and power.

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If the Syrian government attempts to destroy Lebanon, the Damascus regime itself must be destroyed.

The Syrians are isolated and desperate and deceitful. They have shown a capacity for miscalculation that suggest they are having a difficult time coming to grips with reality. Expect more miscalculations. The power players around Assad are not very smart.

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