U.S. says most Iraq bombers via Syria: ‘It has to stop’
Absolutely, but where is the political will to hold Syria to account? The deterrent posed by having the world’s strongest and most advanced military is attenuated by the fact that U.S. military assets are stretched thin under the burden of holding together Iraq, a country with no inherent unity. Absent that, the U.S. would not only regain the deterrent power of being more ready, willing, and able, to address global threats, but Syria’s Alawite regime (categorized as a Shi’ite group, but well removed from the mainstream) would find itself occupied with a Sunni-Shi’ite jihad next door that would embolden its own Sunni majority population against its enemies both across and within the border, leaving Damascus much less able to threaten Israel and do the bidding of Iran.
From the World Tribune:
WASHINGTON — A U.S. State Dept. official said about 90 percent of the suicide attackers in Iraq came from Syria.
“It has to stop,” said David Satterfield, the chief State Department adviser on Iraq. Officials said that despite numerous appeals, Syria has failed to stop the flow of Sunni suicide bombers to Iraq. They said the lion’s share of suicide bombers were foreign Arab nationals who entered Syria and made their way to Iraq.
“They [suicide bombers] see Syria as a more accommodating country through which to transit across the border to come into Iraq to perpetrate their terror,” Satterfield.
Satterfield said the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that between 85 and 90 percent of suicide bombers in Iraq entered from Syria. In an address to the Washington Institute on March 27, Satterfield said 90 percent of suicide bombers in Iraq were foreigners.
Tiny Minority of Extremists Alert:
Officials said North Africans and Yemenis comprised the largest element among the foreign suicide bombers. But they said Saudi nationals have become an increasing factor in the Sunni insurgency war in Iraq.
In his address, Satterfield again warned Syria to stop the flow of would-be suicide bombers and other insurgents to Iraq. He said Iraq and the United States have sought to stem the flow of insurgents from Syria to Iraq’s Al Anbar province.
“It has to stop,” Satterfield said. “It is not in Syria’s long term interests to let this violence continue. We and the Iraqi security forces have done our best. It is a long, long border.”
Over the last month, the Bush administration has resumed high-level contacts with the Syrian regime of President Bashar Assad. Officials said that during the March 10 meeting in Baghdad, the U.S. delegation accused Iran and Syria of interfering in Iraq. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was expected to attend the next meeting that included Syria in April.
“We would hope that the Syrian government understands as well that its rhetoric for a peaceful and stable Iraq has to be matched by actions,” Satterfield said.
Pakistani Islamic Schools Are Rife With Extremism, Group Says
Stop the presses. By Ed Johnson for Bloomberg:
March 30 (Bloomberg) — President Pervez Musharraf has failed to tackle Islamic extremism in Pakistan’s religious schools, which continue to promote a holy war against the West and foment terrorism, the International Crisis Group said.
Five years after the government pledged a crackdown on the schools, known as madrassas, many still preach a violent ideology and train and dispatch fighters to Afghanistan and Indian-administered Kashmir, the Brussels-based advocacy group, which aims to resolve conflicts, said in a report yesterday.
“The Pakistani government has yet to take any of the overdue and necessary steps to control religious extremism,” the group said. “Musharraf’s periodic declarations of tough action, given in response to international events and pressure, are invariably followed by retreat.”
The ICG said the government’s “reform program is in shambles” and that banned extremist groups continue to operate openly in Pakistan, particularly in the port city of Karachi.
The group called on the government to introduce a law that “bars jihadi and violent sectarian teachings” in madrassas and close schools that fail to comply. Many madrassas remain unregistered and government attempts to introduce non-religious classes have been futile, according to the report.
A law that “bars jihadi and violent sectarian teachings” is highly unlikely, as Islamic teachings on jihad are part of the standard Pakistani curriculum, and are not at all limited to the notion of an “inner spiritual struggle.”
The group recommended the government establish financial controls on the schools, to establish where they receive funding. Students should also be registered, the group said. Certificates issued by the schools shouldn’t be treated as the equivalent of university degrees to encourage participation in mainstream education, it added.