ARTICLE PUB : The Wall Street Journal Interactive Edition: 1996‑05‑10 00:01
With the Lebanese cease‑fire holding temporarily, the West has some breathing space to develop a better response to the next Arab‑Israeli flare‑up. The circus of seven foreign ministers‑from the U.S., Russia, France, the EU troika and Iran‑tripping over each other in Damascus reflected badly on all. The squabbling over who got to see Syrian President Hafez Assad next was unseemly. And after all that effort, the situation has returned to just about where it was three years ago.
None of the underlying problems were settled, making another eruption inevitable Mr. Assad has learned how to get the West to reward him when he takes steps to relieve problems he helped create. Mr. Assad sponsors terrorists galore: 10 Palestinian groups that reject peace with Israel have offices in Damascus; the Kurdish PKK terrorists would never have been able to become a serious force in Turkey without his help; and he is godfather to the Hezbollah who operate out of Lebanon. When these Syrian‑protected groups seize hostages and Mr. Assad aids in their release, the West's reaction is to praise the dictator for his goodwill. The U.S. puts Syria on its list of terrorist sponsors, but sometimes waives the resulting export restrictions that allow Mr. Assad to import things such as U.S. armored vehicles and planes. Since he pays no price for his
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