General Franks is in Baghdad today, surveying the city and speaking to many who are going to be there long after we are gone. There is still much to do, and Baghdad is not yet a safe place.
Our forces have rendered several northern cities safe, with the notable exception of Mosul. There, as in Baghdad, the imported fedayeen terrorists–joined in some cases by remnants of Saddam’s forces who choose to fight on in civilian clothes–continue their small attacks. Arms caches are being found almost everywhere in Iraq, from Uday’s home (where a gold-plated submachine gun was displayed for the cameras yesterday) to tunnels under palaces and everywhere else the busy Saddamites could hide them. The search for WMD is continuing, and evidence remains hard to find. It will be found, and when it’s displayed we will hear the chorus of nations denying it, arguing that we placed it there to be found. The concept of “chain of custody”–an evidentiary device to show that what police have seized was not planted or tampered with–is in full force in Iraq.
The Palestinians–always eager to support terrorism–are now demanding that one of their faithful, the murdering Abu Abbas, be released because of the Oslo II accords signed in 1995. Abbas, wanted for the 1985 murder of American Leon Klinghoffer in the Achille Lauro hijacking, was caught yesterday in Iraq. Palestinian minister Saeb Erekat told Reuters, “We demand the United States release Abu Abbas. It has no right to imprison him.” Mr. Erekat is himself guilty of, at least, practicing law without a license.
Under Article 16 of that accord, “Palestinians from abroad whose entry into the West Bank and the Gaza Strip is approved pursuant to this agreement, and to whom the provisions of this Article are applicable, will not be prosecuted for offenses committed prior to September 13, 1993.” The Achille Lauro hijacking took place in 1985.
But the agreement is only between the Palestinians and Israel. We aren’t a party to it, and even Bill Clinton didn’t sign it, only “witnessed” it. Therefore are not bound by the Oslo II accords. Period. It might bar the Israelis from prosecuting Abbas, but we don’t want them to. We want him for our own courts. Abbas–if he is not sentenced to death for the murder–should rot in an American jail and only leave feet first. This only proves–redundantly–the falsity of claims by the Palestinian Authority that it wants to divorce itself from terrorism.
We are getting “Syrious,” but is Bashar Assad? Assad must hand over the fleeing Saddamites and the money they stole. If he does not, we will have to take action. Big Dog Don Rumsfeld made it clear yesterday that the shutdown of one big pipleline carrying oil from Iraq to Syria was no accident. That has to be a significant blow to the Syrians. Their economy is no bed of roses, and the cheap oil was one of the sticks propping it up. The Assad government is running scared, but not scared enough to act like anything other than a scared rogue nation. Big Dog made it plain, that his boss wants Syria to act, and to change. It has to give up on terrorism, and free Lebanon from the grip of Hezbollah, as well as surrender its Baathist pals from Iraq.
Syria needs to look at its own frailty, and the likelihood of any military success given its significant weakness relative to prewar Iraq, let alone the Coalition. Like Iraq before it, Syria may think the U.N. or antiwar American politics will deter us. Assad will be encouraged in this by the Saddamites he harbors, and by the many Islamic radicals who refuse reality. During the long hot Middle Eastern summer, Assad will have to choose. It’s a hundred to one odds against him choosing wisely.