Herald.com | 04/03/2005 | Syria is fulcrum of `axis of evil':
"Today the immediate objective of this Iran-Syria-Hezbollah-Hamas-Islamic Jihad axis is to destabilize Syria's neighbors (Iraq, Lebanon, Israel and the Palestinian Authority) and sabotage any Arab-Israeli peace. Its strategic aim is to quash the Arab Spring, which if not stopped would isolate, surround and seriously imperil these remaining centers of terror and radicalism.
How then to defeat it? Iran is too large, oil-rich and entrenched to be confronted directly. The terror groups are too shadowy. But Syria is different. Being a state, it has an address. The identity and location of its leadership, military installations and other fixed assets are known. Unlike Iran, however, it has no oil of any significance. It is poor and the regime is weak, despised not only for its corruption and incompetence, but also because of its extremely narrow ethnic base. Assad and his gang are almost exclusively from the Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot considered heretical by many Muslims and representing about 10 percent of the Syrian population.
Syria is the prize. It is vulnerable and critical, the geographic center of the axis, the transshipment point for weapons, and the territorial haven for Iranian and regional terrorists.
If Syria can be flipped, the axis is broken. Iran will not be able to communicate directly with the local terrorists. They will be further weakened by the loss of their Syrian sponsor and protector. Prospects both for true Lebanese independence and Arab-Israeli peace would improve dramatically.
As Iraq, in fits and starts, begins finding its way to self-rule, the center of gravity of the Bush Doctrine and the American democratization project shifts to Lebanon/Syria. The rapid evacuation and collapse of the Syrian position in Lebanon is crucial not just because of what it will do for Lebanon, but because of the weakening effect it will have on the Assad dictatorship.
We need therefore to be relentless in insisting on a full (and as humiliating as possible) evacuation of Syria from Lebanon, followed by a campaign of economic, political and military pressure on the Assad regime. We must push now -- and hard."