Syria has long been a major impediment to peace in the Mid East. The Syrian Baathist regime funds terrorist organizations such as Hizbullah, and has occupied Lebanon for nearly 30 years. In 1976, Syria troops entered Lebanon during Lebanon's civil war, and over 15,000 troops remain to this day.
Syria's influence over Lebanon extends throughout the Lebanese government. In 2004, Lebanese President Lahoud's term expired. Syria, who initially selected Lahoud for the post, insisted that Lahoud's term be extended for 3 more years, despite the fact that he had served the 6 year maximum term allowed by Lebanon's constitution.
Syria has also been a key supporter of the insurgency in Iraq, and is widely believed to be responsible for the murder of former Lebanese president Rafiq Hariri.
The Bush administration has consistently delivered strong and uncompromising messages to Syria. But given our involvement in two conflicts in the region, Syria recognizes that an attack from the US is highly unlikely. As long as US military crosshairs are fixed on Iraq and Afghanistan, the Syrian government has been content listening to Bush administration bark, realizing that we aren't in a position to bite.
Apparently, Syria is coming to recognize that they are losing the war in Iraq. The Iraqi road to democracy was recently paved by 8 million Iraqis who voted in recent elections. Insurgents are being captured or killed by the dozens. Iraqi security forces are being trained by the hundreds. More importantly, the United States military becomes better positioned for their next endeavor with every new trained Iraqi soldier.
As a result, the Syrian regime recognizes that now is the time to save themselves, and in what might be their first goodwill gesture towards the United States, the Syrians handed over 30 terrorists operating out of Syria. The biggest catch in the Syrian stringer was Saddam Hussein's half-brother, Sabawi Ibrahim al-Hassan, who has been funding and organizing the insurgency from Syria. It stands to reason that these 30 men could have been arrested one or even two years ago, but Syria has come to realize that they have reached a fork in the road: continue supporting the Iraqi insurgency and risk a US military response, or begin cooperating in the hopes of maintaining their hold on power at home.
Compounding the woes of the Syrian regime, citizens throughout the middle east have now seen the power of freedom, and they want a taste for themselves. Recent elections in Afghanistan and Iraq have put democracy front and center in every day political dialogue. In the wake of the Hariri assasination, Lebanese citizens demonstrated by the thousands, despite the fact that demonstrations are outlawed by the puppet regime in Lebanon. Today, the Lebanese Parliament had planned a no-confidence vote against the pro-Syrian Lebanese government. In a stunning development before the vote took place, the Lebanese Prime Minister Omar Karami announced the resignation of the entire government. We have reached the point-of-no-return where full Syrian political and military withdrawal from Lebanon is inevitable.
It is doubtful that even the most ardent Bush opponent would fail to recognize these astounding Bush policy successes. Let's hope and pray that other "insurmountable" obstacles to peace come tumbling down, including Israel's occupation of the Golan Heights, and Saudi Arabia's failure to recognize a sovereign Israel.