Kabul, Baghdad should be just first steps
by Morton A. Klein
The American war against Saddam Hussein represents a significant departure from the traditional U.S. posture of appeasing Arab terrorist regimes. Hopefully it will be just the first step in a new approach to combating terrorism.
In the past, the U.S. consistently refrained from taking serious action against Arab regimes that sponsored terrorists. Instead, it tried to appease those regimes by offering them military and financial assistance, and pressuring Israel to make territorial and other concessions.
After the creation of the Palestine Liberation Organization in 1964, the governments of Egypt, Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia provided the PLO with funds, safe haven, training facilities and weapons. One Israeli anti-terror raid on PLO bases in Lebanon uncovered crates of U.S.-made rifles that had been given to Saudi Arabia, which in turn gave them to the PLO.
Yet instead of taking action against these terror-sponsors, the Johnson, Nixon and Ford administrations pursued friendly relations with Cairo, Damascus, Amman and Riyadh, gradually increasing U.S. aid. Even worse, the U.S. began pressuring Israel to give those regimes the strategically crucial territories that Israel had won in self-defense when Egypt, Jordan and Syria attacked in 1967.
The policy of appeasing pro-terror regimes continued during the Carter administration. The supply of American weapons to Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia increased, while Israel was pressured to make concessions to the Palestinian Arabs. When Israel struck at PLO terrorists in Lebanon and temporarily took over a narrow strip of border territory that had been used by the PLO, President Jimmy Carter pressured Israel to retreat - just five years after PLO terrorists, acting on Yasser Arafat's direct orders, murdered two American diplomats in Khartoum.
Reagan administration officials seemed to understand the terror threat more clearly - yet when it came to Arab regimes that sponsored anti-Israel terror, that familiar blind spot surfaced. Instead of using its leverage to force the Arab regimes to stop sponsoring terror, the administration unveiled the 1982 "Reagan Plan," which in effect rewarded the Palestinian Arabs for their terrorism, by proposing an Israeli withdrawal to the indefensible pre-1967 borders, and the creation of a Palestinian Arab regime in the vacated territories.
Israel's leaders called the plan "national suicide for Israel."
Reagan's token bombings of Libya and Syria, in response to specific anti-American terrorist attacks sponsored by those regimes, turned out to be onetime gestures, not manifestations of a new policy.
During the George Bush (senior) and Bill Clinton administrations, the appeasement policy reached new lows. Courting pro-terror Arab regimes and pressuring Israel became a central focus of U.S. foreign policy. Bush did go to war against Iraq - but because of its occupation of Kuwait and its oil fields, not because of Iraqi sponsorship of terror.
And all the while, U.S. military aid continued to flow into Egypt (more than $2 billion annually). Jordan (its $700-million debt to the U.S. was forgiven and new weapons were supplied) and Saudi Arabia, and trade with Syria continued - despite those regimes' continuing sponsorship of terrorism.
The U.S. failed to take decisive action against the terrorists or their sponsors, even when the attacks were directed at Americans. There was no serious response to the taking of American hostages by Iran, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon, the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, the attack on the S.S. Cole near Yemen, the downing of Pan Am 103, and so many other terrorist attacks.
The Clinton administration mastered the art of using pro-Israel rhetoric to soothe Israel's supporters, while carrying out policies that appeased terrorists and undermined Israel. Palestinian Arab violations of the Oslo accords were ignored. Palestinian Arab terrorism galvanized the administration to put even more pressure on Israel. Arafat was showered with $100 million each year and invited to the White House more often than other foreign leader.
Clinton's secretaries of state visited Damascus literally dozens of times. Just down the block from where U.S. officials met with Syrian leaders were the headquarters of at least 10 international terrorist groups, yet Clinton turned a blind eye.
The Bush administration's record has been equally troubling. Palestinian Arab violations have been whitewashed and Israel's self-defense policies have been condemned as "excessive." The same administration that demanded regime change in Afghanistan and Iraq because of their sponsorship of terror, is pressuring Israel to give the terrorist Palestinian Authority regime its own sovereign state.
Under the Bush administration, Saudi Arabia is treated as an ally despite its deep involvement in promoting Islamic terrorism. Syria is praised despite its sponsorship of international terrorist groups. Media reports indicate Bush is seeking a rapprochement with terrorist Libya. The administration even claims to detect signs of "moderation" in terrorist Iran, and continues to prevent American victims of Iranian-sponsored terrorism from implementing court-ordered seizures of Iranian assets.
Terrorism cannot be fought on one front and ignored on another. To defeat terrorism worldwide, America needs to be consistent and uncompromising. Kabul and Baghdad should be just the first steps. Replacing the pro-terrorist regimes in Riyadh, Damascus and Ramallah should be next on America's list.
Morton A. Klein is national president of the Zionist Organization of America.
This story was published in the DallasJewishWeek
on: Thursday, March 27, 2003