These were side-by-side headlines in today's NYTIMES:
5 Highly Placed Lebanese Detained in Ex-Premier's Death
Airstrikes by U.S. Continue Near Syria Border
The clashes between Sunni Arab tribes and insurgents, coupled with growing vows by Iraq's Sunni minority to turn out in force for national voting in the coming months, coincided with U.S. hopes for defusing the two-year-old insurgency. U.S. military leaders have repeatedly expressed optimism that public anger at insurgent violence would deprive insurgents of their base of support. A tribal leader near the Syrian border, Muhammed Mahallawi, said his Albu Mahal tribe began the latest fighting against Zarqawi's insurgents after they kidnapped and killed 31 members of his tribe to punish them for joining the Iraqi security forces. "We decided either we force them out of the city or we kill them," with the support of U.S. bombing, Mahallawi said by telephone.
Sunni Arab tribes in the western province of Anbar have clashed sporadically with Zarqawi's organization since at least May, usually in revenge for killings of tribe members accused of collaborating with U.S. forces or the Iraqi government. This month in Ramadi, the capital of Anbar, tribes took up arms to block Zarqawi's group from enforcing his ultimatum for all Shiite Muslim families to leave the city. Fighting there killed several fighters on both sides. Local officials said Tuesday that Mahallawi's tribe and the insurgents had been fighting near the border for at least three days. Rawi, the emergency room director, said at least 61 people had been killed since the fighting began. The majority of the dead Tuesday were in the Western-style clothes and athletic shoes often worn by Zarqawi's fighters, Rawi said.
After Iraq and Afgha-nistan whose turn is it, is a moot question being debated about not only in the power corridors of the Middle East but also at the kerb-side tea cafes. Can the United States be really serious when it lists Syria among the states sponsoring terrorism? Admittedly the Baath old guard of Syria is not happy at the prospect of sharing the fate of their peers in Iraq, and the present Baghdad regime's allegations that most foreign terrorists are crossing over from Syria, is anything but exaggeration. Yet it hardly is a sufficient instigation for the US forces to embroil in another country as the political, human, and financial costs of another parallel adventure are domestically indefensible. Like Saddam in his last days in power, Bashar al Assad is now literally dancing on US beckoning -- withdrawing his country's 29-year military presence in Lebanon on a single phone call -- but trans-border intrusions are totally beyond his control. His own lack of character and cowardice being comparable only to those of Saddam, his border forces lack the will and the capacity to take the militants head on. The professionalism of his troops is restricted to torturing and interrogating intellectuals and human rights activists, that of his intelligence officers to murdering people in Lebanon, and that of his border security guards to gazing at the Israeli girls across the barbed wire. The days of Syria acting as a regional bully are history. No country in the Middle East can remain immune from the winds of reform. Bashar, therefore, has joined the reform bandwagon, ending up only in reforming the methods of tyranny.
... The US decision-makers are not so naïve not to realize the fact that democracy in Iraq will remain an elusive unless it is firmly rooted in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria. The rest of the region will then follow in domino effect. And that it is only for Syria that use of force will be necessary to that end. ... If Bush and Blair are sincere in their belief that Saddam's removal was morally justified, then one should rest assured that a Syria expedition is a question of "when" and not "if."