The Syria Accountability Act had four conditions, only one of which was ending Syria's occupation of Lebanon. Congress also demanded that the Assad regime end support for terrorism, halt development of weapons of mass destruction, and stop guerillas from entering Iraq. Clearly, these conditions have not been met. Nor has Syria demonstrated any measurable willingness to clamp down on Hezbollah or pursue peace talks with Israel.
So, have we been successful? Absolutely yes! Syria is out of Lebanon and has nowhere to turn except, of course, to Iran. What should we do now?
First and foremost, I believe that our goals remain the same as when Congress adopted the Syria Accountability Act: ending terror and WMD programs and the flow of guerillas into Iraq. Yet, with Syria's continuing transgressions, not all of the penalties in the law have been implemented. When Secretary Rice testified before the Committee earlier this year, I asked her why the Administration has not carried out all sanctions authorized by the Syria Accountability Act. The time has come to impose the full range of penalties envisioned in the Act.
As we move forward, we should keep our eyes on several trends in Syria, Lebanon, and the region. I am concerned that the inter-religious violence in Iraq and the dangerous situation in Iran may spill over the border into Syria and Lebanon.
I think we need to watch Hezbollah very carefully in the coming months. It is high on our list of terrorist groups and occasionally lobs shells over the border into northern Israel. With Syria's withdrawal there actually is a debate in Lebanon about whether Hezbollah should disarm. But, a debate is not enough. We must demand nothing less than full disarmament.
We should also be very careful about taking sides in Lebanon. Lebanon's leaders should know that America wants to support them, but only if they are creating a real democracy without terrorist groups on its soil. Likewise, I would like to assist the Lebanese military and hope it deploys throughout the country as the one unified army of Lebanon. But, until it presents a plan to become truly professional, we should not provide more than advice and technical assistance.