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Why is Syria all of a sudden back in the news?

Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein's rule, we've been frantically trying to find someone to replace Iraq on the Axis of Evil. Everybody knows that you can't have a proper international axis, evil or otherwise, with only two countries. Imagine Destiny's Child without Beyonce, Aqua Fresh without the red part, or a menage a deux.

Syria looked like a shoo-in for Axis of Evil Shemp, even while the Iraq war was at its height. You may recall Secretary of Offense Rumsfeld and various other administration officials threatening Syria with some good old-neo-conservative-fashioned regime change last spring.

Over the summer, we kinda forgot about Syria though. Iraq has been a big handful and Iran and North Korea's factories of Evil have gone to double shifts, easily replacing Saddam-ruled Iraq's pre-war output.

Just because most of us have let our attention wander elsewhere doesn't mean that Syria's any less evil than they've been in the past or that the White House isn't pissed off at them. Let there be no doubt, Syria has signed the lease for a spacious corner office on the top floor at Evil Central.

Why? Well, lots of reasons. Our intelligence officials think that Saddam Hussein has about $3 billion stashed in Syrian-controlled banks. White House officials began to suspect as much after American soldiers discovered several crates of pens embossed with "Thank you for banking at First Syrian National" were discovered in the hall closet at one of Saddam's palaces. Efforts by U.S. officials to have a look-see at Syrian bank records have reportedly been greeted with little cooperation from Syrians.

Congress is about to pass something it calls the Syrian Accountability and Lebanese Sovereignty Act. In it is a long list of Syria's no-good deeds. If passed, tougher new economic sanctions will be placed on Syria (tougher than the ones that are already in place because of Syria's longtime U.S. designation as a state sponsor of terrorism). For example, passage would result in a ban on the export to Syria of so-called "dual-use" technologies. That doesn't mean Skin So Soft lotion (which moisturizes and repels bugs), or baking soda (which has way more than two uses). It means technology that may have a military application, such as computers or machinery.

The act A) correctly accuses Syria of supporting terrorist groups Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah; B) points out that Syrian troops have occupied neighboring Lebanon for a couple of decades now; C) accuses Syria of allowing jihadists heck-bent on killing Americans in Iraq to pass through; and, finally, D) it notes that Syria has a WMD program, a pet peeve of ours nowadays.

Syria's response is A) Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah do not conduct any military operations in Syria, and besides we consider them to be freedom fighters, not terrorists; B) Lebanon? That's peacekeeping, man. That ain't occupation; C) Don't blame us because Muslim fanatics are coming from all over the Arab world to attack you. We told you not to invade; and D) Yeah, we've got chemical weapons, but Israel has nukes. If they dump their nukes, we'll dump our chemicals.

Oh, and E) Why does the legislation criticizing us have S.A.L.S.A. as its acronym? Shouldn't it be something more culturally appropriate like P.I.T.A. -- The Protecting Israel from Treacherous Arabs act.

Ah, yes, Israel.

Israel just attacked Syria in retaliation for the Yom Kippur suicide bombing in Haifa that killed 20 Israelis. Israel says the spot it attacked in Syria is a training camp for Islamic Jihad, the group that claimed the attack. They also say that the camp was funded by Iran and is an example of a Tehran-Damascus-Gaza terror alliance. Never mind that the camp was empty (even Israel admits that) and that the Haifa bomber came from the West Bank, not Gaza, Syria or Iran. Because Syria is on Dubya's (s)hit list though, Israel has the White House's green light to drop whatever it wants on Syria. It'll save us the trouble.

andisheh@creativeloafing.com

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