Sen. Joe Lieberman says the great majority of foreign fighters who become suicide bombers in Iraq enter the country from Syria – and most arrive there by landing in the Syrian capital at Damascus International Airport.
In an opinion piece for the Wall Street Journal, Lieberman asserts that cutting off the flow of terrorists traveling through Damascus is a key to success in Iraq.
"Al-Qaida in Iraq is sustained by a transnational network of facilitators and human smugglers, who replenish its supply of suicide bombers – approximately 60 to 80 Islamist extremists, recruited every month from across the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, and sent to meet their al-Qaida handlers in Syria, from where they are taken to Iraq to blow themselves up to kill countless others,” Lieberman writes.
Up to 80 percent of those extremists enter Iraq via Syria, according to Lieberman, "because of the permissive environment for terrorism that the Syrian government has fostered.”
Most U.S. intelligence estimates are that the overwhelming majority of foreign fighters reach Syria "by flying into Damascus International Airport, making the airport the central hub of al-Qaida travel in the Middle East, and the most vulnerable chokepoint in al-Qaida’s war against Iraq and the U.S. in Iraq.”
That airport has also long been the central transit point for Iranian weapons intended for Hezbollah, Lieberman writes in the Journal.
The Connecticut Senator declares it is "time to demand that the Syrian regime stop playing travel agent for al-Qaida in Iraq,” and he says the U.S. government should develop a range of options to take against Damascus International if the Syrian government does not take appropriate action soon.
One option, he said, would be to ask "responsible air carriers” that fly there, such as Alitalia and British Airways, to stop flights into Damascus International.
Lieberman concludes: "Simply put, for the U.S. and our Iraqi allies, defeating al-Qaida in Iraq means locking shut Syria's ‘Open Door’ policy to terrorists. It is past time for Syria to do so.”
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