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Column ignored reality of Mid-East situation, Arab-Israeli conflict

The recent column by Mark A. Smith '92 ended with the paradoxical statement,"A few articles on the real Syria would be a good start ["Despite US diplomacy, Syria is still a ruthless player," Oct. 1]." Unfortunately, I don't think that his narrow expos'e qualifies as a step in the right direction.

It seems as if Smith has never looked at a map of the Middle East and realized that Syria's "most powerful opponent" is not and has never been Iraq, but Israel, with its nuclear, biological and chemical arsenals, its ever-expanding stocks of high-tech conventional weapon systems and the continuous infusion of Russian immigrants and American funds into its economic and military machine. No wonder, then, that the Syrians have not only endured a national defense budget that is out of proportion with their scarce resources, but have suffered the unbearable experience of seeing a dear part of their country, the Golan Heights, occupied, depopulated, annexed and settled by an adversary as powerful as Israel.

The mere fact that Smith is able to write a full-page article on Syria's role and policies in the Middle East without even mentioning the context of the 50-year-old Arab-Israeli conflict is just mind-boggling. Likewise, his analysis of Syria's role in Lebanon is both uninformed and misleading. It would have been more faithful to the historical record to remind the reader that Syria has been in Lebanon since 1976 by invitation, not invasion -- a presence that has been based on the Arab legality as enshrined in the resolutions of the League of Arab States, of which both Lebanon and Syria are founding members.

While the invasion of Kuwait has sadly brought utter havoc and indescribable suffering upon Kuwait, Iraq and the entire Gulf region, Syria's peacekeeping mission is at long last succeeding in bringing about unity, peace and security to a Lebanon that has been fragmented and devastated by 15 years of a raging civil war that was an obvious threat to stability in the whole region. In short, Smith's attempt to draw a parallel between Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and Syria's intervention in Lebanon is simply misleading.

I find it amusing that some seem to resent that Syria joined the Gulf alliance "purely out of self-interest." Do they really think that Britain, for instance, joined it out of pure love and respect for a transcendent principle of justice? Is national self-interest not what foreign policy is all about?

I do agree with Smith on one point -- that "the United States has chosen to only selectively oppose aggression." Would he not agree with me that it is about time for the United States to be consistent in its declared commitment to peace and stability in the Middle East by firmly opposing Israeli aggressive policies in the occupied Arab lands of Palestine, Lebanon and Syria?

Ibrahim M. Elfadel G->