Is It Time to Expand the 'Axis of Evil'?

Since his Sept. 20, 2001 ,speech denouncing Iraq, Iran and North Korea as members of an “Axis of Evil,” President Bush has been viciously ridiculed. We’ve all heard the nasty names, everything from “unsophisticated” and “foreign policy novice” to “warmonger,” “murderer,” and “fascist.”

Why it somehow works to call Bush a fascist but is terribly improper for him to refer to Muslim terrorists as “Islamic fascists” is discussion for another time. But as we now approach the five-year anniversary of his bold description we realize one stark fact: he didn’t go far enough in his listing of America’s enemies.

At the very least we need right now to add Syria and Venezuela to country list. Others such as Somalia, Sudan and Nigeria may need to be added if they continue down the present path. And we’d better make certain that we open a category for non-governmental terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah, Hamas, al Qaeda, and the kaleidoscope of changing, metastasizing offshoot groups with different names but which share a common, destructivre Islamofascist ideology.

Syria unfortunately has been overlooked since the start. The Baathist dictatorship under Bashar Assad was a major exporter of terror and anti-Western action for years before 9/11. But it was, perhaps erroneously, considered a small potato beside Saddam’s Iraq and the Iranian mullocracy. In fact, Syria’s stranglehold on Lebanon permitted unchecked growth of Hezbollah. Without Syria it is highly unlikely that Hezbollah would have been able to grow into what former Army intelligence officer Ralph Peters calls “the world’s first effective terrorist army.” Peters notes that rather than the “rusty Kalishnikovs” that confront the Israeli army in neighboring Palestine, the Hezbollah fighters had modern weapons including rockets and missiles. Some of the upgraded weaponry was supplied by Syria. Most of it transited Syria on the way from Iran into Lebanon.

Reports by those involved, including former Iraqi Gen. Georges Sada, note that prior to the Iraq War, tons of chemical and biological weapons were evacuated from Iraq into a welcoming Syria. “A Boeing 747 and two 727s were stripped of interior furnishings and made multiple flights into Syria,” according to Sada, “loaded with hundreds of drums of poison gas.”

American Generals Paul Vallely and Thomas McInerney note that “three locations inside Syria and another in the Bekka Valley” were locations for Iraqi WMD. So now we are faced with the prospect of yet another terrorist-sponsoring, Baathist dictatorship pledged to destroy Israel and America with its hands on WMD.

There is much more. Syria acts as banker and paymaster for many of the terrorists operating inside Iraq. Untold millions of dollars were squirreled away in Damascus banks prior to Saddam’s fall. Along with tons of weapons, literally tons of currency and gold were evacuated into Syria prior to Saddam’s fall. Since then Syria has assisted the terrorists with state protection, sanctuary training areas inside the Syrian border, and with procurement of weapons and supplies. The infiltration routes are jammed from Syria into Iraq. Marines and Army units fighting in the Second Battle of Fallujah noted that when they searched dead terrorists they almost always found wads of brand-new $100 bills, supplied courtesy of the Baathist leaders from Saddam’s stocks in Damascus.

Syria has run Lebanon with an iron hand. Assad made a great show of removing Syrian forces from much of Lebanon after American and allied protest and a strong show of pro-democracy in the streets. However, Syrian intelligence operatives and special military units maintained a quasi-covert presence in the country along with thousands of Iranian Revolutionary Guards, despite promises to evacuate. Last year Syria signed a military alliance with Iran. Behavior in the recent war — and current phony truce — shows that the partnership is functioning well. Not only has Syria provided a logistical conduit into Southern Lebanon but it is a major repository for a more sophisticated model of Iranian missiles than were seen in the attacks on Israel.

Both Syria and Iran have been dealing for years in missile purchases from North Korea. Iran, funded by limitless petrodollars, has been a bigger customer. Iranian and Korean engineers have improved the Nodong and Taepodong class missiles into medium range, highly effective weapons that are capable of carrying up to a ton of conventional explosives. Iran tweaked them and re-named them Shehab and ZelZal class missiles. Frighteningly the warheads are also capable of delivering nuclear, radiological, chemical, or biological agents also.

Some of these missiles have already been smuggled into southern Lebanon for Hezbollah forces along with hundreds of shorter-range rockets. The larger, more sophisticated platforms remain hidden across the border in Syria, prepared to move forward and launch into Israel, or to launch in place if an attack on Syria occurs.

Syria’s Assad, quaking in his boots immediately after the Iraqi invasion, watched America hesitate to take him out. He is now brazenly defiant. He recently welcomed Venezuela’s new dictator Hugo Chavez on a state visit. Chavez is working the circuit of those rogue regime leaders who, like him, despise and hate America.

After assuring Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Iranian mullahs that “we will end the American empire,” Chavez turned up in Damascus singing from the same hymnal. He told Assad that “together we will build a new world.” A world, Chavez pointed out, absent U.S. “domination.” They will “dig the grave for U.S. imperialism.” Can Chavez be taken seriously? A better question is, How can he not?

What we are seeing is the reality of a mismatched group of international thugs who share a common hatred for America that binds them. Worse, two of the countries, Iran and Venezuela, have billions in petrodollars to support their nefarious plans. The other two, Syria and North Korea, are willing accomplices adding value in any number of ways, especially in North Korea’s case in the areas of missile and nuclear technology. We are painfully late in realizing that not only will these people work together despite ideological or cultural differences, but they actually seek one another out. They are fully aware of the synergistic effect achieved by combining their resources against the enemy whether they call him the Great Satan or the gringo imperialist.

For years the Achilles’ heel of America’s intelligence services, especially but not exclusively at the State Department and Central Intelligence Agency, has been a compulsion to classify enemies based on their own cultural misunderstandings and bias. Sometimes this is due in part to organizationally imposed geographical exclusivity: Asian specialists incredibly don’t regularly discuss hostile activities with Middle Eastern or Latin America analysts. Other times one sees intransigent denial based on strongly-held beliefs. To this day, for example, former CIA analyst Michael Scheuer maintains steadfastly against all evidence that “there were no ties between bin Laden’s al Qaeda and Saddam’s Iraq.” When careers, reputations, or political ideologies clash with facts the latter generally lose.

Consequently, Americans have been agonizingly slow to realize that an incredibly strong coalition is being assembled against this country, and the enemy is growing stronger by the day. At the moment North Koreans have an office just blocks from the Miraflores Palace in Caracas. Do we really think they are there to sell kimchee and dried squid? They are notorious proliferators of advanced missiles.

We know that Chavez loves his explosive toys. He has already ordered 50 top-line MiG-29 fighter aircraft from Russia. He bought 100,000 sets of AK-47s, the weapon of choice of the world’s guerrillas (though they are incompatible with Venezuelan army requirements). He looks to buy a factory to co-produce the weapons, no doubt for export to regional guerrilla movements that he can control. His ego demands missiles to dominate his neighbors and America. With pockets bulging with oil money and a cash-starved North Korea eager to sell, who can doubt that we will soon see intermediate range missiles arrive in South America for the first time since the Cuban Missile Crisis of the 1960s?

Nor are the North Koreans alone in wooing Venezuela. Ahmadinejad pledged $4 billion to “assist development of Venezuela’s oil fields.” This in all probability will be a cover operation to hide a covert nuclear program. Given Chavez’s arrogance and unmistakable hostility toward his perceived enemies he may soon boast openly of developing a nuclear weapon just so that he can challenge the “imperialist gringos.” From sprawling Venezuela Chavez missiles will be able to cover most of the region, particularly if the North Koreans continue to upgrade the Taepodong class. We know from the July 4 testing that they intend to do exactly that. Even with off-the-shelf medium range missiles available in today’s market placed strategically in a friendly Cuba, Chavez may be able to do what even the Soviets at their height were unable to accomplish: intimidate the Americans into withdrawal from the southern hemisphere, or worse.

Know that America’s enemies are colluding to bring death and destruction to the U.S. and to Israel. Any counties such as the U.K., Australia, Japan, and others that stand with us ought to expect that sooner or later they will be placed on the dictatorial hit list. But right now we’re at the top, virtually alone. This rogue’s gallery of countries and terrorist movements has consciously subordinated internecine conflict to focus sharply on defeating their prime enemy, America. The longer we ignore the reality of this gathering storm, while we wallow in denial permitting dysfunctional intelligence and foreign policy institutions to exist unreformed, the greater the chance of our enemies’ success.