Surprise — Syria is a rogue state

While we hope that the war in Iraq doesn't spill over the Syrian border, we should be pleased that the United States is finally taking a hard line against the rogue state of Syria.

For years we've heard U.S. administrations complain about Iraq's human rights violations and Iran's suppression of its moderate voices. But the White House has treated Syria as a more moderate nation despite its support of Hezbollah militants that threaten Israel and its long-time occupation of Lebanon.

Yet Syria is on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, and its government has been as oppressive and dictatorial as that of both Iraq and Iran.

A cursory look over the years shows:

*In 1980, as many as 1,100 unarmed prisoners were massacred at the infamous Tadmor Prison in the Palmyran desert.

*In 1982, Syrian troops killed thousands — some say up to 20,000, including women and children — in a military assault on the city of Hama, where the ruling Baath Party wanted to eliminate any opposition.

*In its 2003 report, Human Rights Watch lists the names of several prominent dissidents and "disappeared" people who have been imprisoned, some for as many as 22 years.

*The State Department last year charged that Syria provided safe haven for terrorist groups that included the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Palestine Islamic Jihad, Fatah-the-Intifada and Hamas.

In light of all that, the House of Representatives last year introduced the Syrian Responsibility Act, which called for the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon and an end to Syria's terrorist operations as well as its development of weapons of mass destruction. Violations would be punished by sanctions similar to those imposed on Iraq.

But here's the rub: The bill died when the Bush administration refused to back it.

Now, newly emboldened by its quick victory in Iraq, the Bush administration is finally getting tough with Syria. We urge the administration to keep Syria's feet to the fire until Bashar Assad's government destroys its weapons of mass destruction and ends its support of terrorists.