Sen. Arlen Specter met with The Bulletin at his Jerusalem hotel on Thursday morning, and used that occasion to convey a message from Syrian President Bashir Assad, with whom the senator had met with in a private meeting earlier in the week.
That message, according to Specter, was that the Syrian president was ready to participate in an international peace conference concerning the future of Iraq, and that the Syrian president was willing to meet with Israeli leaders for peace talks with no preconditions.
That, however, doesn’t take into account the Syrian state of war to destroy Israel that has existed since 1948. Specter said that he did not raise that issue with the Syrian president, asking rhetorically how that state of war with Israel manifested itself.
After being reminded that Assad gave full support to Hezbollah’s genocidal campaign of 4000 missiles that rained down on the Jewish state last summer, The Bulletin asked the senator about Syrian support of Hezbollah’s aim to wipe out the state of Israel.
Specter said that he raised concern about Syria’s supply of arms to Hezbollah, but that President Assad had denied such support. He added that, when he returns to Washington, he would ask American intelligence sources to confirm if, indeed, Syria continues to supply Hezbollah with weapons.
There were other issues to be addressed, including Syria’s curriculum in its schools, which inculcates school children with the ideology of war against the Jewish state. Specter answered that he was unfamiliar with that curriculum (which can be found in translation at the Web site of the Center for Monitoring The Impact of Peace, www.edume.org).
Asked about Syrian support of Hamas and other Palestinian terror groups, Specter said that he was not willing to take sides on the question of whether Syria was indeed supporting terrorist organizations such as Hamas.
However, The Bulletin asked Specter whether he had therefore implored President Assad to close down the 10 Palestinian terror organizations, including Hamas that officially operate out of Damascus, only a few blocks from the Syrian presidential palace.
Specter’s response was that he had always raised the issue of the 10 Palestinian terrorist organizations that operate out of Damascus with President Bashir Assad’s predecessor, his late father, President Hafez El Assad.
Nevertheless, Specter admitted he failed to raise the issue of these terror groups with the younger Assad, even though all of them are listed on the “watch list” of terrorist organizations that are monitored by the U.S. State Department, the CIA and the U.S. Justice Department. Specter had no explanation for his failure to raise this issue with the current Syrian president.
On another crucial issue, The Bulletin asked Specter if he had used any of his 15 visits with Syrian leaders, including this past visit, to implore Syria to cease and desist from its role in the harvesting and marketing of narcotics that are found on Philadelphia’s streets.
Specter, recalling his days as district attorney in Philadelphia, stated that he was not aware of the Syrian role in the narcotics trade, and that he was only aware of the role played by Latin American sources in this matter. The Bulletin referred the senator to the reports issued by the Drug Enforcement Administration in Washington which specifically identify Syria as a main supplier of narcotics which wind up on American streets.
Asked about U.S. State Department criticism of his visit with President Assad, Specter responded by saying that the U.S. must maintain dialogue with its enemies, remarking that he had always believed that “you have to keep your friends close and your enemies closer.”
He compared his visit to Syria to visits that he made to the former Soviet Union and to Communist China during the height of the Cold War. Specter said that President Bush should view him as an asset, and said that that the U.S. Senate must develop an independent voice in order to fulfill its role to advise and consent in matters of foreign policy.
Specter firmly stated that he would welcome the opportunity to meet with the Iranian president and to demand that the Iranian leader “cease and desist from his policy of wiping out the state of Israel.” Specter said he would like to initiate a dialogue with the Iranian president so that the Iranian leader would come to the conclusion that six million Jews were indeed slaughtered by the Nazis during World War II.
Reprinted with permission from the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin.