A ‘Syria(s)’ Need For Border Control

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This is a partial transcript of Special Report with Brit Hume, August 20, that has been edited for clarity. Click here to order the complete transcript.

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BRIT HUME, CO-HOST: ‘There are still foreign terrorists entering Iraq across the border from Syria (search).’  That was what American Iraq administrator, Paul Bremer, was quoted as saying, only yesterday. But wasn't Syria under pressure from the U.S. State Department supposed to have cut off that stuff months ago? So, what's going on?

For answers, we turn to Former U.S. Ambassador, in the Mid East, and FOX News Analyst, Mark Ginsberg, who's in our New York studio.

Mark, don't you…I remember at the end of the war over there, the major part of the war over there, that Syria was letting some infiltration happen. State Department stepped in. Syria was supposed to have stopped? What's going on, here?

MARC GINSBERG, FMR. AMBASSADOR, MOROCCO: Brit, don't you remember that back in April, Secretary of State Powell (search) made a trip to Damascus (search)? Came back to Washington and announced that he had convinced the Syrian government not only to stop the infiltration routes from Syria into Iraq for terrorists, but to close down all of those offices of terrorist organizations?

Well, just today the Assistant Secretary of State is back in Damascus. Bill Byrnes is there to remind the Syrians once again that this is…the State Department believes it made…it received a commitment, but that commitment, Brit, has not been fulfilled. And it seems that the State Department is engaged in a pattern of irrational exuberance over the role that Syria is playing here. But as you said earlier, Ambassador Bremer specifically cited yesterday that Syria's given safe haven and free transit to these terrorist groups.

HUME: How much reason is there to believe that the…that those that are coming in from Syria, because we also understand that there are some, as Ambassador Bremer has said, coming in from Iran as well, are responsible for these attacks? And possibly, of course, for the attacks yesterday?

GINSBERG: Well, Brit, I think the best evidence so far to date is just as you may recall a few weeks ago. The United States' Special Forces attacked a terrorist training camp on the Syrian-Iraqi border. There were 70 terrorists who were in effect staked out at this camp. When they recovered the bodies and removed the documentation from the bodies, they found passports from Saudi Arabia (search), Yemen (search), as well as transit documents from Syria. That was a clear indication that an underground railroad seems to be operating either by commission or omission, either with a connivance of President Asad, or at least his underlings or the Syrian Intelligence Services that are determined to cooperate with terrorist groups, and with Saddam loyalists.

HUME: What does Syria now, have to gain by doing this? It's got…if you look at its borders, it's got Jordan, which is not unfriendly to the United States. It now has a free Iraq on its border. It's got Israel on its border. What is it that…what is it…why is it in Syria's interest to play this kind of game, when it is now surrounded by countries that, at a minimum, would not be friendly to it, and certainly can't support Syria in any way?

GINSBERG: There's a palatable perception, Brit that the situation in Iraq is going from bad to worse. And the Syrians along with others in the region, who are unfriendly to the American presence want to bleed us out of Baghdad, because they are convinced…and the government in Damascus which is a dictatorial regime…is convinced that if we're able to establish a Democratic toehold or at least, a reasonably civil society in Iraq, and the…at the end of a Baath regime. And by the way, the other Baath regime that exists in the Middle East is the Baath regime that governs Syria.

So the Baath is sincere and convinced that once we finish whatever work we have to convi…complete in Dama…in Iraq, we're going turn our sights in Damascus. So the Syrians are convinced if there is peace between the Israelis and Palestinians and if we succeed in Iraq, that they'll be sandwiched between two enemies. And ultimately they will have to change or their government will be forced to change.

HUME: So, talk to me about the State Department's role in all this? If that's the case, then what's the leverage the State Department has? And is the State Department the right agency to be dealing with these people? And what is the relationship between Syria and the CIA?

GINSBERG: Brit, there's so much antagonism towards the way in which the State Department has handled the Syrian situation in Congress that there's an effort to impose sanctions on Syria by Congress and for Congress to take away from the State Department control over the authority.

What is happening inside the State Department is the belief, probably not totally misplaced, that the Syrians are trying to have it both ways. The State Department believes that Syria needs to have…cooperate on the implementation of the Roadmap. So we want to go gentle on the Syrians. The State Department believes that the Syrians have utmost control over Hezbollah (search).

And as you know, Hezbollah attacked Israel across the Lebanese border a few weeks ago. That precipitated a major crisis in the region. And so Assistant Secretary Byrnes is there to beg the Syrians to reign in Hezbollah.

And finally, the Syrians have been trumpeting their cooperation with the United States, in helping the United States, to in effect, interview al Qaeda terrorists that have been repatriated to Syria, who were Syrian citizens.

HUME: So they do have some cards to play, here, don't they?

GINSBERG: They have a couple of cards. And indeed they'll…they have permitted the CIA and Special Forces to interview Syri…terrorists who have been captured by the Syrians, or repatriated.

HUME: All right. Mark Ginsberg, thanks very much. Hope to see you again, soon.

GINSBERG: Thanks, Brit.

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