Syrian dictator Bashar Assad is now threatening to ignite the Middle East and destroy Israel if NATO attacks his country, while his mufti is threatening to dispatch suicide bombers to Europe and the United States.

The threats coming out of Damascus are a sign of the growing predicament of the Assad regime, which has been facing a popular resistance since the beginning of the year. Syrian human rights and opposition groups say that about 3,000 Syrians have been killed at the hands of Assad's security forces.

Assad has been quoted as telling the Turkish foreign minister that, "if anything crazy happens to Syria, it will take me only six hours to move hundreds of missiles to the Golan Heights so they could be fired at Tel Aviv. At the same time, I will ask Lebanon's Hizbollah to open fire at Israel. All this will happen in the first three hours. In the next three hours, Iran will strike US warships in the region, while Shiites in the Gulf would start attacking Western targets and killing Americans and Europeans around the world. The Shiites will form suicide squads and hijack planes."

Assad's mufti, Ahmed Hassoun, was quoted as saying: "With the launching of the first missile at Syria or Lebanon, all our sons and daughters will go out to become suicide bombers in Europe and Palestine. I say this to Europe and America - we will prepare the suicide bombers if you attack Syria or Lebanon."

Given the Syrian regime's brutal record, the US and Europe should not underestimate the latest threats to set fire to the Middle East and launch suicide bombings against Westerners.

Assad will fight to the last Syrian to stay in power. In this regard, he is not different from Libya's mad man, Muammar Ghaddafi, who is continuing to fight even after the downfall of his regime.

A regime that does not hesitate to use artillery and tanks against peaceful protests and political opponents is capable of perpetrating the most unspeakable crimes against others.

This is a regime that has massacred thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese during the Civil War in Lebanon. In 1982, the Syrian army massacred thousands of Syrians in the town of Hama.

For decades, the Syrian regime has been harboring and supporting extremist groups such as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Hizbollah. Without the support of Damascus and Tehran, these groups would not have been able to grow and pose such a real threat to peace and stability in the Middle East.

Syria is not only a threat to Israel, the US and Europe, but also to moderate Arabs in the Middle East. Some Arab countries, first of all Jordan, are facing direct threats from Syria because of their support for the anti-Assad uprising.

The Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the US could signal the beginning of a wider scheme by Tehran and Damascus to take the fight against their critics to American and European soil. The uncovering of the Iranian plot coincides with reports that Syrian diplomats have been intimidating and spying on anti-Assad figures in the US and Europe.

Assad and his friend, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, have long arms that are capable of reaching anyone they wish. Just this week it was reported in that Syrian diplomats were involved in the abduction of Syrians from Lebanon to Syria. There have also been reports about special Syrian forces that infiltrated Turkey to kidnap a number of army defectors.

Iran's assassination plot should be viewed as an act of war against the US and Saudi Arabia, and the response should be very strong to deter other terror-sponsoring countries such as Syria. Similarly, the Syrian regime's threats of war and terror attacks should also be treated as a declaration of war against Israel, the US and Europe. There is no reason why a ruthless dictator such as Assad should not be taken seriously when he says he will set the Middle East on fire.

Related Topics:  United Kingdom  |  Khaled Abu Toameh receive the latest by email: subscribe to the free gatestone institute mailing list

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