Syria Terrorism - A State Department Concern:
Syria has long been on the State Department's list of State Sponsors of Terrorism, primarily for providing safe haven, funding and something like moral support to a number of non-state terrorist groups.
The State Department's annual roundup of terrorist groups, Country Reports on Terrorism (2006) acknowledges that Syria itself hasn't had an evident hand in a terrorist attack since 1996. Actually, however, straight-out support for groups committed to terrorism plays only a small part of U.S. reasoning.
Assassination of Rafiq Hariri:
The US suspects –and has indirectly accused—Syria of assassinating former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq Hariri on March 14, 2005. Hariri was blown up by what appeared to be a suicide car bomb, and about twenty others were killed in the blast.
At the time of the assassination, Syria had a significant political and military presence in Lebanon, as it had since 1976 when peacekeeping troops were meant to help stabilize post-civil war Lebanon. The assassination of anti-Syrian Hariri led to new alliances and divisions in Lebanese politics, and the withdrawal of Syrian troops. The current prime minister, Fuad Siniora, is anti-Syrian.
The U.S. withdrew its ambassador from Syria following the attack and has been aggressive in pushing the U.N. Security Council to draft a resolution establishing an international tribunal to investigate the assassination. Syria is opposed to the tribunal, officially.
In November 2006, Lebanese former cabinet minister Pierre Gemayel was assassinated, and Syria has been thought to be behind the murder.
Read more: Was Gemayel's Assassination Terrorism?
Syria and Hezbollah:
Syria helped found Hezbollah, a Shiite Islamist militant group on the U.S. State Department terrorist organization list. Syrians trained Hezbollah members in the early 1980s, when Israel invaded Lebanon, for anti-Israel activities and to eradicate the Israeli presence from southern Lebanon. Hezbollah has also been widely accused of a suicide attack on a U.S. marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, which killed 250 servicemen and others.
Read more about Hezbollah: Profile of Hezbollah
Syria and Palestinian Terrorist Groups:
Syria has also provided safe haven for any number of militant groups since the 1960s, primarily Palestinian groups. In the 1960s, these secular groups weren't thought of as terrorist groups as they are today, but rather as guerrilla groups who carried out armed attacks on Israeli territory in the immediate wake of the division of Israel/ Palestine. Newer groups given safe haven by Syria, like Palestinian Islamic Jihad, are likely to be Islamist, rather than secular, in orientation.
Groups the US knows or accuses of taking haven, funding or other support from Damascus include:
Border Control of Iraq:
Most current descriptions of the Syrian border characterize it at some point as "porous." Since the beginning of the US war in Iraq, this has mean that militants, eager get into Iraq to fight the Americans or otherwise contribute to a militant jihadist enterprise. Syrians, but also fighters making their way from countries in the Arabian Gulf such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia, Jordanians and others have gone through Syria. The Syrian government does not support the goals of Al Qaeda or organizations like it.
As a sidenote, the war has also produced a significant expatriate Iraqi community in Syria, including families belonging to Iraq's former Baath leadership. This means that other activities the US is unlikey to approve of can be orchestrated in Syria. Al Zawraa TV, an anti-American, pro-Iraq insurgent television channel, is run out of Damascus, for example.
Read more on: Al Zawraa Television