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By Benjamin Netanyahu

Benjamin Netanyahu is a former prime minster of Israel.

JERUSALEM -- There is no international terrorism without the support of sovereign states. International terrorism simply cannot be sustained for long without the regimes that aid and abet it.

Terrorists are not suspended in mid-air. They train, arm and indoctrinate their killers from within safe havens on territory provided by terrorist states. Often these regimes provide the terrorists with intelligence, money and operational assistance, dispatching them to serve as deadly proxies to wage a hidden war against more powerful enemies.

Take away all this state support, and the entire scaffolding of international terrorism will collapse into the dust.

The international terrorist network is thus based on regimes -- Iran, Iraq, Syria, Taliban Afghanistan, Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority and several other Arab regimes such as the Sudan.

These regimes harbor the terrorist groups: Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan; Hezbollah and others in Syrian-controlled Lebanon; Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the recently mobilized Fatah and Tanzim factions in the Palestinian territories; sundry other terror organizations based in such capitals as Damascus, Baghdad and Khartoum.

These terrorist states and terror organizations together form a terror network, whose constituent parts support each other operationally as well as politically. For example, the Palestinian groups cooperate closely with Hezbollah, which in turn links them to Syria, Iran and Bin Laden.

These offshoots of terror have affiliates in other states that have not yet uprooted their presence, such as Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.

If Iran, Syria and the Palestinian Authority are included in the coalition to fight terror -- even though they currently harbor, sponsor and dispatch terrorists -- then the alliance against terror will be defeated from within. Perhaps we might achieve a short-term objective of destroying one terrorist fiefdom, but it will preclude the possibility of overall victory. Such a coalition will melt down because of its own internal contradictions.

We might win a battle. We will certainly lose the war.

These regimes, like all terrorist states, must be given a forthright demand: Stop terrorism, permanently, or you will face the wrath of the free world -- through harsh and sustained political, economic and military sanctions.

Obviously, some of these regimes will scramble in fear and issue platitudes about their opposition to terror, just as Arafat, Iran and Syria did, while they keep their terror apparatus intact. We should not be fooled. These regimes are already on the U.S. lists of states supporting terrorism -- and if they're not, they should be.

The price of admission for any state into the coalition against terror must be to first completely dismantle the terrorist infrastructures within their realm. Iran will have to dismantle a worldwide network of terrorism and incitement based in Tehran.

Syria will have to shut down Hezbollah and the dozen terrorist organizations that operate freely in Damascus and in Lebanon. Arafat will have to crush Hamas and Islamic Jihad, close down their suicide factories and training grounds, rein in his own Fatah and Tanzim terrorists and cease the endless incitement to violence.

To win this war, we must fight on many fronts. The most obvious one is direct military action against the terrorists themselves.

Israel's policy of preemptively striking at those who seek to murder its people is, I believe, better understood today and requires no further elaboration. But there is no substitute for the key action that we must take: imposing the most punishing diplomatic, economic and military sanction on all terrorist states.

To this must be added these measures:

-- Freeze financial assets in the West of terrorist regimes and organizations;

-- Revise legislation, subject to periodic renewal, to enable better surveillance against organizations inciting violence;

-- Keep convicted terrorist behind bars. Do not negotiate with terrorists;

-- Train special forces to fight terror;

-- And, not least important, impose sanctions on suppliers of nuclear technology to terrorist states.

Victory over terrorism is not, at its most fundamental level, a matter of law enforcement or intelligence. However important these functions may be, they can only reduce the dangers, not eliminate them.

The immediate objective is to end all state support for, and complicity with, terror. If vigorously and continuously challenged, most of these regimes can be deterred from sponsoring terrorism.

But there is a real possibility that some will not be deterred -- and those may be ones that possess weapons of mass destruction.

Again, we cannot dismiss the possibility that a militant terrorist state will use its proxies to threaten or launch a nuclear attack with apparent impunity. Nor can we completely dismiss the possibility that a militant regime, like its terrorist proxies, will commit collective suicide for the sake of its fanatical ideology. In this case, we might face not thousands of dead, but hundreds of thousands and possibly millions. This is why the United States must do everything in its power to prevent regimes like Iran and Iraq from developing nuclear weapons and disarm them of their weapons of mass destruction.

This is the great mission that now stands before the free world.

That mission must not be watered down to allow certain states to participate in the coalition that is now being organized. Rather, the coalition must be built around this mission.

(c) 2001, Global Viewpoint. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 9/24/01)