Syrian President Bashar al-Assad got an extension this week for his outdated, tired tricks, primarily for one reason: Washington has still not decided to get rid of him, like they did with his neighbor in Iraq. At least until next month, when German investigator Detlev Mehlis releases his findings about the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri, Washington has taken a "European line" with regard to Assad and his dictatorship: Not in order to topple him, for the simple reason that whoever replaces him will be even worse. Proponents of this approach point to Iraq, and to the fire that has raged there since Saddam was deposed. Rather, this forgiving approach, the brainchild of conciliatory Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, could prove to be a tragic mistake. If dictators were scared to death a couple of years ago, today that fear is dissipating. Long arm of Damascus If Assad suspects Washington has decided to leave him in power because of the chaos in Iraq, he will do everything in his power to fan the flames of that violence. The destruction of Iraq will be held hostage to his success. Thus the United States will dig itself into a hole: Rather than get involved in a quagmire in Syria, it will deepen the quagmire in Iraq more and more. The U.S. must understand that the Middle East will never know stability as long as the Syrian regime remains in place. Not in Iraq, not in Lebanon, not with regard to the Palestinians, not in Jordan and not even amongst Arab Israelis. Syria's intelligence arm is involved in all these. There is no chance to deal with Iraq without also dealing with Syria in a Middle East in which so many things are intertwined. No place for murderous regime As long as Damascus feels existential pressure, it will try to re-ignite the Palestinian intifada. After all, it's better for the world to turn its attention to Israel and its problems. And indeed, we have already started to feel a return of Palestinian violence, which can be linked back to Syria. In a world defined by democracy, human rights and a war on terror, it is inconceivable that a dictatorship that harbors the world's most murderous terror groups – Sunni groups in Iraq, Shi'ite groups in Lebanon, and Palestinian groups - can remain in place. This regime even has its own list of political murders, both in Syria itself and in neighboring Lebanon. Despite the "withdrawal" from Lebanon, Syria continues to mix in Lebanon, both by puppet rulers it installed in Beirut, by a million Syrian settlers it left behind in that country, and by means of Hizbullah. Syria is Iran's only ally left in the world, the country whose leaders openly admit they intend to "wipe Israel off the map". The world was not sure if Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But the world is very sure that Syria possesses chemical and biological weapons. And if the world has forgotten the massacre at Hama, where Syria murdered 20,000 of its own citizens in 1982, we would do well to remind them. A new regional order, stability in the Middle East, democracy and human rights requires us to do away with the region's second Baathist regime, the one in Syria. As it was in Iraq, the Baathist regime in Damascus is the problem, not the solution.