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If "obstacle to peace" is Washington's term for the expansion of Jewish settlements in territories occupied by Israel, what should we call Hezbollah's Lebanon-based crusade to eradicate Israel?

A cautious State Department warns that Hezbollah may have had nothing to do with the bombing of the Israeli Embassy in Argentina - though Islamic Jihad, an offshoot group, claimed responsibility.The White House, however, should reason thus: Whether or not this particular terrorist act is definitively traced to Hezbollah, this would be a fine time for President Bush to call publicly for removal of an obstacle to peace on the Arab side of the Middle East ledger.

Syria, which has 40,000 troops in Lebanon, agreed in the Taif Accords to disarm private militias there. It has disarmed most - but not Hezbollah, which it grants free rein to harass Israel from southern Lebanon. The Israeli army claims to have foiled some 300 hostile incursions from southern Lebanon in the last five years.

The Shiite mullahs in Iran who founded Hezbollah still provide it money, weapons and guidance.

The United States neither aids nor trades with Syria or Iran, both of which the State Department lists as terrorism-sponsoring nations. Yet Washington has some leverage. Syria does not want to be the one to scuttle the Bush administration's Middle East peace talks.

And both countries increasingly seek international respectability. President Bush should let them know they will never have it as long as they arm and protect the fighters of Hezbollah.