Skip to comments.More signs of Syria turn up in Iraq
Posted on 12/24/2004 8:59:38 PM PST by Stoat
More signs of Syria turn up in IraqThe Iraqi ambassador to Syria tells the Monitor that photos of high-ranking Syrian officials were found in Fallujah.
By Nicholas Blanford | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
DAMASCUS, SYRIA - When US troops stormed the rebel-held city of Fallujah last month, they uncovered photos of senior Syrian officials that have further strained the already tense relations between Syria and Iraq, according to the Iraqi ambassador to Syria.
Several captured insurgents were found in possession of the photographs, confirmation, according to Iraqi officials, that some elements in the Syrian regime - perhaps acting independently - are involved in Iraq's bloody insurgency.
"Prime Minister Iyad Allawi wrote a letter to the Syrians saying he had the pictures but was not going to release them despite being under pressure from the Americans to do so," says Hassan Allawi, Iraq's newly appointed ambassador to Damascus.
The ambassador said that the photographs were found in the possession of Moayed Ahmed Yasseen, also known as Abu Ahmed. He is the leader of the Jaish Mohammed group, which is composed of former Baathist intelligence personnel. One picture showed Mr. Yasseen standing beside a senior Syrian official, the ambassador said. He would not identify on the record the Syrian officials in the photos.
US Marines in Fallujah released a report on Nov. 20 that revealed they had discovered a hand-held Global Positioning System receiver with waypoints originating in western Syria and the names of four Syrian foreign fighters contained in a ledger.
The evidence has triggered renewed charges from US and Iraqi officials that Syria is knowingly providing assistance to several former Iraqi Baathists who are believed to be running the insurgency from Damascus.
US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage warned Syria Wednesday that Washington was prepared to impose new sanctions if it failed to clamp down on fugitive Iraqi officials.
Last week, Gen. George W. Casey, the commander of US forces in Iraq, said that the exiled Baathists had formed a group called the New Regional Command and were running the insurgency from Syria.
The Syrians, he said, "are not going after the big fish [or senior Baathists], ... the people that we're interested in."
Ambassador Allawi says that the "real danger" to the Syrian government is not pressure from the US and Iraq, but from the reformed Iraqi Baathist network in Syria.
"There is an Iraqi Baathist invasion of Syria. It's overwhelming," he says. "They stole gold and robbed banks and came here. They have enough funds to keep fighting for 30 years."
Nonetheless, it remains unclear to what extent some of the Iraqi Baathists are involved in the insurgency and what level of assistance is being provided by elements in the Syrian regime. "There is a high level of suspicion but not much evidence," a European diplomat in Damascus says.
The Syrian government rejects the US and Iraqi accusations, saying it is working to help stabilize its neighbor. Mehdi Dakhlallah, Syria's information minister, says it is impossible to monitor the activities of all Iraqis who have entered Syria since the war. "Syria has always been open to all Arabs, and if they have the correct documents, they can enter," he says. "But we can't read their minds about what they are going to do once they are here."
There are officially 250,000 to 300,000 Iraqis living in Syria, although the International Organization for Migration says the figure may be much higher. They include former Baathists, businessmen, Kurds, and Christians fleeing persecution.
Most of the wealthier Iraqi exiles have settled in the affluent Mezzeh district of Damascus. Driving expensive cars and dining in pricey restaurants, the new arrivals have sent property prices soaring.
Complicating matters for the Syrian authorities is the suspicion that some former officers in the Iraqi intelligence services entered Syria using fake passports.
Most Sunni Iraqi exiles openly profess their support for the resistance in Iraq.
Ahmad Dulaimi's membership in the Baath Party cost him his job teaching at Baghdad University, a victim of the de-Baathification program of the now-defunct Coalition Provisional Authority. Originally from Fallujah, he moved to Damascus last year and earns a small living writing for Al-Moharer, a pro-Baathist website which advocates armed resistance in Iraq.
"Everyone supports the resistance here, Sunnis, Shiites, and Christians," he says. "Resistance is the only weapon to free Iraq and free our prisoners."
Among those mentioned by the exiles as leaders of the reorganized Iraqi Baath party are Sabawi Ibrahim, a half-brother of Saddam Hussein who once headed the Iraqi intelligence service; Mohammed Younis al-Ahmed, secretary-general of the Iraqi Baath party regional command; and Fawzi al-Rawi, a businessman. The US is offering $1 million rewards for information leading to the arrests of the first two men.
Many Iraqi exiles say that Syria is being unfairly singled out for criticism when there are many more Iraqi Baathists, including senior figures, living in Jordan.
"We are very surprised that everyone accuses Damascus, when most of the senior Baathists are in Amman," says Mohammed Said, the representative in Damascus of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite party.
Mr. Said and other Iraqis interviewed say they believe that the Syrian government does not facilitate the activities of the Iraqi Baathists, instead blaming individual Syrian Baathists who share an ideological affinity with their Iraqi counterparts. Syria's regime is a separate branch of the Baath party that ruled Mr. Hussein's Iraq.
The Syrian regime is no longer the monolithic entity it was under the leadership of former President Hafez al-Assad. President Assad, who died in 2000 and was replaced by his son Bashar, kept a firm grip on the regime. But since 2000, new power centers have emerged, a mix of old regime figures, the intelligence services, and powerful business interests.
"I think the Syrian leadership does not know all the details of what's going on," says Mr. Allawi, the Iraqi ambassador. "The problem in Syria is that there are so many security branches that one doesn't know what the other is doing."
It is a problem that seems to be recognized by the Syrian government. Interior minister Ghazi Kenaan is reportedly trying to reform the intelligence services and bring them under a centralized command.
Syria has a ticket to ride. Perhaps we should let them climb aboard. Get ready to R U M B L E...
Perhaps we should put 25k troops on Syria's border fully equipped and see if they get religion.
On the other hand, perhaps a couple of hundred reminders of what cruise missiles can do would be more effective.
Syria is in need of a good slapdown. Has been since the 60s when those hijacked planes wound up in Damascus. And then there was the terrorist training camps.
Actually, we should let Israel do the honors, and then we join up after the New Year, giving our guys some R&R while the IDF explores their newfound territory. This stuff has gone on long enough...
Excellent opportunity for Rangers/SOFs backed by tactical air.
This is why we should get out of Iraq as soon as possible.
There are more rats' nests in the area in need of extermination.
Nah. Why leave a perfectly good, developed base of ops behind, for the Hadjis to usurp?
I bet the troops there would be happy to just leave the bases to the Iraqis, if it meant they could go whack rug-pilots in Syria instead of sitting around Iraq...
Well, there IS that...
From what I have been told, Cruise Missiles are crap. Seems a few MOABs and carpet bombing would be much more convincing. IMOHO
Merry Christmas to all of you.
Sanctions never work. This calls for more serious action.
These must be those foreign troops Putin was itching about last week. (NOT)
You're right, some serious mushrooms over Damned-mascus might wake them up!!!
Lets not forget the slaughter they did in Beirut when they invaded and demanded Islamic rules there, too.
One of Ronald Reagan's biggest failures was to stop Israel from wiping out the PLO.
We need Iraq for a staging area. Enemies on the West and East while there.
I'd love to see Israel take Syria to task for it's support of the Hezballa and other terrorist groups, that have attacked it for decades. Israel is such a super-charged topic for the middle-east, I think it would set back our efforts decades if we were seen to support this.
IF the world saw the middle-east clearly, understood the dynamics as we do, I'd be more inclined to agree with you. Europe thinks Israel is the bad guy. Russia has been a long time ally of Syria. Each of these factions would support the theory in the middle-east, that the U.S. had been fronting for Israel all along.
Right now we have fairly friendly contacts with a number of the governments in the region. If we were to advocate Israel taking military action, that would probably end immediately. We'd wind up against the world, with Israel taking massive amounts of blame.
Would this be justified? Heck no. Israel would be giving pay-back for decades of dead bodies piling up inside their borders. (in effect) Sadly, unconcionably, incredibly, the memory of Syrian support for Israel's attackers would evaporate the moment the first shot was fired.
I don't know what the cure for this is. I guess we're stuck doing the heavy lifting, which is actually very favorable for Israel. Right now we have a justified reason to be doing it, after being attacked. And if we can bring peace and prosperity to Iraq, perhaps things will look up over-all for the middle-east.
Do I agree with your sentiment? Yes. I just think we'd both be mistaken to back what we desire to se.
Laser guideds would be fine with me. Carpet bombing would be fine if forward bases were spotted, or terrorist training camps were. Otherwise I'd rather send a message right now, rather than open up a full fledged military campaign.
yeah, very true. . . one can hope on Christmas that Europe would see things clearly! haha...
And one can take a whiz upwind, both of which leave you with about the same warm feeling these days.
All the best to you and your family.