Skip to comments.Syria may pay price for killing (Bashar Assad has boasted Damascus is "the capital of resistance")
Posted on 02/14/2008 7:20:25 PM PST by NormsRevenge
DAMASCUS, Syria - President Bashar Assad boasts that Damascus is "the capital of resistance," a claim borne out by the presence here of Hamas leaders and a host of other radical Palestinian groups.
But the killing of Imad Mughniyeh, one of America's most-wanted fugitives, in the Syrian capital shows how costly the regime's traditional hospitality toward Arab hard-liners can be.
Mughniyeh's presence on Syrian soil was a deep embarrassment to Damascus, fueling U.S. accusations that the country allows extremists of many stripes Palestinian militants, Hezbollah operatives and Iraqi insurgents to operate freely.
And the fact that someone was able to set off a car bomb Tuesday in an upscale district of the capital to kill Mughniyeh is a blow to the reputation of Syria's feared security services, which are a cornerstone of the regime's autocratic control of the country.
It could also raise questions over the strength of the regime's grip.
Mughniyeh, Hezbollah's one-time security chief, was a terror icon of the 1980s and 1990s, linked to the killings of hundreds of Americans, French, Jews and Israelis in bombings and airline hijackings over two decades. He had dropped almost completely from sight for close to 15 years, but Western intelligence officials say he remained a significant figure in Hezbollah and continued to be a danger.
Syria has long been on Washington's list of states supporting terrorism, and the Bush administration has sought to isolate the Assad regime for its support of Hezbollah guerrillas and radical Palestinian groups. Its attempts intensified after the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese prime minister Rafik Hariri, which many in Lebanon blame on Syria.
President Bush stepped up pressure on Syria again Wednesday, ordering new sanctions to punish officials in Damascus for alleged efforts to undermine stability in Iraq and meddle in Lebanon's sovereignty and democracy. The order did not specifically name any officials.
Syria's allies Hezbollah and Iran blamed Israel for the assassination, though Damascus has not said who it believes was behind the attack. Mughniyeh presumably had many enemies, and Israel has denied any role. But if the Jewish state was behind the killing, it would be the second time in recent months that Syria's top enemy has been able to strike freely on its territory.
In September, Israeli warplanes bombed a target in eastern Syria that Damascus said was a military facility, though some reports contended it could have been a nascent nuclear facility.
A Western diplomat based in Damascus said the incident was a double embarrassment for Syria "on account of (Mughniyeh) being here and because they could not protect him." The diplomat spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
"The Syrian security agencies have a lot of explaining to do as to how a hit like this could be carried out in a city that's remarkably secure," said Jon Alterman, head of the Middle East program at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies.
"Some in the security services were either caught unaware or are complicit in the killing," he said.
The assassination came at a time when Syrian security forces have been cracking down on pro-democracy activists. At least 12 activists have been rounded up in recent weeks, including a former lawmaker suffering from cancer.
Syria has seen violence by Islamic extremists in recent years, with security forces clashing with al-Qaida-inspired militant groups on several occasions. In September 2006, Islamic militants tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Damascus in an unusually brazen attack in which three assailants and a Syrian guard were killed.
Most of those attacks were linked to Jund al-Sham, an al-Qaida offshoot that was established in Afghanistan. Militants often denounce Assad's secular regime and have at times called for its overthrow.
But al-Qaida has not made a concerted effort to act in Syria, not because of the strength of its security services, but because of Damascus' anti-Western stance, according to Syria expert Joshua Landis.
"It's not just because the police are good. Syria's been given a pass by al-Qaida and others because of its anti-American position, but Americans and the West don't want to admit that because they don't want to admit that there's a cause and effect," said Landis, director of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma. He also maintains a widely read blog on Syria.
Syria has long been accused of allowing Muslim militants to use its territory to cross into Iraq, where they take part in attacks against U.S. and Iraqi forces. It dominated neighboring Lebanon for three decades until it was forced to withdraw its military in 2005. But Damascus has regained much of its influence, using Hezbollah to stymie Lebanon's U.S.-backed government.
Mughniyeh's presence in Damascus will only hurt Syria's image at a time when it has been emerging from its international isolation. European, American and Arab officials have increased their visits to the country after years of avoiding it.
But Syria is unlikely to give up its support for militant Palestinian leaders and Hezbollah, a cornerstone of its foreign policy for decades, giving it considerable leverage in the region.
Assad was apparently referring to Syria's role as a haven for radical Arab groups when he credited Damascus for the spread of a "culture of rejection to all traces of colonialism, old and new" in an address last month. He branded the city as "the capital of resistance."
Hamas Political leader Khaled Mashaal delivers a speech at an eulogy held by Syrian-based Palestinian factions in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Thursday Feb.14, 2008 for Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniah. Mashaal stressied that Israel's message didnt frighten them. Mughniah was killed on Tuesday night in a car bomb in central Damascus. (AP Photo Bassem Tellawi).
Hamas Political leader Khaled Mashaal, right, and Maher Taher, left, the Syria representative of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, are seen during a ceremony held by Palestinian factions based in Syria for the late Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniyeh, Damascus, Thursday, Feb. 14, 2008. Mughniyeh, who was killed Tuesday in car bomb in the Syrian capital of Damascus, is accused of masterminding the 1983 bombings on the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut, the 1985 hijackings of a TWA airliner and two Kuwaiti jets, the kidnappings of Westerns including journalist Terry Anderson. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi)
Ahmad Jebril head of Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, centre, Ramadan Shalah head of Islamic Jihad, left, and Hezbollah representative Hassan Hodrojj at a eulogy held by Syrian-based Palestinian factions in the Syrian capital of Damascus on Thursday Feb. 14. 2008 for Hezbollah military leader Imad Mughniah. Mughniah was killed on Tuesday night in a car bomb in central Damascus. (AP Photo/Bassem Tellawi).
Syria needs to stay out of the big leagues until they can hit the curve.
One a week, that’s all we need. Just one a week.
Has there been any response from his allies - the Democrats - in congress? I know they are about to let the rule to allow spying on terrorists to lapse. Maybe, that is their response?
I think I'm going to get t shirts made up.
When the Rats all gathered for the funeral they should have used some rat poison and wiped them all out. Perhaps it wil come to pass if Israel was watching them come and go. Maybe they are following the big boy himself.
They Dimwits (Dems) are too busy trying to knock off Hillary off. She is now crying about the far left of the Dimwit party............
On another thread this morning we learned that both Hillary and Hussein have reps in Syria now.
(”It’s not just because the police are good. Syria’s been given a pass by al-Qaida and others because of its anti-American position, but Americans and the West don’t want to admit that because they don’t want to admit that there’s a cause and effect,” said Landis, director of the Center for Peace Studies at the University of Oklahoma.)
It sounds like the good Director for Peace is advocating that more countries become anti-American so as to remove themselves from Al Qaeda’s crosshairs. How peaceful! How disgusting! Does anyone have the good Director’s contact information? I’d love to drop him a choice word or two.
I've been waiting for the Israelis to do Mashaal ever since they took out Yassin and Rantisi in rapid succession. Add Mookie al-Sadr and Zawahri, and you'e got a nice little "Better Off Dead" list.
Maybe we need the Israeli version of the movie “THE BUCKET LIST”
I do hope that Israel has a list and they keep taking names out of the bucket of who’s time is up. Its time for Israel to defend her rights in the world.
A pleasing image, but I'd prefer something more like the last 10 minutes of "The Godfather."
Syria harbors terrorists.
Syria invaded its neighbor (Lebanon).
Syria is ruled by a nefarious dictator.
Syria has WMD.