Patraeus – Syria Door to Foreign Fighters; Murr – No Evidence yet of Syria Support for Fatah Islam

Transcript of The Times interview with General Petraeus (Excerpt on Syria's role)
From Times Online
June 20, 2007

What about al-Qaeda?

As they were run out of Euphrates river valley they moved east. There will be big fights in some of these areas. An awful lot of their foreign fighters come through Syria. Eighty or so foreign fighters come through a month. That does not sound like much but every one of those is a potential suicide bomber. We think that 80 to 90 per cent of suicide bombers are foreign fighters.

What about the leadership in Iraq?

"It is still led by foreigners called al-Qaeda Senior Leadership (AQSL). Our assessment is that this is the central front for al-Qaeda. They have a global war of terror, and Iraq is the central front. Whether you like it or not. That is something that the leaders of the intelligence community in the West and our joint special operations commander agree on and that is why he is here two thirds or three quarters of his time. It is certainly one very important consideration in looking at Iraq."

Fath el Islam: fighters have seen action in Iraq, and some, of Saudi origin, thought they were fighting Israel. Read this Le Monde article (in French) here. (Via GPC)

t_desco wrote in last comment section:

 

“In a newspaper interview published earlier Thursday, Murr vowed to defeat the militants. He also cautioned the country’s politicians against concluding the Fatah Islam militants have links with Syria, saying it was too early to tell, according to Nahar Ash-Shabab, a weekly supplement of Lebanon’s leading An-Nahar newspaper.

“Does the government so far have an official confession about the links of these (Fatah Islam militants) or some of them to Syria? So far, there is no answer, and we have to wait for the next days,'’ Murr was quoted as saying.

Murr said a number of militants were arrested in Tripoli before the fighting erupted in Nahr el-Bared, including members of Fatah Islam, al-Qaida and a group that attacked the Lebanese army in the northern region of Dinniyah in 1999.”
AP

“Murr said in a newspaper interview published earlier that some of the fighters arrested were members of al Qaeda. “There is a section of them which belongs directly to al Qaeda,” Murr told An-Nahar newspaper.”
Reuters

Comments (3)


1. t_desco said:

The link for those without subscription to Le Monde:

A Nahr Al-Bared, un mois de combats contre les djihadistes du Fatah Al-Islam
Le Monde, 20.06.07

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June 22nd, 2007, 11:22 am

 

2. George Ajjan said:

I guess Petraeus’s staff does not read Chronicles.

10% or so of the US manpower in Iraq could completely seal the Syria border. “Foreign fighters” are a convenient political scapegoat, as they have been for nearly 4 years.

Also from the Chronicles article:

Basically, since the Bush administration has blasted “Iran and Syria” ad nauseam, any mainstream Washington discussion, such as the ISG report, simply cannot fail to address external factors, however dubious their supposed influence (in the case of Syria) on what is essentially an internal Iraqi conflict and a fight against foreign occupiers. President Bush has painted himself into a corner by continually harping on Syria. The Syrians themselves have picked up on this and milked it for all it is worth. In a recent interview with ABC News’s Diane Sawyer, Assad took an unsubtle swipe at the Bush administration: “It doesn’t matter how strong economically or what army you have; it’s a matter of credibility. We have credibility. We have good relations with the other factions. They should trust you to be able to play a role.”

Middle East analysts could not help but chuckle at the poised assertion, recognizing Assad for having the gall to exaggerate Syria’s clout so wildly. Yes, Syria may have certain footholds in Iraq, among the now-seated politicians she sheltered from her rival Baath faction during the Saddam Hussein era; in the tribes in the Anbar Province on Syria’s eastern border; and with the mercurial cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who reportedly adored his stay in Damascus a year ago and “didn’t want to leave,” as one official joked. But Syria is far from being a major powerbroker in Iraq. Iran, Saudi Arabia, and, to a lesser extent, Turkey will have to drive America’s endgame in Mesopotamia.

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June 22nd, 2007, 11:53 am

 

3. Nur al-Cubicle said:

Petraeus should do some reading in French, too.

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June 23rd, 2007, 12:42 am

 

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