Syrian Officials Deny Syrian Complicity in Raid

This weekend Israeli Ronen Bergma, intelligence correspondent for Yedioth Ahronoth, Newsweek, and The London Times (Uzi Mahnaimi) are carrying the claim that Syria was complicit with America in the cross border raid. Here is how Uzi Mahnaimi put it (More copied below):

Sources in Washington last week revealed to The Sunday Times an intriguingly different background to the events in Sukariyeh.

According to one source, the special forces operation had taken place with the full cooperation of the Syrian intelligence services. “Immediately after 9/11, Syrian intelligence cooperation was remarkable,” said the Washington source. “Then ties were broken off, but they have resumed recently.”

I find this story unbelievable for several reasons.

First: Why would Syria agree to work with the Bush administration after all the bad blood between them and in its waning days?

Second: Why would Syria give permission for special forces to carry out a cross border raid? They could have helped the US to capture Abu Ghadiya on the Iraqi side of the border? It doesn’t make sense, unless the US was intentionally trying to embarrass Syria.

Third: It is imposible to believe the Syrians would give permission for a cross border raid that was guaranteed to make the regime look weak – even if a family of eight were not killed by accident – but who doesn’t plan for posible accidents on such a risky undertaking?

Forth: In May 2007 at Sharm al-Sheikh, Rice asked to send two US generals to Syria to restart intelligence sharing for better policing on the border. Syria asked that the US send back its ambassador in recognition or the cooperation and Syria’s positive role. Rice said no. Why would Syria now — in the final hour of the Bush administration — say yes? Especially as Bush has been very hostile to Syria in between, helping Israel to bomb it in Sept 2007, trying to get the AEIA to inspect, pushing the UN Hariri investigation forward, trying to get the Lebanese government to shut down Hizbullah and actively trying to stop Israel from re-opening peace negotiations with Israel. Trying to stop Sarkozy from visiting Damascus, etc. The US has been extraordinarilly hostile to Syria. Why would Damascus want to reward it for such hostile behavior? Syria is riding the Bush administration to its end. The frustration and even anger of Washington that Syria is doing quite well despite Washington’s best efforts to squeeze it economically, diplomatically, through international law  through various international agencies, and by helping Israel to bomb it is probably closer to the reason for this parting shot. No doubt Bush is also eager to saddle Obama with a new aggressive military doctrine and practice that will be extremely difficult to stop.

Jihad Makdissi, the spokesman- Syrian Embassy London, has this to say in an email to Syria Comment this morning:

Dear Joshua,

This is a nice try by the Timesto justify their raid. Syria, of course, wasn’t coordinating and the proof is the Syrian reaction to the attack: we aired the photos on Syrian TV the next day; we published the full names of the victims; and we also allowed the TV crew from Al-Jazeera to go film and interview people on the spot. I was approached in London by Senior British journalists who told me that this leak originated from so called Israeli experts and unnamed DOD sources. This would seem to clarify the real aim.”

Ahmed Salkini, the spokesperson for the Syrian embassy in Washington confirmed this: He writes:

I agree with Jihad. This is an absurd notion spun by certain circles in Washington to try to justify the attack.

To think that Syria would allow the US to undertake such an operation on its soil, taking into account the political context for the past few years is unreasonable. I would not waste my time if I were you, Josh

Here is more of the London Times story:

Abu Ghadiya was feared by the Syrians as an agent of Islamic fundamentalism who was hostile to the secular regime in Damascus. It would be expedient for Syria if America would eliminate him.

The threat to the Syrian government has made the regime of President Bashar al-Assad jittery. In September a car bomb exploded in Damascus near its intelligence headquarters. Many of the 17 victims were Shi’ite Muslim pilgrims at a nearby shrine.

The Washington source said the Americans regularly communicate with the Syrians through a back channel that runs through Syria’s air force intelligence, the Idarat al-Mukhabarat al-Jawiyya.

In the time-honoured tradition of covert US operations in the Middle East, this one seems to have gone spectacularly wrong. The Syrians, who had agreed to turn a blind eye to a supposedly quiet “snatch and grab” raid, could not keep the lid on a firefight in which so many people had died.

The operation should have been fast and bloodless. According to the sources, Syrian intelligence tipped off the Americans about Abu Ghadiya’s whereabouts. US electronic intelligence then tracked his exact location, possibly by tracing his satellite telephone, and the helicopters were directed to him. They were supposed to kidnap him and take him to Iraq for questioning.

John Bolton on Friday in Daily Star

“linked his country’s phase of transition to instability in Lebanon. In an interview with the Al-Arabiyya satellite news channel, Bolton expressed fears for “stability and democracy in Lebanon” and “the government of Prime Minister [Fouad] Siniora.” These fears were rooted in the role Syria and Hizbullah may jointly play in Lebanon, he said. “This transitional period in the United States and Israel may have been difficult on the Lebanese state,” Bolton told Al-Arabiyya”. – The Daily Star

Syria and `the law of the jungle’
In `serving the interest of all parties,’ `People misuse their authority to do ugly things’
By Olivia Ward, Nov 02, 2008

Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin are seized in transit and shipped to a Syrian detention centre – the same notorious prison where Canadian engineer Maher Arar was brutalized – interrogated and tortured.

The three, and Arar, then suspected by Ottawa and Washington of plotting terrorism, are later released and returned to Canada – collateral damage of the “war on terror” launched by the United States after 9/11.

Meanwhile, President George W. Bush lashes out against Syria as a “state sponsor of terrorism,” and the American Congress ratchets up sanctions against Damascus. The U.S. warns Israel against peace moves with an enemy it considers an adjunct to the axis of evil.

Last Sunday, the U.S. launches a helicopter attack on a Syrian border village near Iraq, killing eight.

The contradiction glares: How can Syria, a country earmarked as an ally of terrorists – and noted for its violations of human rights – end up as a dumping ground for people Washington wants interrogated to assist in the war on terror?

The release of former justice Frank Iacobucci’s report last month on the “rendition” of the three Canadians has thrown the dilemma once more into the public domain, highlighting the disconnect between Washington’s co-operation with Syria in violations of human rights and its fierce public opposition to the autocratic Damascus regime.

Canada, too, has condemned Syria’s human-rights record, though less stridently. But Ottawa’s criticism of Damascus pales beside that of its closest ally.

A 2003 U.S. State Department report written around the time the Canadians were held in Syria details some of the practices of Syrian intelligence services: beatings, electric shocks, rape, pulling out fingernails, and whipping prisoners bent onto a wheel-like frame. It’s a gamut of torture that tallies with widely available reports by international human-rights organizations.

“The only reason why you would deliver someone to Syria is because your country doesn’t have a record of torturing suspects, and Syria does,” says David Cole, a Georgetown University law professor and co-counsel for Maher Arar in his suit against U.S. officials.

“It’s the law of the jungle,” says Moshe Ma’oz, an emeritus professor at Hebrew University in Jerusalem and an expert on Syria. “Strange as it seems, people misuse their authority to do ugly things. They look on it as serving the interest of all parties.”

That was true till 2003, when the U.S. invaded Iraq, to the chagrin of neighbouring Syria, which worried about a domino effect in the region, an American attempt to reconfigure the Middle East, and the possibility that it might be next on the U.S. hit list.

But the period between Sept. 11, 2001 and the March 20, 2003 invasion was a fertile one for Washington-Damascus co-operation, experts say. It was then that many of the “renditions” of terrorism suspects occurred.

“Right after 9/11, there was tremendous intelligence-sharing between Syria and the U.S.,” says Murhaf Jouejati, a Syrian-born professor of Middle East Studies at the National Defense University in Washington. “Syria may have been one of the U.S.’s closest partners in the war against al Qaeda.”

It was a period of strange bedfellows and common interests. The U.S. needed ears in the Middle East. Syria, a moderate Muslim country looked on as an enemy by radical Islamists, needed support in its efforts against al Qaeda.

And with its own Middle Eastern interests to defend – including occupation of Lebanon and backing of the Lebanese militant faction Hezbollah – it had much to gain by joining the U.S-led “war.”

“It was a matter of preserving its own interests by fighting fundamentalism, and at the same time trying to show the U.S. the distinctions it makes between al Qaedaas an international terrorist organization and others which are fighting Israel – like Hezbollah and Hamas – and which Syria considers national liberation movements,” Jouejati says.

Washington turned a blind eye to those distinctions. But it, too, benefited from the Syrian intelligence partnership: among other things, getting early warning of a pending al Qaedaattack on the headquarters of its Bahrain-based fifth fleet, and information that helped to bust the Hamburg terror cell that was the base for the 9/11 attacks. The FBI was also given approval to open a station in Aleppo, where mastermind Mohammed Atta once lived.

It was at that time when Syria opened its arms – and torture cells – to suspects delivered by Washington’s “rendition” program for interrogation – a program so secret that no dates, numbers of suspects or results are known.

But the cozy relationship chilled with the 2003 Iraq invasion.

“When America attacked Iraq, the Syrians were very displeased,” says Joshua Landis, an authority on Syria.

“They started supporting the opposition. But they were relieved to see that the opposition was quite healthy inside Iraq, and that America would be bogged down there. That allowed them to move back toward America, and they tried to resume intelligence-sharing.”

The turnabout suited Washington’s beleaguered security services, which badly needed information on the ground. But the Bush administration gave a cold shoulder to Syrian overtures.

“It was very different from the days of George Bush senior and (President) Bashar Assad’s father, Hafez,” says Landis. “In the first Gulf War, they came to a happy understanding. They divided up the Middle East, with Hafezagreeing to support the effort to liberate Kuwait from Saddam Hussein and saying, `You can have the Gulf if we get Lebanon.’ So a deal was struck.”

The deal included American tolerance for Syria’s occupation of Lebanon, where it supports the Shiite Islamist faction Hezbollah, a sworn enemy of Israel. As a result, Washington avoided using the “o” word, and spoke of a Syrian “presence” in Lebanon. It regarded the country as Damascus’s sphere of influence.

Syrian-American co-operation survived Hafez Assad’s death in 2000, and the ascendancy of his son. “In his father’s time, Syria sent troops to the first Gulf War coalition and participants to the Madrid conference,” says David Lesch, a professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in Texas, and author of a Bashar Assad biography, The New Lion of Damascus. At the 1991 conference, Israel was in face-to-face talks with Syria for the first time.

But although the younger Assad signed up for the “war on terror,” he would not follow his father’s example by joining a new war against Iraq. And when insurgents began to infiltrate the Iraqi border from Syria, relations with Washington skidded to their lowest point.

“By 2005 and 2006, relations had deteriorated so much that the Bush administration was trying to isolate, if not overthrow, the Syrian regime,” says Lesch.

The 2005 assassination of pro-Western former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri brought new accusations against Syria. And the 2006 war between Syrian-backed Hezbollah and Israel in Lebanon boosted tensions – while Damascus saw the result as victory for Hezbollah.

The kind of co-operation that had oiled the wheels of Washington’s rendition program was long gone. But in the dying days of the Bush administration, there have been tentative attempts to revive the diplomatic relationship – in spite of last week’s helicopter raid.

“There was some communication at the UN General Assembly meeting between (Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice and the Syrian foreign minister,” says Lesch.

With other Western countries interested in normalizing relations with Syria – including France, whose President Nicolas Sarkozy travelled to Syria – “Bashar Assad has successfully broken out of his isolation,” Lesch says.

Turkish-mediated, indirect talks with Israel have also begun, without the encouragement of the U.S. But, Lesch adds, with a new American president in office next year, there is a potential for Syria to once again play “a more central role” in the international community.

Whether the new chapter in American politics will lead to a rethink of the war on terror – and its widely publicized violations of human rights – is still to be decided.

As is the role that Syria might play in it.

Comments (33)

AIG said:

Finally, the definitive Syrian explanation for the financial crisis:

Is this guy part of the regime? I would venture yes as he has permission to interview with Iranian television.

November 2nd, 2008, 6:36 pm


norman said:

The talks are on,

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Israeli attorney-general greenlights Olmert’s bid of talks with Syria

JERUSALEM, Nov. 2 (Xinhua) — Israeli Attorney-General Menahem Mazuz on Sunday greenlighted outgoing Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s bid to resume indirect talks with Syria, turning down calls for him to examine Olmert’s authority, local daily The Jerusalem Post reported.

Local media reported that Olmert has recently been seeking to renew Turkey-brokered negotiations with its northern Arab neighbor, while some lawmakers argued that as a caretaker leader, Olmert has no authority to handle such a significant diplomatic issue.

In response to a petition from lawmaker Limor Livnat from the opposition Likud party, Mazuz was quoted as saying that he would not intervene in Olmert’s efforts.

According to 2001 Supreme High Court ruling, no formal limitations should be imposed on an administration’s power to hold political negotiations, Mazuz said.

Shortly after Mazuz’s announcement, Livnat said she would appeal to the Supreme Court, warning that allowing the current interim leadership to negotiate with Syria may bind the hands of the future government, local news service Ynet reported.

Four rounds of Turkey-brokered negotiations between Israel and Syria have been carried out since the three sides confirmed in mid-May the renewal of the peace process. Yet a fifth round, originally planned in early September, has been on hold due to Israel’s political turmoil surrounding Olmert’s resignation.

Now that Israel is set to remain under Olmert’s leadership till a snap election on Feb. 10, the departing prime minister has reportedly decided to push forward the talks in his remaining few months in office.

November 2nd, 2008, 7:45 pm


Stuart said:

The timing of the attack and the rationale given do just not make any sense. This is a bizarre situation. US Commanders had recently commended Syria for reducing the flow of insurgents into Iraq from 100 to only 20 per month. Syria would have been more than capable of dealing with the situation by itself and such a small tactical incursion would not have required any help from US Special Forces. We all need to stay on this story as there has to be more here than has so far been revealed. It makes absolutely no sense. I have written on this at my blog and I think we need to keep the pressure on to get to the facts on this issue.

November 2nd, 2008, 7:57 pm


AIG said:

That is a stupid political move by Olmert. He is only making Netanyahu stronger at the expense of Livni. If Livni does not come outright now and disagree with Olmert, it will cost her plenty of votes. I think some damage has been done no matter what Livni says now. Oh well, thank you Olmert.

November 2nd, 2008, 8:13 pm


Brad said:

It is very possible Syrian intelligence was complicit in this raid. This behavior is very characteristic of the duplicitous nature of the Syrian regime. It even looks more plausible that Syria is positioning itself to fulfill all the demands of the Western powers including severing ties with Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. That is the only possible explanation for moving Syrian military units from the borders with Iraq to the Lebanese borders. Syria knows full well there will be little change in Washington’s foreign policy whether McCain or Obama wins as far as Syria is concerned. Therefore, there is no need to waste time and it will even look more dignified to Syria if the new President, whoever he happens to be, is greeted with an obedient government in Damascus.

November 2nd, 2008, 9:38 pm


Why the attack on Syria? Why now? « Divining the News (DTN) said:

[…] Syrian Officials Deny Syrian Complicity in Raid […]

November 2nd, 2008, 9:40 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Why would Syria agree to work with the Bush administration after all the bad blood between them and in its waning days?

Professor Josh,

Perhaps for the same reason most of the ME is working with the Bush Administration: their fear of rising Islamic Fundamentalism in their respective countries.

I guess you’ll have to reformulate your last 5 or 6 threads…

Don’t be so surprised. Maybe the US threatened another operation and the Syrians were given a choice.

Professors usually answer questions, not ask them.

Stuart states:

…I think we need to keep the pressure on to get to the facts on this issue.

Who are you going to pressure? The Baathists in Syria? Good luck;)

November 2nd, 2008, 9:47 pm


norman said:

An abuse of powerThe US raid into Syria has damaged its relationship with the Iraqi government as well as highlighted its weaknessesComments (
James Denselow, Thursday October 30 2008 18.00 GMT larger | smaller Article historyIn May David Satterfield, under-secretary of state with responsibility for Iraq, boldly predicted that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq would be agreed within weeks. Three months later with the agreement still unsigned it appears the Americans are resorting to more traditional arm twisting to secure the deal that legalizes their presence in Iraq.

The pressure can be described as a “good cop, bad cop” routine. The bad cop decision to conduct a special forces raid into Syria appears to be rapidly backfiring. Indeed the decision by Washington to offer no public diplomacy has allowed the Syrians, perhaps the least media friendly of all Middle Eastern states, to control the agenda.

This agenda has had limited success at unraveling exactly what happened. At present most news articles base their stories on statements by Syrian officials, Syrian victims (shown on Syrian government controlled television) and footage of Syrian crowds. Meanwhile in Washington the state department only confirmed that the Syrians called in a US official in Damascus and that “she listened to them”, while the White House’s Dana Perino said in Orwellian style that she “would not comment on reports of this reported incident … you can come up here and try to beat it out of me but I will not be commenting on this in anyway, shape or form today”. Instead all we are left with is the comments from unnamed US officials that: “We are taking matters into our own hands”.

Al Jazeera provided the most in-depth coverage, managing to interview local residents of Sukkariyeh as well as obtaining mobile phone footage of the audacious daylight helicopter assault. Al Jazeera’s major flaw was the inconsistency in their report which stated that the attack occurred at 4.45pm yet included an interview with a fisherman who said it happened at 3.30pm.

The bigger picture is that the relative success of the surge has led to increased confidence in military action amongst US commanders who believe that having gained the initiative they can afford to be more assertive. Indeed the US press linked the attack to the policy that President Bush assented to earlier this year. This secret directive, for which Congress made an outlay of $300m, promised backing for covert attacks by US forces from Lebanon to Afghanistan.

The good cop routine has been to remind the Iraqi government how reliant they really are on US forces and how they shouldn’t get too big for their boots. This was delivered by the US commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, who warned that the “Iraqi security forces would collapse” if US forces withdrew to barracks . Ironically this came out just before the 13th of Iraq’s 18 provinces, Wasit, was handed over to these same Iraqi security forces.

The inherent weakness and division present within the Iraqi government was highlighted in its response to the raid. Initially Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh implicitly endorsed the operation, describing the area in which it occurred as “a theatre of military operations where anti-Iraq terrorist activity takes place”. This was not a huge surprise considering al-Dabbagh’s sustained criticism of Syria and Iraq (he once accused them of behaving like “two naughty boys”). Perhaps Dabbagh thought, as some American officials surely did, that Syria would not publically reveal that their state security could allow such a brazen incursion to occur.

The Iraqi position quickly unravelled; Foreign Ministry Under-Secretary Labid Abbawi, described the incident as “regrettable” and said that “we are sorry it happened”. A separate Foreign Ministry statement said that Iraq would provide Syria with the results of the Iraqi investigation into the incident, which demonstrated the “extreme importance of joint security coordination and cooperation between the two countries”. Then Dabbagh made a 180° turn stating that “the Iraqi government rejects US aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria government. The constitution does not allow Iraq to be used as a staging ground to attack neighbouring countries.”

The US is in the difficult situation of trying to secure its own position which clearly contradicts and interferes with an Iraqi constitution that it helped to create. Compromises over withdrawal in 2011 and the legal status of US soldiers have still resulted in inertia. The results of the present “good cop, bad cop” routine risks putting too much pressure on a weak Iraqi government and potentially undermining the real gains of recent months.

November 2nd, 2008, 11:15 pm


Ras Beirut said:

Haven’t posted for a while, but been reading the comments and it’s been quite interesting to read all the different points of views including AIG’s. The atmosphere has been quite charged as well given the raid, so I would refrain from discussing it.

I however would like to highlight from a macro perspective of what I believe the shortcomings and policy failures of the different parties involved in the Arab/Israeli conflict.

So you know. My real wish is to have this conflict resolved to end the misery, loss of life, and destruction, that have befell both sides. My views might also be slanted a bit in favor of Lebanon’s interests, as I truly believe that Lebanon has suffered a lot in this long lasting conflict.

What I want to talk about is the policy failures of the numerous parties involved, because I believe that only objective self criticizm by all involved, as well as genuinely and rationally understanding the opponent’s fears and frustrations that will get us to the finish line. Thus critisizm will be bestowed on all, because all are making mistakes due to frustration and irrationality. So here we go.

On Israel. Well, first of Israel needs to acknowledge its wrong doings vis a vis the occupation and building settlements. Heck even the US doesn’t recognize the legality of the settlements. Rice says they are not helpfull to the peace process for example. The occupation is just down right morally bad, and it only gives Israel and its people a bad image on the world’s stage to say the least. AIG, just think how would you feel if you were born as kid in the West Bank or Gaza by the draw of luck?

Though, I do think that Israel geuinely wants to resolve the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, as the current situation has become very burdensome to Israel on many levels. It’s the terms of the treaty that is the issue. In a sense, I think that Israel is very ready to resolve this track as the negatives are more immediate compared to Syria and Lebanon and can afford to wait a bit longer. Thus I’m encouraged a bit on this front.

Israel should really re-think its position of having too much influence on US policy thru its strong lobby, as sometimes it’s hurting itself. Look at the neocons and their extreme pro Israel policies have resulted in the case of Iraq. One major result was eliminating Iraq’s capabilities in maintaining the historical balance of power with Iran. As a result Iran is much stronger now and spreading its wings in the arab world. Its president advocates throwing Israel in the sea for example. Not a successfull outcome in my book.

Another biggie for Israel is that its leaders should really tone down their rhetorics and stop feeding paranoia to their people. That if they geuinely want to have a final peace settlements. Instead, they should gradually prepare their people for the eventual settlement of the conflict. Case in point they can stress that the arabs have already publicly endorsed a final settlement and don’t want to throw Israel in the sea and would establish diplomatic relationship.

On Syria. First of, there has been much discussions regarding Israel not giving Syria the Golan back until it becomes democratic. Well, my view is that Syria’s people should decide that. Yes I wish all the countries in the world would become democratic, at the same time any interference from the outside might also create problems or not be well perceived. Thus I don’t feel that any country should interfere in Syria’s internal issues, just like I don’t feel that other countries should interfere with Lebanon’s internal affairs, and that includes Syria as well. What’s fair is fair. None of this geo-politics and sphere of influence stuff. It’s just not right. Plus it might backfire. Not a good policy long-term anyway.

That leads us to Syria’s resistance stand. First question is, why isn’t Syria resisting from its own territory? if it truly believe in resistance. Why is Syria spearheading this resistance from Lebanon for example? Whereby Lebanon gets a good beating from Israel over and over. Think about it, wouldn’t you think that would make Israel think that you’re only doing it this way because you’re weak? Could it be that this perceived weakness that emboldened Israel to annex by law the Golan? And with this type of hybrid resistance, could it be that Israel is also willing to pay the price of the low level fights with HA and Hammas for a very long time as it keeps the money and military hardware flowing its way from the west and keeps its armed forces in readiness mode? Syria needs to honestly ask itself if this type of resistance has been effective in light of not having the Golan back?

Now to the flipping issue. First of, I think that the current relationship with Iran is a huge negative to Syria. On the economic front the benefit of trade with Iran is miniscule to Syria. On the srategic/military level the bneefits are also negative, as Syria’s role playing as an arms transfer dealer is not and will not get you back the Golan any sooner. In fact, the Israelis are so unglued about this that it hardens their position and its leaders use it to tell the Israeli public. Hey see why we can’t give the Golan back, look at what Syria is doing. I just don’t see the tangible results here, and as they say, if you’re in hole, best thing to do is to stop digging.

I don’t view Iran’s role as contructive at all. They are adding too much fuel to the fire, when what is needed is de-escalation. I question their motives big time. Is this relationship worth it for Syria and to allienate other arab countries? Besides Iran is not an arab country and in my view should stay out of this conflict, because their basic position is not to have a settlement ever but to continue the fight forever.

Besides, I think their perceived power is way exagerated on their part. 80% of their budget is based on oil sales and crude has gone from $140 to less than $65. Iran’s inflation is running over 25% as well their unemployment. Heck they can’t even refine their own crude for domestic consumption, and have to rely on India to refine up to 50% of their gasoline. Their food imports are becoming quite large and their hard currency reserves are way down. Good luck for anyone who wants to follow such an economic success story.

Now on to Syria’s relationship with Lebanon. It is encouraging that Syria is finally oppening an embassy in Beirut. It might be symbolic to some, but I think it’s welcomed by lots folks in Lebanon as it will diminish the view of many that Syria thinks that Lebanon is just a syrian mohafaza.

Now a better strategy that can get Syria more mileage with Israel (since israelis seem to psychologically believe in symbolic acts, as they crave acceptance) would be for Syria to on its own announce that it will abondon the hybrid resistance and to transform the relationship with Iran to a pure economic one only. In my view that would get Syria the Golan back much much faster, and will earn Syria a good spot with the EU, the US and many other relevant countries. It’s a much better strategy, if the goal is to regain the Golan. The israelis are suckers (no pun intended here) for symbolism. Look how they went googoo gaga over Sadat spending a couple of days in Israel.

Look, most if not all lebanese love their syrian brothers and sisters, and rightfully so. The syrian people are good people. However, and understandibely so, lots of lebanese do resent the heavy interference by Syria in lebanese affairs. Syria should understand that just it does not like other countries to interfere in its internal affairs, same goes for the lebanese. Not an unreasonable position at all. No hard feelings.

On to Lebanon. What can I say. It’s a dysfunctional family to start out with. Lots of worts there. But its neighbors and other countries shouldn’t really add fuel to the fire. Without the arab/israeli conflict Lebanon will still be a dysfunctional family, but a happy and prosperous dysfunctional family. It has a very bright economic future if this conflict is resolved, for many reasons. But primarily because its people are resilient, enterprising, innovative, and have good singers.

Look, Lebanon has carried more than its fair share in this resistance business, and got beaten to a pulp over and over again. Enough. The arabs threw Lebanon to the wolves in the Cairo agreements. Lebanon needs a bit of rest to catch its breath.

Now as far as the situation with Israel, I do happen to believe that Lebanon’s position of being the last arab country to sign a treaty with Israel is a good policy. First, it doesn’t inflame Syria, that Lebanon is making deals behind its back (see I’m being sensitive to Syria), plus Lebanon has the refugee issue that is a big issue that needs to be resolved in a comprehensive manner that would also be acceptable to the Palestinians. Preferably thru a comprehensive peace agreement. That’s why I do favor the comprehensive approach as there are some communal issues.

In the meantime, an armistice agreement would also be a good idea, while the land and water disputes are being worked on diplomatically thru the UN.

On to the US. I don’t think there would a happier US if a comprehensive agreement is reached. The US loves Israel, but also attaches lots of value to the arab countries. I think the US is quite tired of playing the slanted referee role. Finalizing this conflict will put the US in a better position in the ME and the US yearns for this final outcome.

I think I rambled on too much, and hope no one gets offended by any of the critisizm I’ve made. I genuinely meant them to what I PERCEIVE as constructive.

November 3rd, 2008, 12:17 am


Akbar Palace said:

I think I rambled on too much, and hope no one gets offended by any of the critisizm I’ve made. I genuinely meant them to what I PERCEIVE as constructive.

Ras Beirut,

You rambled, but you spoke your mind. I agreed with most of your comments (say 75%?).

Another biggie for Israel is that its leaders should really tone down their rhetorics and stop feeding paranoia to their people.


Please list the “rhetorics” and the “paranoia” they are “feeding to their people”.

Instead, they should gradually prepare their people for the eventual settlement of the conflict.

How is the GOI NOT “preparing their people for the eventual settlement of the conflict”? I can link to several articles from the GOI stating that Israel will have to make “huge” sacrifices for peace. Of course, that doesn’t even take into account all the pro-peace political parties such as Meretz, Labor, Kadima, Hadash, and all the mostly Arab political parties.

RB, can you link to Syrian government official statements that “gradually prepare their people for the eventual settlement of the conflict”?

Case in point they can stress that the arabs have already publicly endorsed a final settlement and don’t want to throw Israel in the sea and would establish diplomatic relationship.


The Saudi Peace Plan is great until you get into the detail, then it starts to unravel. We’ll get there one day…

November 3rd, 2008, 12:45 am


why-discuss said:

It is quite possible that the intelligence in Syria mislead intentionaly the americans to fall into this trap. The US army did not find anybody and has to resort to ‘leaked’ media information to affirm they did.
The result aimed by the syrian intellience who certainly infiltrated the US agents, was to discredit the US, embarrass the Iraqis in the eve of the SOFA accord and obtain changes that will include a clause forbidding the US to use Iraq to launch attacks on neighbors.
This is done… If the SOFA accord is signed then Syria won’t be very happy but at least it will not face US attacks anymore.
So it is not a surprise that rumors run that the Syrian were involved. If this is true, they were damn clever to outsmart the US intelligence, or maybe these are dumb and desperate for some achievement and believed just anything!

November 3rd, 2008, 12:49 am


Alia said:


Syria needs allies. Iran has a lot more to offer than you give it credit. In addition, as the world center of power is shifting, Iran’s connections to the far East could potentially be very useful to Syria.

From Pakistan’s Daily Time

November 3rd, 2008

R E G I O N: Iran, India should envisage modern ties: Mottaki

* Stresses that Tehran and New Delhi should materialise regional co-operation far from conspiracies of foreign powers

TEHRAN: Foreign Minister of Iran Manouchehr Mottaki on Sunday urged Iran and India to envisage modern ties.

He made the remarks in an Iran-India round-table discussion attended by his visiting Indian counterpart, Pranab Mukherjee.

Mottaki stressed that Tehran and New Delhi should also materialize a kind of regional cooperation, which secures the real interest of both nations and is far from conspiracies of the foreign powers.

He condemned mischief of foreign powers aimed at sowing discord between the two states.

Voicing Iran’s support for expansion of India’s foreign policy in line with the country’s economic development, Mottaki expressed the hope that such a move by New Delhi would lead to further boost Iran-India relations and help establish regional peace and security.

Expressing his satisfaction with the current level of bilateral cooperation between the two countries, he said there are great potentials for further expansion of trade, economic and industrial relations between the two nations.

Trade between Iran and India has reached US $ 9.3 billion, Mottaki said, adding that India is one of Iran’s main trade partners.

The two countries have already made cooperation on regional issues such as occupation, terrorism, and smuggle of narcotic drugs, he said.

Tehran and New Delhi share identical views on the current situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, he said, adding that the two countries are interested in regional peace and stability, particularly in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Iran-India trade grew up by nearly 80 per cent in 2007-08 and has reached the level of US $ 12.96 billion in March 2008. Of this, India exports goods worth US $1.937 billion to Iran and imports goods worth US $11.049 billion from Iran.

India’s imports from Iran include crude oil and petroleum products worth US $10.06 billion and India’s exports includes export of petroleum products worth US $850 million. irna

November 3rd, 2008, 1:45 am


Ras Beirut said:

Akbar Palace,

Fair points. One example where I believe Israeli leaders are not helping in shaping their public opinion toward becoming more comfortable with an eventual settlements is the Jerusalem issue, where they kept on saying that all of Jerusalem needs to remain in Israeli hand. They have advocated this position for so long that the issue is non-negotiable, only to have some of these politicians like Olmert reverse course lately and say that it might be ok to cede East Jerusalem. I know most politicians everywhere are flip floppers. In this case it just confuses the public and it would be an uphill battle to change public opinion once you plant such a seed. Stuff like this. Or you only hear such conciliatory positions when the PM is leaving or have left office.

On the Saudi plan. From an israeli perspective it could be viewed that some of its details are not as favorable. If the real objective is to eventually have a deal one day, by all means these perceived shortcomings should be communicated to the public, at the same time the positives should also be highlighted such as recognition and end of hostilities for good.

Maybe I didn’t communicate my message cleary enough on this issue, but the bottom line is that if both side really desire to eventually reach a settlement through negotiations, I think the leadership on both sides should work hard in preparing their public for this, and start highlighting the positives of their your opponent as well. You’re absolutely right, both sides should be doing this.

November 3rd, 2008, 1:54 am


norman said:

Again Syria comment is in the press,

w w w . h a a r e t z . c o m


Last update – 12:18 02/11/2008
Syria rejects Israel’s calls to pursue Saudi peace plan
By Yoav Stern, Haaretz Correspondent

Syria has rejected calls by President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak to pursue the 2002 Saudi peace initiative, a plan touted by the moderate Arab elements across the Middle East.

The initiative, a broad proposal for a comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict, calls for Israel’s withdrawal from territories captured in 1967 in return from normalized relations with the Arab world.

Syrian embassy spokesman in London Jihad Makdissi called Israel’s recent revival of the initiative “another attempt to bluff and evade peace.”

Makdissi made his remarks in a letter to leading Syrian blog Syria comment. In his letter, he said that any pan-Arab initiative would not let anyone but Syria negotiate with Israel over the fate of the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“As for the notion of weakening Syria and its allies simply by reviving the Arab peace initiative,” the Syrian official wrote, “it is not consistent at all because any Pan Arab initiative will not enable any Arab country to negotiate on the Golan on behalf of Syria because comprehensiveness is the broader political umbrella for all tracks and not the substitution.”

“All Israeli leaders negotiated with Syria starting with Shamir, until Olmert (whether directly or indirectly), none of them had a clear vision for peace with Syria or genuine conviction of peace per se, except maybe Rabin” Makdissi went on to say.

Related articles:

The Saudi initiative – normal relations for 1967 borders

Barak: Israel giving serious thought to Saudi peace plan

Peres in Sharm el-Sheikh: Saudi plan can bring peace to Mideast



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November 3rd, 2008, 2:10 am


Ras Beirut said:


By all means Syria as an independent nation should have all the options to have allies and trading partners. My comments were geared toward realism in regards of Syria’s desire to get the Golan back. Remember that it is Israel that has possession of the Golan, and you’re dealing with some tough negotiators here. I find it unlikely that Israel will just give back the Golan without insisting on Syria to severe its Military dealings and the weapon transfer role. Logic would have it that no one will have any issue with Syria maintaining its commercial trade with Iran.

Now on the case of Iran’s economy. Look at the numbers that you presented on the trade with India. It’s primarily oil exports to India, while India refine some of those deliveries and returns them back to Iran because Iran doesn’t have the refining capabilities.

Iran is pretty much a one industry economy that is vulnerable to the fluctuation of oil prices. To me having their budget rely 80% on oil leaves Iran in a big bind if oil prices go south as we have seen lately. Even when oil prices were going thru the roof, Iran still had very high inflation and unemployment. Plus the issue substantial population growth rate is there. It could be an uphill battle economically under such scenarios.

Add to that, Iran’s might be the fourth largest oil exporter today, their reserves are not as substantial as KSA or Iraq for example. On the positive side, Iran does have huge natural gas reserves, but there are issues with maximizing extraction as the US is the major provider of such equipment.

I do wish all countries the best including Iran, I just happen to believe that their role in the Arab/Israeli conflict is not very disruptive and is not encourage its resolution.

November 3rd, 2008, 2:30 am


Ras Beirut said:

In the last sentence of my last comments, I meant that Iran’s role in the Arab/Israeli conflict is very disruptive not the other way around. My booboo

November 3rd, 2008, 2:35 am


Alia said:


Thanks for the analysis- I was not aware that the U.S. is the major provider of advanced gas extraction technology, why did I think that Norway and Russia were?
My focus was however on the Iranian-Indian foreign policy cooperation bit which is of significance considering China and India’s ascending roles.

With or without Iran, the process of peace has been disrupted. Although we continue to hear of the positions of the various Israeli parties as unchanging, Israeli politicians must be aware that the global scene is not the same and that the new players in the East are not likely to be as supportive as the old ones in the West. The recent financial disasters in the U.S. and Europe are not resolving that easily; new alliances will have to be built and those cost priviliges. There is a lot more urgency for Israel to make peace now. If they are not aware of the change of scene,then they are in bigger trouble than they know.

Sure Israel is going to “demand” but it is much better for Syria to be in a position to make concessions than to come empty-handed to the negotiating table.

November 3rd, 2008, 3:04 am


Alia said:


Of course they are going to deny the complicity-and most of us Syrians are unwilling to believe that it is probable.

But truthfully is there one single country around that has kept the moral autority to say “no” to such an accusation and be believed right away? We believe them because a lot else is going on, not because of their denials…there is a big difference there.

November 3rd, 2008, 3:17 am


Enlightened said:

Syrian Complicity?

I think a double game is being played out in the media here. You only have to scratch the surface to arrive at this conclusion.

The primary issue here at this stage is the credibility of The Syrian Government to respond to repeated infringements on its sovereignty.

The list is getting a bit long, with out having to repeat them ad nauseam.

I might add that had this been repeated, often with out the regime reacting, then the average Syrians anger might have grown towards their governments weakness. Maybe the neocons had no stomach for another fight.

So why not respond?

First I think that the Syrian government is SERIOUS about Peace this time. There is no going back.

This raid was just a message to the Syrians from the Americans , yes we are having elections, do not cause mischief in the void before the new administration comes in, and we will hit you if you do. A small warning- albeit some innocents had to lose their lives along the way. The cynic in me says they are just another unfortunate statistic on the war on terror (yawns)

November 3rd, 2008, 4:36 am


Shai said:


Again, Alf Mabruk to you, your wife, and your family! Dahlia is a beautiful name.

I think you’re right on – Bush wants to go out “kicking some ass”, so he did. He knows he can’t hit Iran (unless, God-forbid, he’ll do that now, after Obama wins, knowing he can’t hurt McCain’s chances anymore…), so he hit Syria. Easy target, easy kick, nice Texas-style gratification. So what if some poor Syrian villagers pay the price? This is, after all, GWOT! (Global War On Terrorism). I’m surprised they haven’t made animated movies for school children like they had in the 50’s, the “Duck and Cover” ones, remember them?

But seriously, I think Syria needs to hold back and not respond. Two more months, and a new boss in the White House will dictate America’s foreign policy in our region. And, thank god, it won’t involve “Shock and Awe” diplomacy.

November 3rd, 2008, 4:44 am


jad said:

Shouldn’t the families of the syrian victims sue the american government for killing 8 Syrian civilians and ask for 1.6 billions similar to the same things happened last month? At least you have all the evident needed.

November 3rd, 2008, 5:00 am


Shai said:


Where is our world headed? Must humans really journey to space, before they understand how small our planet is, and how crucial it is that we work together, as one?

November 3rd, 2008, 5:07 am


AIG said:


Of course the families should sue if indeed they are innocent victims. The fact that they don’t sue is just more evidence that they are not really that innocent.

I am sure it would be easy to find a Syrian ex-pat who would be willing to sue the US government. Go for it. For once prove that the Syrian government is not just full of BS.

November 3rd, 2008, 5:17 am


jad said:

This is the first time I see you guys agree on something and therefore I’m going to ask a lawyer friend about that and see how can we sue the US government/Army…will see how that goes…
Thanx for the encouragement..

November 3rd, 2008, 5:54 am


Abasi said:

“23. AIG said:


Of course the families should sue if indeed they are innocent victims. The fact that they don’t sue is just more evidence that they are not really that innocent.

I am sure it would be easy to find a Syrian ex-pat who would be willing to sue the US government. Go for it. For once prove that the Syrian government is not just full of BS.”


do you work for Mossad? you know everything!! if yes it is a problem but not a big one because you should know..if not, it is a serious problem because these things even some syrians do not dare say or even know. the internet is a problem fpr syria…they should confiscate all computers and stop the WWW. but try to keep Syria Comment (without comments) by printing it in Al-Baath Newspaper…

November 3rd, 2008, 8:12 am


FWM said:


There are many reasons why the Syrian regime could have been complicit!
But let us start with some definitions.

Syrian regime: the very small circle around Bashar El-Assad. The comments of the Syrian embassy in Washington, although probably honnest, are therefore irrelevant.
Complicit: took a deliberate decision not to derail or undermine the effectiveness of the raid. I assume here that the raid was effective.

What could be the motives for the complicity of the Syrian regime ?
1) Internal struggle within the security forces. By allowing the US to target people who could not have been active without support from the security services, the regime by default undermines the concerned security officials whose only cover was the territorial integrity of Syria.
2) The murder of Brigadier General Muhammed Suleiman, and/or that of Mugniyhe, can be seen through the same lens, notwithstanding who actually pulled the trigger/pushed the button: i.e. purging of security officials or terrorists who had become too cumbersome.

What are the indications that the Syrian Regime was complicit ?
1) the speed at which Syrian media were allowed to broadcast on the event was absolutely stunning. And unprecedented, when Israel bombed the suspected nuclear site the Syrian response was quasi non-existing. When Israel targeted a tent camp within Syria several years ago, it was again Israel who broke the news. The fact that this media coverage took place in Abu Kamal several long hours away from Damascus, and a bastion of the mukhabarat reinforces the impression that the regime was ready to go LIVE.
2) The Syrian regime while intent on earning some media dividends, has conspicuously refrained from raising the stakes. Why do they not try to push for a UNSC resolution? Full knowing that it would fail, it would certainly give the regime an extra card to negotiate with the new president. But no! Syria is not interested in that. All the regime wants, it seems, is some benevolent media attention.

In sum, Syria is as opaque as ever and the US raid has raised many unanswered questions. It is far too early to brushing aside reports that Syria was complicit. There are enough indicators that it could have been the case. But one cannot be sure.

November 3rd, 2008, 9:17 am


norman said:

American school in Syria obeys order to close

The Associated Press
Monday, November 3, 2008
DAMASCUS, Syria: An American school in Damascus has closed and told students to leave after the Syrian government ordered it shut down in response to a deadly U.S. cross-border raid.

Students and teachers were seen leaving the Damascus Community School Monday afternoon.

A voice message on the school’s answering machine says the school was closed to comply with the government’s decision. A person who answered the phone at the U.S. Embassy in Damascus confirmed that the school was closing.

The Syrian government ordered the school to close by the end of the week in response to a U.S. military raid on Oct. 26.

Washington hasn’t formally acknowledged the raid. But U.S. officials say the target was a top Iraqi al-Qaida figure.



Copyright © 2008 The International Herald Tribune |

November 3rd, 2008, 1:03 pm


Murphy said:

Bear in mind that the only sources for this story (which themselves are based on the infamous ‘anonymous sources’) are an Israeli newspaper and the Murdoch Times. The latter is basically an outlet for ‘stories’ planted by Israeli intelligence. It simply is not a credible newspaper when it comes to the ME, and as such there is no reason to take this report seriously.

November 3rd, 2008, 1:32 pm


Abasi said:

عائدون….بقلم : وليد السابق مساهمات القراء

ليدين من حَجَر وزعترْ…هذا النشيدُ… لأحمدَ المنسيِّ بين فراشتين…مَضَتِ الغيومُ وشرَّدتني….

ورمتْ معاطِفها الجبالُ وخبأتني….نازلاً من نخلة الجرح القديم…. إلى تفاصيل البلاد…. وكانت السنةُ انفصال البحر عن مدن….الرماد…

…..((محمود درويش))…..



من قُرانا الصامتات…

في الجليل…

من صمت الصمت…

في قصائدنا…


صدى الكلمات…

من رنين الهمس…

في مخادعنا….

من خُرافة القرن الثامن…

قبل الميلاد..

ممالك الذهب…

مجد سليمان…

و داوود …

سبي آشور…

و آكاد….

عائدون يا آخر الشعراء…

من أوراقنا القديمة…

و هزيمة…

تجر هزيمة…

من تاريخٍ…

مَزقتهُ الفَتَاوى…

و الشكاوى…

و الأحقاد…


هبت عليه ريح الزمنِ….

فمحت عنه…

آثار فرسانٍ…

و راياتِ…

و جياد…


محمود درويش…

نحن كما عهدتنا…

في / أخبار النساء/

عبس و ذبيان…

داحس و الغبراء…


و ذاك المجنون…

أقداح الشاي…

ساخنة في المقاهي…

أرغفة الخبز هاربةُ….

أسباب الخبز….


لا همنا….

فنحن صامدون…


كما كنا دوما…

و كما…



نحشو بنادقنا….


و نقاتل صهيون…


و الشتيمةِ…

و الدعوات..

نُحمّلُ الآخر…

أخطاء القياس..

و نصلي…

إن خالفتنا الحياة…

اللهمّ إحرق زرعهم…

و زرعهم أخضر…

اللهم إقطع نسلهم…

و نسلهم أكبر…

تتكسر أغصان النخيل…

في أورشليم…

و ينجوا على أطراف أصابعنا…



محمود درويش….


إنكسار الفجر في العيون…

من …

بيارات البرتقال….

و الليمون….


من أرض رحلت عنها…

أسراب الحمام….

و أشجار الزيتون…

من أرض….

كانت تسمى…

فيما تُسمى….

أرض السلام….

من ترابٍ….

مشى عليه….


و فاتحون….

من جثث الأطفال….

في غزة….

تُزهِرُ فجراً…


و سفر…

وأبداً نحن…


من ( أحمد العربي)..

من …

عيون ريتا العسلية…

من دروب الجلجلة الطويلة…

من النفط…

و الستائر المخملية…

من آخر الصحوات…

و إحتضار القضية…

نهديك الحزن…..

فأحزاننا كانت…

أحزان فكرٍ…

و قتلِ…

و قضبان سجون…

يا آخر الشعراء…


نعبر الجُرح….

و نصرخ…

إنا…. عائدون…..


November 3rd, 2008, 8:02 pm


Enlightened said:


Thank you for your kind words, I was aware of the names origin. There is not long to go before Israel votes , and America as well, I hope the coming year brings us the peace that some of us yearn for.

Just a side note, Dahlia was born at Masada hospital, where Sue’s parents live in ST Kilda Melbourne, and I was there on the Sabbath – man what a experience, it is a big Hasidic community with many synagogues and many many people out and about walking everywhere. I went for several walks on the day. The sight of religious jews walking everywhere with their children was a little surreal, with the men’s gaze always focussed on the ground, they would not look at you. (I wasnt staring at them but I noticed that it was a little unusual).

I had coffee with Sue’s doctor later on in the afternoon (hes very secular) and asked him why this was the case he said that “divrai yirah shomayim, “fearing heaven”, to some jews life is serious and always he is conscious of his relationship to god.

I told him there were too many similarities between us.

November 4th, 2008, 12:11 am


Shai said:


No offense to the Haredi Hasidic community, but I’d much rather a beer with you, than with one of them… They’re a bit, how should I say it, “extreme” in their fear of God. The word “Hared” literally means “Fearful”. I like optimistic people better… 🙂

But actually what bothers me most about them, is their super-closed society (almost impossible for someone to get out of), and their horrific treatment of women. I just can’t respect any man, or any movement, that looks at women as unequal, and “intended” for only particular tasks (raising children, cooking, cleaning, and all over again…)

November 4th, 2008, 6:27 am


Friend in America said:

Sami is a great writer and cultural observer and it is a privilege for me and I think others to read his messages. This time, however, there is something strange about his analysis of the ouster of the Community School. Maybe Sami’s “American controlled” characterization is doublespeak ??? I say strange because so unlike Sami his analysis ignores essential facts about the school that are as accessible to him as they are to all the readers here.
The Damascus Country School is not operated by Americans or the American government. It has an independent Board of Directors whose members reside in Syria; the Board is multi national. It is one of close to a thousand schools that are members of the International Schools Association, a NGO non-profit organized under Swiss law and is officed in the U.K. Members schools include schools in Schools in Vietnam, Myamar, Pakistan, Africa, Beijing, Moscow, etc. Membership in ISA is voluntary to the schools who qualify (academic standards and independent). It receives 90% of its income from tuition, it receives no funds from citizens in America other than alumni donations and after the initial startup it has not received funds from the U.S government (incidentally when John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State the State Department was experiencing difficulty in getting diplomats who had young families to accept postings in countries where there was no western type education; that was the purpose of the program, but for years all are and have been independent schools. Businesses and banks were experiencing the same problem. The Country School has an “American” curriculum (in contrast to the European curriculum or English curriculum) and classes are in English. It offers an English as a Second Language courses to students who need further language instruction. This language instruction gives the students tremendous opportunities to attend university in many countries, including the U.S.( Joshua, our friend, would not have been able to attend an American university without this education). It is college preparatory and it has many distinguished Syrian and other nationality graduates. To me the school seems to be a valuable educational asset to Syria. It serves Syria, not America. Doublespeak?

November 4th, 2008, 11:37 pm


Friend in America said:

The following article in the U,K.’s Daily Telegraph has received scant attention in the U.S., but, it poses an interesting question for the government in Damascus. What should Syria’s response be to the citizens of Mosel?
a. We are sorry but there is nothing more we can do?
b. Syria will do nothing until the Americans are gone?
c. Up yours?
d. We will join you to bring peace to your province and our border?

Iraqi city calls for US raids on Syria

The US must launch a widespread offensive against Syria to have any hope of taking control of al-Qaeda’s last bastion in Iraq, it has been claimed.

By Damien McElroy in Mosul
Last Updated: 8:48AM GMT 03 Nov 2008

Officials in Iraq’s third largest city, Mosul, have warned the terrorists will not be defeated until the border is secured.

Iraq has deployed extra troops, including two brigades of the paramilitary National Police, into the battle for the northern Sunni Arab city, but the effort has been handicapped by widespread infiltration of the security forces by terrorist sympathisers.

Dureid Kashmula, the provincial governor, said: “One of the reasons that al-Qaeda is so strong here when security is improving across Iraq is that the terrorists can come across the border.

“So the number of security forces is never enough to defeat the threat.”
Nineveh, the province surrounding Mosul, has a 227-mile border with Syria.
Mosul’s continuing turmoil barely registers outside the country. Even visitors to the city of 1.7 million view it as a distraction from the overall picture of falling violence in Iraq.

Khosro Goran, the vice-governor, said: “We have an open border with Syria and our neighbours are actively encouraging the terrorists.

“The majority of people don’t believe that Obama or McCain have a choice for a new American policy. President Bush removed Saddam and has been blamed for all the killing in Mosul. The American job is not finished because our enemies are backed by neighbouring countries.”

An American raid on a Syrian compound it believed was housing al-Qaeda operatives last month triggered calls for repeated sweeps beyond Iraq’s western borders.
An intelligence officer in Mosul said leading lieutenants of the late dictator Saddam Hussein and Islamists were directing attacks in Mosul from Syria.
The debilitating influence of the insurgent factions has sapped confidence within the security forces operating in the city, according to Captain Nabeel Mutlak, a policeman in Mosul since 1996.

Terrorist penetration of all ranks is so pervasive that his off-duty colleagues are regularly assassinated in cold blood, mostly in the street or at markets when shopping with their families.

“They just shoot and run. Sometimes they use silencers even though they are in a crowded place,” he said. “But catching them is impossible because mostly they are based outside the city, even outside the country.

“They know how to identify their victims because every neighbourhood has cells that find out who is working for the police, pass the information on and identify the victims. It’s impossible to stop.”

The senior American commander in northern Iraq issued an unprecedented public apology for the failure to control violence in the city in the five years since the war. “We have not supported you enough,” said Major General Mark Hertling in a speech at Mosul’s police college. “We have focused too much on Baghdad.”

Mosul is so deeply scarred by five years of unremitting violence that in parts of the city there are the remnants of explosions every ten yards. Capt Mutlak is able to recite the history of a street or area by reeling off fatalistic nicknames.

There is Murder Street, Assassins Field and Burning Intersection, named for the regularity of car bombs. Apparently mundane buildings have a story. Mosul’s potato distribution centre was bombed last year by American war planes after it was used by al-Qaeda operatives as a bomb making centre.

Another street in Amman district was known for the gun battles waged by rival gangs.

Raid Ranem has been jobless since a car bomb destroyed his shop at Burning Intersection in 2005. He used a visit by Governor Kashmula to the area to press his claims for compensation.

“I have nothing since I lost my business,” he said. “That’s why the terrorists are so strong, there are no businesses to employ the kids, so they get paid for planting bombs.”

Hours after the governor’s visit a car bomb targeting a police patrol killed two officers.

Baghdad launched Operation Lion’s Roar to bring Mosul under control six months ago. Gains from the massive mobilisation are tenuous but troops are hopeful that the city is starting to recover.

“Any day I come out on the streets and nobody is shooting at me, is a good day,” said an American colonel accompanying the city’s commander, Lieutenant General Riyadh Jalal Tawfiq Riyadh, on a city centre walk
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November 5th, 2008, 3:54 am


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