International,  Iraq

Assad regime pays a price

Guest post by davem

On Sunday 26th October American special forces acting on Iraqi information targeted the home in Syria of Abu Ghadiayh (full name Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidh), killing him along with seven others.

Abu Ghadiyah (H/T Across the Bay) has been identified as a major figure in Al Qaeda in Iraq.

The leader, Abu Ghadiya, the nom de guerre of a Mosul native whose real name is said to be Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, was identified in February as a senior al-Qaeda in Iraq leader based in Syria who controls the flow of the majority of the group’s foreign fighters, money and weapons into Iraq, according to U.S. intelligence officials.

Syria has a history of letting Jihadists use its territory to launch attacks against Americans and Iraqis in Iraq. The most notorious recruitment centre was the Abu Qaqa Mosque in Alleppo.

Now Syria offers refuge to convicted former Iraqi MP Mish’an Al-Jabouri and broadcasts his television station Al Rai, (formerly Al Zawwra). Al Zawwra was infamous for showing nothing other than footage of attacks against American soldiers in Iraq. It broadcast during 2006-2007 when I was living in Syria. I used to watch it– a constant loop of Hummers being blown up and soldiers being sniped at to a backdrop of Islamic chanting.

A Federal District Court in Washington, DC, found in favour of the plaintiffs in a case brought against Syria by relatives of Jack Armstrong and Jack Hensley, who were beheaded by Abu Mousab Zarqawi’s organization in Iraq.

The court found evidence of substantial assistance given by Syria to this organization. Syrian assistance to [Abu Mousab] Zarqawi included providing him with a Syrian passport. The court found that Syria acted as a “logistical hub” for al-Qaida in Iraq, providing safe haven for training activities and facilitating the transport of fighters overland en route to Iraq.

Against this background it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that Syria is still aiding and supporting Jihadist cells in the east of country. What was strange was the reaction from the Ba’athist leadership, who initially claimed that all the victims of the US operation were civilians.

Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said they were a father and his three children, a farm guard and his wife, and a fisherman. He said: “Killing civilians in international law means a terrorist aggression. We consider this criminal and terrorist action.”

This was immediately disputed by the AP.

Syria reported that US troops, backed by helicopters, launched the attack five miles into its territory, killing eight people, including four children. But at the funerals of the victims, where angry crowds chanted anti-American slogans, an Associated Press photographer said he saw the bodies of seven men.

See for yourself in the photos here and here. There isn’t a single child’s coffin, they’re all adult sized.

Had there been any child victims, then Syrian state TV (along with Hizbullah’s Al Manar channel) would have paraded the bodies in front of the cameras as they did during the 2006 war between Hizbullah and Israel. They didn’t do it this time because no children were killed. Syrian foreign minister Walid Muallem was lying.

The next day Syrian Government daily Tishreen reported:

The American terrorist aggression on the village of Sukkeriyeh in Abu Kamal which led to the martyrdom of 8 innocent civilians and injuring 9 others was the central issue discussed in yesterday’s parliamentary meeting.

The assembly, headed by parliamentary speaker Muhammad Naji al-`Atari, condemned this savage crime, viewing it as the very apex of state terror as exercised by the US administration in violation of the UN Charter, international law and international legitimacy.

Yet this whole issue rests on whether or not Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidh aka Abu Ghadiayh was killed in this attack. The simple way to resolve this once and for all would have been for Syria to let independent experts forensically identify the bodies. If none of the bodies belonged to Abu Ghadiyah then this would have been a massive propaganda coup for the Ba’athist leadership, giving them a perfect opportunity to make the US look foolish and small on the world stage.

Yet they didn’t do this. Why not? The only logical explanation is that Abu Ghadiyah was one of the victims and the Syrian regime didn’t want this confirmed.

In short, the Syrian regime was caught red-handed and reacted in the only way it knew how. Not with facts establishing its innocence, not with verification, not with evidence but by responding the way all bullies do when faced down by someone bigger and stronger: lying followed by indignation, self-pity, playing the victim card, until finally finding someone smaller to pick on. So on 29th October, three days after the attack, this was the main news story on Al Arabiya:

After being condemned for “harming the prestige of the Syrian nation,” 12 members of the Damascus Declaration are sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment.

Ammar Qorabi, president of the National Organization of Human Rights in Syria, announced that 12 members of the National Council of the Damascus Declaration were sentenced to two-and-a-half years imprisonment “for harming Syria’s national standing.

Here’s more in English. They also shut down an American school and US cultural centre in Damascus and the US embassy will be closed to the public for an unspecified time. So any Syrians who were due to for scholarships at US universities will have to wait for a while.

A Washington Post editorial hits the nail firmly on the head in regards to the hypocrisy and double standards of the Syrian leadership:

This [indignation about the US operation is] from a regime whose most notable activities of the past few years have been the serial assassination of senior Lebanese politicians, including former prime minister Rafik Hariri; the continuous and illegal supplying of weapons to the Hezbollah militia for use against Israel and Lebanon’s democratic government; the harboring in Damascus of senior leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups; and — most relevant — the sheltering of an al-Qaeda network that dispatches 90 percent of the foreign fighters who wage war against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government.

The logic of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad seems to be that his regime can sponsor murders, arms trafficking, infiltrations and suicide bombings in neighboring countries while expecting to be shielded from any retaliation in kind by the diplomatic scruples of democracies…..

What Damascus should not be allowed to do is reap the diplomatic and economic rewards of a rapprochement [with Europe] while continuing to plant car bombs, transport illegal weapons and harbor terrorists. Israel has let Mr. Assad know that it is prepared to respond to his terrorism with strikes against legitimate military targets. Now that the United States has sent the same message, maybe the dictator at last will rethink his strategy.

Maybe Assad has finally realised that there’s a price to pay for supporting and providing safe-houses for violent Jihadists. It is this and not the Damascus Declaration which actually “harms Syrian national prestige” and Assad and his clique have to take full responsibility for it.