3 years ago

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

Amitai Etzioni David Katz Harsh Pant - Middle East Forum

The Assad regime also

The Assad regime also took other steps includingrecruiting local staff—such as the Aleppobasedmilitant Islamist cleric Abu al-Qaqa—to helporganize the infiltrations across Syrian territory. 6To ensure that these dangerous Islamists didnot plant domestic rootsthat might threaten theSyria supported Assad regime, Syria’s securityapparatus apparentlydocumented theterrorists movingto Iraq while presence of these killers.supplyingThen-deputy secretary ofinformation on defense Paul Wolfowitzdisplayed some of theattacks outsideevidence of this officialthe Middle East. Syrian complicity duringtestimony before theSenate Armed ServicesCommittee in September 2003.Holding up passports belonging to foreignfighters encountered by U.S. forces in Iraq,Wolfowitz said,A foreigner who came into Iraq on March 24 ththrough Syria—not a Syrian, but throughSyria. The entry permit on his passport saidhe came to, quote, “volunteer for jihad.”Here’s another one, came into Iraq throughSyria—same crossing point. The entry permitsaid, “to join the Arab volunteers.” Andhere’s a third one that came in on April 7 th . 7Wolfowitz’s statements were subsequentlyaugmented by those of a dozen or so U.S. CentralCommand (CENTCOM) flag officers, also focusingon the movement of jihadists throughSyrian territory and Assad regime complicity inthe endeavor. In March 2007, for example,CENTCOM revealed that training camps hadbeen established on Syrian territory for Iraqi andforeign fighters. 85 Author interview with Abdel Halim Khaddam, Paris, Nov.10, 2008.6 Sami Moubayed, “The Islamic Revival in Syria,” MideastMonitor, Sept.-Oct. 2006.7 Paul Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, presentationbefore the Senate Committee on Armed Services, Washington,D.C., Sept. 9, 2003.8 ABC News, The Blotter, Mar. 22, 2007.The most prominent of these statements,however, was issued by then-U.S. commanderin Iraq Gen. David Petraeus, who during testimonyto Congress on September 10, 2007, presentedmaps illustrating Syria’s pivotal role asthe source of foreign fighters entering Iraq. 9 Onlya week earlier, during an interview with al-Watanal-Arabi, the general described how Syria allowedthousands of insurgents to arrive at DamascusInternational Airport and then cross theIraqi border. 10 These foreign fighters, he explained,supplied the main manpower pool forthe majority of suicide bombings in Iraq. Thatsame month, the centrality of Syria to the insurgencywas corroborated by the Sinjar documents,a trove of al-Qaeda materials captured byU.S. forces in Iraq. 11Syrian conduct during the war—in particularthe state’s burgeoning support for and toleranceof al-Qaeda’s transit—came as a surpriseto many. After all, following September 11, 2001,Damascus provided intelligence on al-Qaeda toWashington that helped save American lives.But Syria was playing a double game by supportingterrorists moving to Iraq while simultaneouslysupplying information on future attacks—outsideof the Middle East—to Washington.Damascus hoped this would purchaseimmunity, but the gambit failed. After Secretaryof Defense Donald Rumsfeld accused Syria inMarch 2003 of providing night vision gogglesto Saddam and declared that Washington would“consider such trafficking as hostile acts and[would] hold the Syrian government accountablefor such shipments,” 12 Damascus cut offthe intelligence sharing.As a Syrian foreign ministry official confidedto New Yorker correspondent Seymour9 “Charts to Accompany the Testimony of Gen. David Petraeus,”Multi-National Force-Iraq, Sept. 10-11, 2010.10 Al-Watan al-Arabi (Riyadh), Aug. 29, 2007. Excerpts fromGen. Petraeus’s interview in al-Watan al-Arabi, Tony Badran,trans., Sept. 4, 2007.11 For full English translations, see “Personal Information forForeign Fighters,” Harmony Project, Combating Terrorism Center,West Point, accessed Jan. 18, 2011.12 Donald Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Myers, Pentagon briefing,Washington, D.C., Mar. 28, 2003.60 / MIDDLE EAST QUARTERLY SPRING 2011

Hersh, if Washington had agreed to discussthese issues in a back channel, theintelligence sharing might have continued.“But when you publicly try to humiliate acountry,” he said, “it’ll become stubborn.” 13While Damascus sought to blame Washingtonfor the breakdown of the channel,by the time the cooperation had ceased,Syria had been actively facilitating themovement of jihadists into Iraq for months.In addition to killing U.S. soldiers and innocentIraqi civilians, these insurgents alsocaptured and killed dozens of U.S. civiliansworking in Iraq.THE CASEAGAINST DAMASCUSIn the months leading up to the 2003 U.S.-ledinvasion of Iraq, Syrian president Bashar al-Assad (right), here with fallen Egyptian presidentHusni Mubarak, Cairo, November 3, 2009,allowed insurgent hopefuls to sign up and geton a bus to Baghdad for the opportunity to repelthe coalition forces. As the turmoil in Iraqincreased in the ensuing years, vast numbers ofal-Qaeda terrorists and other insurgents wereallowed to cross from Syria into Iraq.Two of those American contractors executedby al-Qaeda in Iraq were Olin Eugene“Jack” Armstrong and Jack Hensley.In 2004, Thailand resident Armstrong andHensley, who was based in Marietta, Georgia,were employed as contract managersby private construction subcontractors inIraq. The two were kidnapped from their residentialhousing in Iraq on September 16 ofthat year. On September 20 and 21 respectively,videos documenting the gruesomebeheadings of Armstrong and Hensley wereposted on an online web forum associated withal-Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Mus’ab al-Zarqawi. 14Remains of the victims were found in Baghdadsoon after.In August 2006, the families of Armstrongand Hensley brought a civil action against thegovernment of Syria, President Bashar al-Assad,Syrian military intelligence, and its director, AssifShawkat. The action, launched by the estates ofArmstrong and Hensley—under the name ofestate administrator Francis Gates—alleged thatDamascus “provided material support and resources”to al-Qaeda in Iraq and sought economicdamages, compensation for grief, pain,and suffering, and punitive damages arising fromtheir deaths. 15A three-day evidentiary hearing was heldin January 2008 to establish the facts of thecase. Four American expert witnesses testifiedhow Syria facilitated the movement of jihadiststo Iraq, how the Assad regime provided supportand sanctuary to the Zarqawi network,and how the regime—and specifically thepresident and his brother-in-law, military intelligencechief Shawkat—were aware of the ac-13 Seymour Hersh, “The Syrian Bet,” The New Yorker, July28, 2003.14 Fox News, Sept. 22, 2004. 15 Francis Gates v. Syrian Arab Republic.Schenker: Syrian Terrorism / 61

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