DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 7, 2003
On July 6, the day before he took off for Cairo, Syrian President Bashar Assad signed Decree 408 in the name of the ruling Baath party. This bureaucratic measure hit the Syrian political system like a bolt from the blue. In a trice, the party which had governed ever corner of Syria's civil and military administration single-handed for forty years was removed from the levers of control. For decades, the lowliest officials in government and the economy, every university lecturer, journalist, military and police officer was obliged to be a member of the Baath party. Decree 408 dismissed the party as the main engine of power. Assad's next step, debkafile reports from its Middle East sources, is a major government reshuffle. By divorcing the ruling party from its influence over all forms of government in Syria, Assad has shown himself to be the only Arab leader who understands the import of the Iraq War in terms of regional democratization.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report July 1, 2003
Damascus filed only a mild protest at Washington's tardiness in repatriating the five Syrian soldiers captured by US troops when on June 18 when they attacked a convoy suspected of carrying Saddam Hussein in flight to Syria. The Syrians, three wounded, were handed back Monday, June 30. The Bashar government did not make too much of a fuss over the incident, inhibited by reasons set forth in the account carried in DEBKA-Net-Weekly on June 27: The importance of the US commando attack on June 18 lies in its location - inside Syria. A US official indeed admitted the American force may have pursued part of the convoy across the Iraqi border into Syria. In fact, the subsequent clash, in which five Syrian border guards were captured, occurred at the Syrian border post of Abu Kamal, 365 miles south of Damascus. The convoy was destroyed. Our military sources reveal that the Syrian side lost between 25 and 30 dead in their first encounter with US combatants.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 15, 2003
The cat was out of the bag - almost - as a result of Operation Peninsula Strike, the massive US crackdown against a lethal brew of anti-American resistance forces which have been bedeviling US troops north of Baghdad. A substantial quotient of foreign combatants from Arab countries - Saudis, Yemenis, Egyptians, Jordanians, Syrians and Palestinians from Syria or Lebanon - was discovered to be mixed in with the Fedayeen Saddam, Baathists and former Republican Guards officers mounting lethal ambushes against US troops in and around Baghdad. At the same time, no one says where they are coming from.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report June 10, 2003
Pressure from the Bush administration is getting to Syrian President Bashar Assad. It is catching him wrong-footed in mid-maneuver for the rejuvenation of his antiquated government while fending off popular disaffection. These days, he never misses an opportunity to labor to foreign visitors that Syria and Lebanon should have a "road map to peace" just like the Israelis and the Palestinians. In other words, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon's willingness to promise the Palestinians a state of their own by 2005 ahead of negotiations, ought to be translated into a comparable advance Israeli pledge to return the Golan to Syria.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 4, 2003
Syria is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources as having secretly disposed of Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction by moving them into eastern Lebanon for burial in the Beqaa Valley. Iraq's biological weapons may be there too. They were interred deep under the heroin poppy and cotton fields in two of the most fertile regions of Lebanon: the valley stretching between Jabal Akroum, the town of al Qbayyat and the Syrian border, and the land lying between the towns of Al Hirmil and al Labwah between the Orontes River and the Syrian frontier. On February 14, about a month before the start of the war in Iraq, DEBKA-Net-Weekly Issue 97 ran an article captioned "Is Iraq's WMD cache in Lebanon available to Al Qaeda?"
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 2, 2003
One member of the British duo spent four months in Syria preparing for the operation. His partner joined him in the second week of April after taking a circuitous route through Europe. Together, they were led by a Hamas or Hizballah guide through Jordan to the Allenby Bridge crossing into the West Bank and Israel entering on their British passports. A taxi drove them to the Gaza Strip. There, Hanif and Sharif lay low for about two weeks as guests of a Hamas cell that also numbers Hizballah operatives.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report April 21, 2003
Sunday, April 20, Damascus surrendered a top official of the Saddam Hussein's regime, one of the eight granted sanctuary (as listed by debkafile last Friday, April 18), Republican Guards secretary Kemal Mustafa al Tikriti, who is married to Saddam's youngest daughter. The Syrians pushed him across the border to Iraq where he 'surrendered" to US forces. This was Syrian president Bashar Assad's first response to the newly-delivered US ultimatum: deliver Iraq's WMD and regime leaders or face military action. President George W. Bush noted with satisfaction that Syria was beginning to "understand the message". But, according to debkafile's Washington sources, the handover of all the high-ranking Iraqi fugitives sheltering in Syria will not satisfy the US government or get it off the Assad government's back.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 26, 2002
The construction of a new ring road around Damascus was the pretext for an outbreak of popular anti-government fury in the Syrian capital this week. Until now, stringent measures by the Syrian authorities have kept any hint of the unrest from leaking out.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report September 2, 2002
Informed Arab circles, including high Saudi and Egyptian officials, are wondering what lies behind an order the Syrian president Bashar Assad has just issued to the radical Damascus-based Palestinian "Fronts" to break off all operational ties with Yasser Arafat. debkafile's Middle East sources say the directive applies to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and the Democratic Front from the Liberation of Palestine; the Hamas and Jihad Islami, both of whom maintain headquarters in the Syrian capital, turned their backs on Arafat some time ago. The Palestinian leader finds himself ostracized, therefore, not only by the Americans and Israelis, but also by Syria and its Palestinian proteges.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report May 7, 2002
Monday, May 6, Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon visited the Pentagon. On the same day, John Bolton, US undersecretary of state, disarmament expert and the closest official in that department to the White House, accused Libya,Syria and Cuba of pursuing weapons of mass destruction. The terms of this warning strongly resembled the language Washington uses in reference to Saddam Hussein. Bolton warned all three of American action to ensure they do not supply terrorists with such arms.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 30, 2002
Syria has filed a strong protest with Washington, accusing the Sixth Fleet of a "piracy operation" against two Syrian commercial vessels on the Mediterranean. The US Charge d'Affaires in Damascus was summoned to the Syrian foreign ministry Wednesday January 30 to explain Sixth Fleet interception and search off Cyprus of two Syrian-registered merchant vessels, the "Captain Mohamed" and "Hajji Rahmeh", that were shipping citrus from the Turkish port of Mersin.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report January 18, 2002
The US State Department still lists Syria as a sponsor of terror for the support and hospitality it extends to radical Palestinian groups, including Islamic Jhad and Hamas, and for backing the Lebanese Hizballah. Damascus has refused outright to take measures against those organizations. Yet senior Americans frequenting Damascus this month are full of praise for Syria's cooperation in the war against terror.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
On June 26, Syria opened the Damascus-Golan road to Quneitra to civilian traffic for the first time since the Six-Day War of 1967. No announcement was made. The dozens of military roadblocks studding the 60 km high road connecting the capital with the Syrian part of Golan for 40 years were removed, except for two - one at the entrance to Qunetra from the Syrian end and one at the town's exit to Israeli Golan. DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources report that this measure went mostly unnoticed, although it made Israeli military intelligence sit up.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's intelligence sources disclose that a year ago, in June 2006, Syrian military intelligence recruited several hundred Golan refugees for a new framework called the Front for the Liberation of the Golan Heights. They were trained for terror operations, blowing up roads and bridges, attacks on military camps and convoys and hostage-taking.
DEBKAfile Exclusive Report
debkafile's intelligence and counter-terror sources report that Saudi foreign minister Prince Saud al-Faisal arrived in Damascus first thing Sunday morning Jan 8 with an royal order for President Bashar Assad to present himself without delay to King Abdullah in Jeddah. The Saudis were racing against time to put Assad on the carpet before the onset of the hajj later that day. From Jeddah, the Syrian president flew to Sharm el-Sheikh where he was severely rapped by Hosni Mubarak.