In May 2005, Iraqi guerrilla leaders held a meeting in the city of Hasaka (Syrian Kurdistan), see article below. But these were no ordinary leaders. These were the top-3 baath leaders and a representative of Zarqawi. The aim of the meeting was to reorganize the guerrilla and to coordinate the anti-American actions. Needless to say that this did not improve the relation between Syria and the USA. According to a testimony on Joshua Landis’ blog, there is a consensus in the pentagon that something must be done about Syria. The generals are pushing for military actions, probably air/missile strikes since we are not talking about regime change righ now.
Won't he get the message?
The final decision belongs to the White-House, not to the generals. But the current administration is increasingly irritated by the continuous flow of Syrian provocations. First there is Lebanon: the country is facing a Syrian blockade and it is widely believed that Damascus is behind the terror campaign in Beirut (or most of it). Moreover, Damascus is continuing its support to terror organization such as Hezbollah or Hamas. But the main problem for Washington is that Syria is harbouring Iraqi rebels who are doing a lot of harm to Iraq’s stability and killing American soldiers.
The United States have been careful with Syria because of one simple reason: nobody knows what will come up if the regime was to fall. The standard opinion in Washington is that there's enough work in Iraq right now. On the other hand, Washington cannot remain passive while Syria is destabilizing the region. Bachar assumes that he cannot be removed because it would create too much instability in his country. However, the same was true for Saddam’s Iraq and this did not prevent the US from ousting him. An air strike would be a perfect compromise between these two conflicting objectives (stopping Sryia without destabilizing it). It will send to Bachar the following message “you are expandable”, “stop your games”. Moreover, Bachar controls the security apparatus now. It is rumoured that the remaining old guard representatives (Chareh and Kanaan) will be leaving very soon. Rifaat, Khaddam, Tlass and Bahjat Suleiman are out of the game. He cannot hide behind the 'old guard' excuse anymore.
And the winner is...
The ideal timeline would be to attack after the UN inquiry commission on Harris’s murder headed by Detlev Mehlis turns in its report around September 15th. If the UN formally accuses Syria of the assassination, it would give a perfect pretext to strike against Damascus. Few would contest a strike against a state which killed the prime minister of another country. If the United Nations were to incriminate Syria, no Arab country would stand behind Bachar.
Intelligence Online June 3, 2005
Kurdish officials say the insurgency found renewed strength in northern Iraq in May, after the Baath Party held a meeting in the Syrian town of Hasaka.The party reorganized itself, expelling more than half the membership, or anyone who had dealings with the United States, the Iraqi government or even humanitarian aid groups. The new Baath leaders are Mohammad Younis al-Ahmad and Ibrahim Sabawi, Hussein's half-brother and the former head of Iraq's general security directorate.
In addition, American intelligence discovered that followers of the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq, Abu Mussa Al Zarqawi -- including the "hero" of the battle of Fallujah, Omar Hadid -- held a meeting in the Syrian city of Hasaka in mid-May to coordinate operations with three leaders of the Ba'ath insurgency. The trio were highest on the Americans' wanted list in Iraq: Ezzat Ibrahim al Duri, who issued an "appeal to the Ba'athist and Islamic resistance" for the first time on May 26; Mohamed Younes al Ahmed, a former Ba'ath party leader; and Ahmed Hassan al Obeidi, ex chief of the General Intelligence Service in the Kurkuk region. In response to the meeting, the American military issued a warning to Syrian officers at a gathering on May 17 at the border post of Al Walid which was attended by the American military attaché in Damascus and his three deputies. The Americans came away empty-handed from the meeting. Still, the Syrians have since assigned some of their troops returning from Lebanon to patrol duty along the Iraqi frontier. The U.S. has bolstered its positions at Al Qaim, Tel Affar and Husaybah.