Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Syria: Friend or Foe?

It's hard to know what to make of this Times article that appeared on the website late last night about our deteriorating relations with Syria.
Syria has halted military and intelligence cooperation with the United States, its ambassador to Washington said in an interview, in a sign of growing strains between the two nations over the insurgency in Iraq.
The ambassador, Imad Moustapha, said in the interview on Friday at the Syrian Embassy here that his country had, in the last 10 days, "severed all links" with the United States military and Central Intelligence Agency because of what he called unjust American allegations. The Bush administration has complained bitterly that Syria is not doing enough to halt the flow of men and money to the insurgency in Iraq.
Mr. Moustapha said he believed that the Bush administration had decided "to escalate the situation with Syria" despite steps the Syrians have taken against the insurgents in Iraq, and despite the withdrawal in recent weeks of Syrian troops from Lebanon, in response to international demands.

This certainly seems to be something of a he-said/she-said situation. The current poor state of our relationship with Syria has probably been exacerbated by the recall of our Ambassador to Syria after the Feb. 14 assassination of the Prime Minister of Lebanon.

The crux of the American complaints seems to be here:
American military officers in Baghdad and intelligence analysts in Washington say militant cells inside Iraq draw on "unlimited money" from an underground financial network run by former Baath Party leaders and relatives of Mr. Hussein, many of whom they say found safe haven to live and operate in Syria.

So while Syria has been aggressively policing its borders, which the military officer later concedes, they have been less dilligent in identifying and arresting the remnants of the Baath party that have sought refuge there. This does seem to be a major problem, but it's difficult to know how serious without having access to the specific intelligence.
-- Eric

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