Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 4   No. 11-12 Table of Contents
MEIB Main Page

November-December 2002 


Intelligence Briefs: Syria

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back
CIA Halts Syrian Arms Shipment to Iraq
Syria Makes UN Vote Unanimous

One Step Forward, Three Steps Back

On November 16, Syrian President Bashar Assad granted a pardon to Riyad al-Turk, the chairman of the Communist Party Political Bureau (CPPB), who was convicted in June of "attempting to change the constitution by illegal means" and given a five year prison sentence, subsequently reduced by half after he publicly apologized to Assad.

Earlier this month, the Syrian Committee for the Defense of Human Rights announced that two journalists and an actor have been detained since early October on charges of spying for Israel. The committee said that Yahia al-Aous and Hayssam Kutaish had written articles critical of the Syrian regime in Lebanese and UAE newspapers prior to their arrests. It was not clear why Muhammad Kutaish, a brother of the latter who teaches at the Damascus Institute of Dramatic Arts, was detained. The committee condemned the arrests "violations of human rights," noting that none of the three were formally charged with any crime, and called on the authorities to free them or bring them to trial before a "just and honest" court.

CIA Halts Syrian Arms Shipment to Iraq

According to a November 13 report in the Bulgarian daily newspaper 24 Casa, agents of the US Central Intelligence Agency intercepted a shipment of Bulgarian-made engine parts in Syria en route to Iraq. The shipment, which included transmission equipment and other parts for armored vehicles built by the state weapons factory Terem, was falsely declared to be civilian goods so as to avoid controls on military exports. Two Terem officials were fired earlier this month for "violations in foreign trade." There have been numerous other cases of Syrian arms smuggling to Iraq during the last few years.

Syria Makes UN Vote Unanimous

On November 8, Syria surprised many by voting in favor of a UN Security Council resolution which gives Iraq a "final opportunity" to surrender its weapons of mass destruction, states that false statements, omissions or non-cooperation would constitute a "material breach" of the Gulf War cease-fire, and warns Iraq of "serious consequences" to follow in this event. The US government views the resolution as providing a sufficient mandate for American military intervention in Iraq in the event that Baghdad does not fully cooperate with weapons inspectors. The approval of Syria, the only Arab state represented on the security council, may facilitate American efforts to persuade its reluctant allies in the Arab world to support the disarmament of Iraq.

Syria's deputy UN ambassador, Faysal Mekdad, said his government voted to approve the resolution after receiving assurances from Britain, France, Russia and the United States "that this resolution would not be used as a pretext to strike Iraq." It appears, however, that there was a quid pro quo. Less than a week later, US congressional leaders abandoned plans to submit the Syria Accountability Act to a vote in the House of Representatives this year on the grounds that it would disrupt the Bush administration's Iraq policy.


2002 Middle East Intelligence Bulletin. All rights reserved.
MEIB Main Page