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June 3, 2007

The Syrian-Jihadi 'Highway' In Lebanon

Syria%20lebanon.jpgProfessor Walid Phares is the author of the recently released book, The War of Ideas: Jihadism against Democracies, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a visiting scholar at the European Foundation for Democracy. In his fascinating (to those who have been following Syria's virtual control and interference in Lebanon) article at World Defense Review yesterday, he addresses a ""curious "debate"" that he suggests is growing rapidly among a number of Western-based analysts about the "impossibility" of the existence of Syrian Jihadi-Salafist links, and goes so far as to suggest some analysts have gone to the extent of describing the existence of links between the Syrian Mukhabarat and the group Fatah al Islam operating in North Lebanon as "hazy." As Damascus continues to deploy extensive efforts to deny "any link whatsoever" with Fatah al Islam, in fact, nothing could be further from the truth:

[...] Intelligence and Counterterrorism experts are familiar with the weapon known as "intox" from the root word intoxication. It is a form of deception used by powers throughout history and developed as a special skill by the Soviet KGB during the Cold war. Later on various Jihadi networks, both Iranian and Salafist, have improved this method via the use of Khid'a (deception) and the historically rooted concept of Taqiya (dissimulation tactic).

The bottom line is that regimes and organizations, Islamist and ultra-nationalists (i.e. not sanctioned by domestic checks and balances) can use all deceptions possible and don't have to be transparent. In the War on Terror or the Terror War against Democracies, do not expect -- naively -- these radicals to tell you the real story. Hence do not expect either the Syrian regime to declare that it is supporting Fatah al Islam at this point, or expect the latter to declare that they are coordinating with Damascus as they are announcing they have pledged to al Qaeda. Reading short of this complex reality would only mean that you have been the victim of "intox," the enemy's Khid'a at its best.

[...] Once more, the unseen tie between the Assad regime and the Terrorist Jihadi groups is in the center of international and US scrutiny. The Iraq debate in 2002-2003 fell short of reading the type of "links" that existed between the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Most observers missed the actual state of those relationships that existed. From my reading of 42 pages of Iraqi intelligence (in Arabic) from the 1992-1994 years, I saw clearly how both sides were exploring the potentials. From my previous observation of Saddam's symbolic metamorphosis in the 1990s towards a higher use of Islamist symbols I understood that he wanted to have this dimension at his disposal, without changing his regime's doctrine deeply.

It was the level of darura again. But in Assad's case, the darura is high: The regime depends on arming Jihadists (even if they could sting you later) and sending them off to Iraq , and now to Lebanon.

The Salafi Jihadists are like a dangerous chemical weapon that you'd want to throw on your foe while knowing it can come back at you. But guess what? It is more important for the Assad regime to crumble the Seniora Government now and crush future Salafi backfiring later. The Syrian intelligence is expert at eliminating their past tools, even if they were Syrians as well.

What the expert community in the West and in the US must do is to see beyond the analytical "intoxication" unleashed by the regimes and organizations in the region, and expanded by their advocates in the West. Just keep in mind that the Iranian-Syrian axis is spending millions of dollars on one of the most sophisticated PR campaigns aiming at blurring the vision of their foes.

If you investigate thoroughly the grapevines, you'd be able to find out that most of the "arguments" made in our public space about the types of relationships that "can" exist, and those that "shouldn't," are manufactured in Tehran and Damascus. Subconsciously or not, many in the West parrot the claims made by Middle East dictatorships, Jihadi strategists and al Jazeera commentators, unfortunately weakening democracies' stand in the War of Ideas.

... the ultimate strategic goal of the (our jihadist) enemies is to force the West to see wrongly and act accordingly. In the case of Fatah al Islam's battling in Tripoli, the aim of the Syro-Iranian propagandists is to camouflage what is obvious for as long and thick as they can: That the Syrian regime not only has established ties to some Jihadist groups, but has in fact paved a "highway" in their direction, with the goal of using them as one of the defense lines for the regime. Hence, it is up to the public and the policy makers in the West to thrust through the deceptive "intoxication" tactic by Damascus and Tehran, to see clearer, and only then, to act accordingly. [More ...]

Clearly, what Western analysts and political leaders need to drum into their thick heads is that the Syrian "war room," is much like that of the Iranians; it continues to engage itself in an alley of tactical moves it feels it can control. In doing so, the Syrians are acting much in concert with and/or encouraged by, Iranian behaviors described by Phares back in March of this year: Acting upon a master plan to wait out the remainder of Tony Blair's mandate and the remaining "real time" of President Bush (till about the end of 2007). As with the thinking process in Tehran, based on their Western consultants, the Syrians also likely believe that Washington and London have reached the end of the rope and will only have till 2008 to do something major to destabilize Ahmedinijads regime, and address the problem of Syria as well:

(As was explained by a notorious propagandist on al Jazeera), the move is precisely to respond to the Anglo-American attempt to "stir trouble" inside Iran. Anis Naccash, a Lebanese intellectual supporter of the Ayatollahs regime, appear(ed) from Tehran (a) few hours ago on the Qatari-based satellite and "explained" that the "US and the UK must understand that Iran is as much at war with these two powers in as much as they support the rise of movements and security instability inside Iran." He added that Khamenei is clear on the regime's decision to strike: "we will be at war with you on all levels: secret, diplomatic, military and other." Pro-Iranian propagandists in the region, via media and online rushed to warn that this movement is part of Iran's counter-strike against any attempt to destabilize the regime. Two major tracks emerge from these statements, the Iranian military maneuvers and the capture of British Navy personnel.
In other words, we can expect similar actions by Syria to control a continued destabilization of Lebanon, using Hezbollah, Fatah al Islam, and other Syrian "tools" of deception and interference in Lebanon - all part of the "Khid'a (deception) and the historically rooted concept of Taqiya (dissimulation tactic)" described by Phares in today's article at World Defense Review.

lebanon_232_030607.jpgRelated: June 3rd update on Lebanon fighting - Fierce fighting engulfs Lebanon camp:

Lebanese troops unleashed artillery and tank barrages at al Qaeda-inspired militants dug-in at a Palestinian refugee camp before fighting eased for the first time in three days. ... The troops, who began a military assault to crush the militants on Friday, had seized and destroyed several positions of the Falah al-Islam group at the entrances of Nahr al-Bared and were tightening their grip on them. ... Security sources said militants, who have vowed to fight to the death, were putting up stiff resistance despite more than two days of near constant pounding from army artillery, tanks and gunships.

Posted by Richard at June 3, 2007 9:48 AM

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