Syria On the Boil

(Jerusalem Report) Ehud Ya'ari - Under the somewhat immature leadership of Dr. Bashar Assad, with his starry-eyed ideological convictions, Syria has almost turned into Saddam’s client. The fratricidal tradition of the Baath factions in Baghdad and Damascus has given way over the past two years to a commercial bliss, based on the smuggling of large quantities of Iraqi oil to the Mediterranean, far out of range of the supervisory apparatus of the UN’s oil-for-food program. The officers and bureaucrats of Syria know that they have the deals with Saddam to thank for their latest pay raises. Young Assad remains the last of Iraq’s immediate neighbors willing to help Iraq, by transferring military equipment to and from Baghdad, by taking in Iraq’s looted archaeological treasures for safe-keeping, and even by giving travel permits to Abu Musa’ab al-Zarqawi, an al Qaeda officer who makes regular journeys from his hideout in Iraq to Syria and to his men in the Ein el-Hilweh Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon. Zarqawi, a Jordanian whose real name is Fadel Nizar Khalailah, is the clearest link between Saddam Hussein and Osama Bin Laden.

2003-01-17 00:00:00

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