The Syrian regime is just as complicit as Iran in moving forward hostile activities specifically designed to kill Americans. The evidence is there and widely acknowledged by those in the know, but U.S. political and military leadership have proved hesitant to publicly pursue a tandem case against both Iran and Syria, despite the very prominent linkages that exist between the two in fermenting a wide spectrum of terror operations targeting U.S. forces.
The recent implication of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard Qods Force in facilitating the movement of deadly weapons and “super” IEDs specially designed to inflict maximum casualties and penetrate armor speaks to only one half of the real story.
Regional intelligence services and inside sources from within Sunni officer corps opposed to the Assad regime have identified major foreign-fighter training camps in northern Syria and just outside Damascus overseen by Syrian Military Intelligence and run by former Iraqi Ba’athi Generals and senior Saddam Fedayeen commanders.
One major foreign fighter camp exists in the Latakia province in northern Syria, a mountainous area replete with Syrian Military Intelligence facilities and wide swaths of ostensibly government property closed to the public. The Iraqi officer in charge there is one Maj. Gen. Majid Sulayman. Yet another such camp exists 40 kilometers to the west of the border town of Qamishli, which lies in the Kurdish area in the northeastern tip of Syria bordering Iraq and Turkey; it is run by Maj. Gen. Qays al-Adhami. The al-Shaybani camp lies 30 kilometers south of Damascus and also trains foreign fighters. The al-Ikhals camp lies in the heart of the Qaysun mountain range near Damascus.
The al Qaeda connection is not that far removed. Arab papers report that the recent movement of large numbers of al Qaeda in Iraq fighters from Syria into Palestinian refugee camps in northern Lebanon and Beirut are sounding alarm bells that the Syrian security services are preparing to use these heavily armed and visibly well-funded cells to launch attacks against the anti-Syrian democratic government of Lebanon.
These cells are directed by Syrian extremists such as Shakir Absi, Abu Qa Qa, Sheikh Hashem Minqara and Abu-Khalid Imlah, who have historical ties with Syrian intelligence; all were formerly imprisoned in special detention centers run by the Political Security Directorate and then suddenly released by the good graces of Syrian security around the same time in 2005. Absi and Imlah maintain the strongest ties to Syrian intelligence. Absi — a former officer in the Syrian air force — and Imlah — the former head of SMI — supported Fatah al-Intifadah — who later created his own Fatah al-Islam offshoot.
What’s more, European security services are warning that senior al Qaeda leadership figures Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi and Atiyah Abdul-Rahman have tasked al Qaeda assets in the Levant to prepare for major international operations targeting Western Europe and even the U.S homeland. Operational planning is said to be progressing with potential targets already cased out. And these are just the Sunni extremists that the Syrians support.
Mr. Chizari, one of the major IRGC commanders netted by Coalition Forces in December, was present in Damascus a month prior to his capture where he was meeting with senior Syrian leadership and the Lebanese Hezbollah officials in charge of a specially designated “Force 2800” which focuses on supporting fellow radical Shi’ite groups like the ones responsible for the recent kidnapping and execution of four U.S. soldiers in Karbala.
Mr. Chizari is the deputy for Iraq operations to Brig. Gen. Qasim Soleimani, who in turn heads Qods Force external operations and is strategic guide to IRGC activities in the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan. The super IEDs, also known as explosive formed penetrators, would never have proliferated so widely in Iraq had it not been for the work of IRGC officials like Gen. Soleimani and Mr. Chizari. Gen. Soleimani’s other right-hand man, Ja’afar al-Ibrahimi, aka Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, also attended these meetings. Muhandis is a senior Badr Brigade operator with close ties to Hezbollah and a central node to the IRGC supply network to anti-U.S. Shi’ite militias in Iraq. Mr. Muhandis was also recently identified by the United States as being behind the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Kuwait in the early 1980s as well.
The Syrian-Iranian regime terror connection is further underscored by Gen. Soleimani’s participation in high-level discussions on a monthly basis with Syrian leadership, including Assad’s brother and brother-in law.
Imad Mugniyeh, the infamous Hezbollah special operations super-terrorist who still retains a $5 million bounty on his head — placed by the FBI due to his role in planning the Marine barrack and embassy bombings in Beirut in 1982 — is also said to attend these meetings. Sources say that Mugniyeh was designated by Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah as the head of Force 2800.
The case is apparent and it goes beyond the circumstantial. The Syrian regime is not merely dabbling in terror sponsorship in an ad hoc manner. This is a concerted and strategic effort designed to inflict the maximum punishment upon the United States and its allies, not just in the region but across the globe.
The full scope and depth of regime involvement in enabling acts of self-sustaining terror might never be known. But enough indicators have subsequently arisen within the shadow of Iran’s own pernicious designs against the United States and struggling democratic allies in the Arab world, to realize that, left unchecked, we might find ourselves suddenly overwhelmed and outflanked by an enemy that, for the sake of expediency, was ignored.
Farid N. Ghadry is president of the Reform Party of Syria.