US Close to Military Action against Syria and other Iraqi Targets in Syria
Busy Baghdad Highway to Damascus
Day 26 of Iraq War - April 13, 2003
Round about noon on Sunday, April 13, US commanders realized that, while they were preoccupied with the civic needs of Baghdad, they were missing the biggest spectacle of the war the 2003 Exodus from Iraq. Members of Saddams regime in their thousands were pouring out of Baghdad and Saddams last strongholds of Tikrit, Samarra and al Ramadi and heading for the Syrian frontier and Damascus. DEBKAfiles intelligence and military sources report that Syrian military intelligence teams waited on the other side of the border, sorting the fugitives into groups and moving them on. Most high officials and officers were directed to Damascus and the Mediterranean towns of Latakia or Tartous.
US special forces sped to the Syrian border exits to try and stem the outflow, a mission well nigh impossible, given the winding, porous 500-km frontier populated by Arab nomadic tribes who make their living by smuggling people, arms, oil and contraband back and forth. A few of the escapees were nabbed but most crossed to safety. Our sources quote witnesses who saw a long line of black armor-plated limousines with Iraqi number plates driving into Damascuss Al Maze and other military airports in Syria. They could not tell if the limousines were collecting Iraqis coming in by plane or delivering top Saddam officials to special flights leaving Syria.
The safe and assisted passage of thousands of Saddams top men into Syria evoked yet another stern warning from President George W. Bush in Washington Sunday, April 13. The Syrians must stop harboring Baathists and other Iraqis to be brought to account, he said and leveled another grave charge against Damascus: We believe there are chemical weapons in Syria, he said.
The presidents denunciations topped the cautions issued by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld and secretary of state Colin Powell earlier in the day. Rumsfeld: We found a lot of fighters from Syria, a lot got killed last night. If Saddam Hussein turns out to be in Syria, he said: Syria will have made the worst of a whole lot of bad mistakes. Powell advised Syria to stop supporting terrorists.
It will be recalled that DEBKAfile was first to reveal that Syria had granted asylum to senior Iraqi officials and provided them with the facilities to conduct the war from outside Iraq.
The catalogue of serious Syrian offences thrown out by Bush and his team in less than one day reads ominously like a final warning to President Bashar Assad.
Even this catalogue was not comprehensive. It is worth noting that the US president did not say Syria has chemical weapons, but We believe there are chemical weapons in Syria. He did not say they were Syrias weapons. According to a DEBKAfile senior in the US administration, Assad, in addition to rescuing Saddam and his minions, is working with a will to de-legitimize the American war in Iraq and make sure it can never be justified. He is trying to achieve this by placing Iraqs entire chemical and biological weapons arsenal in a safe repository, also placing the scientists and officials employed on Iraqs unconventional weapons programs out of reach in hidden locations. In this clandestine operation he was almost certainly assisted by Russian and French intelligence services, who share Assads ambition to deny the United States any proof that its war on Iraq was just.
No seasoned observer in the region would be in the least surprised to see American military action launched shortly against Iraqi and other targets in Syria or even Lebanon.
Syrian foreign minister Sharah: If US attacks Syria, Israel will also get hurt.