Monday, September 24, 2007

The Road to Damascus

The Syrians may be shifting their support to non-jihadis in Iraq:

Anyway, given that Syria is suicidally pursuing WMDs, why has the flow of foreign suicide bombers from that country been on the decline? Here is one possibility from the article:

A National Intelligence Estimate last month attributed an apparent crackdown in Syria to that government's concern about the threat al-Qaeda posed to its own stability. The NIE also assessed that Syria had stepped up its support to non-al-Qaeda groups to bolster their influence -- and that of Damascus -- in Iraq. Several Iraqi Sunni extremist groups opposed to the United States and al-Qaeda in Iraq are present in Damascus.

I found that NIE here, and sure enough, it says:

Syria has cracked down on some Sunni extremist groups attempting to infiltrate fighters into Iraq through Syria because of threats they pose to Syrian stability, but the IC now assesses that Damascus is providing support to non-AQI groups inside Iraq in a bid to increase Syrian influence.

I guess all three stories make sense when considered in light of this. As with the Sunnis in Iraq, the Syrians seem to have turned against al Qaeda as well. Not because they favor stability in Iraq but because they, like the Sunnis of the Anbar Province, have come to appreciate the fact that al Qaeda is not good for them.

I had noticed the reports of recent declines in border crossings from Syria. I didn't know whether this was a result of our success in Iraq or just a Syrian decision to lay low for a bit. Was Syria distancing themselves from Iran, I wondered? Although I didn't blog about this news, I noted that Syria could experience blowback from their support for jihadis.

I also noted that our success with the tribes in Anbar should put a serious crimp in jihadi supply lines running from Syria to Baghdad.

So I don't know if the decline is the result of a Syrian decision to halt this flow. It could just be the practical difficulty of sending jihadis across Anbar (which is more difficult to traverse because of the Anbar Awakening) to the Baghdad region (where our operations have seriously degraded the ability of the enemy to receive jihadis for suicide bombings).

More illuminating would be to know if the jihadis are still flowing into Damascus. If they are not, this slowing of jihadis crossing into Iraq could be a Syrian decision to slow the flow. If the jihadis are still arriving, they could simply be stuck, reflecting the difficulty of movement and reception.

Even the report that the Syrians are supporting non-jihadi killers in Iraq and cracking down on jihadis inside Syria doesn't necessarily answer the question. Syria might simply want to put the jihadis back on a leash ready to send forth into Iraq at Syria's discretion.

Or Syria might be supporting non-jihadis as a backup plan to supporting the losing jihadis.

The Syrians had best hope that the stuck/restrained jihadis don't conclude that an Alawite regime ruling a Sunni majority is just as worthy of jihad as a Shia/Kurd government ruling a Sunni minority.

The road to peace doesn't go through Damascus. But the jihad road could go that way.