A Secret Epistle Is Delivered from Assad
Saturday, July 23, when US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice stole away from the Israelis and Palestinians to spend a few hours in Beirut, she was visited by a special envoy from Syrian president Bashar Assad with a personal message.
Its contents, which have never been released, are revealed here by DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources.
Assad announced he had decided to take action against the officials of his regime who were providing the Iraqi guerrillas with logistic and intelligence aid. He would show Washington how serious he is in a few days’ time by firing his own presidential guard commander and confidant, Gen. Zu Alhema al-Saleesh, the main liaison man between the Iraqi Baathist leaders in Syria and the Syrian military and intelligence.
In Syria, purging an official entails purging a whole clan.
The al-Saleesh clan controls the lion’s share of the arms, explosives and money traffic moving from Syria to Iraq. The general’s brother Assef al-Saleesh heads the Al Bashair Trading Co. which in fact is the property of Assad’s own family and which has controlled the oil smuggling route from Iraq and the arms traffic into Iraq since 2001, a few months after Bashar Assad came to power.
The Bashair Trading Co. was really Saddam Hussein front for his sanctions-busting transactions and violations of the UN arms and oil embargo.
Although the debate over whether or not Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction has died down in America amid a consensus that he did not, there are factions in US intelligence who are convinced that Assef al-Saleesh was the key figure in the smuggling of chemical and biological weapons out of Iraq to Syria and that he hid the forbidden substances with the president’s full complicity.
The Bush administration is fully aware that the general’s brother also has many dealings with North Koreans, serving them in a similar capacity to which he acted for Saddam Hussein.
In his message to the US secretary, Assad also promised to fire very soon his powerful interior minister Ghazi Kenaan, whose assets in America the Bush administration recently impounded. To show he meant what he said, the Syrian president named two candidates for Kenaan’s job, Nawaf al-Fars, the governor of Quneitra on the Syrian Golan and Sacar Hirbeik, a senior interior ministry official. Assad’s letter implies that he would welcome Washington’s recommendation in making a choice between the two.
By Thursday night, July 28, there was not the slightest sign of the Syrian president making good on his assurance to Secretary Rice.