President Barack Obama has suspended all diplomatic efforts, at all levels, to improve US-Syrian relations in response to evidence that the Iraqi Baathist and Al Qaeda perpetrators of the August 19 car and suicide bomb outrage which killed 95 people and injured a thousand were trained, armed and given sanctuary in Syria.
According to DEBKA-Net-Weekly sources in Washington and Beirut, Presidential Middle East envoy George Mitchell's staff has discontinued contacts with offices of the Syrian president and foreign minister, shelved plans to post a US ambassador to Damascus and withdrawn flexible treatment in the approval of Syrian import and export licenses.
All these moves have been ordered classified by the White House in order to leave Washington the initiative for reversing them at some time in the future. For now, the Obama administration was bound to show disfavor toward Syrian president Bashar Assad once Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki made Syrian complicity in anti-Iraq terrorist attacks public.
To show he is not intimidated, Assad hit back, according to our Beirut sources, in Lebanon by putting on ice his efforts to facilitate the establishment of a Lebanese national unity government that was to include Hizballah.
Taking advantage of the blanket of secrecy, US national security adviser James Jones boasted Monday, Aug. 31 of the Obama administration's success in fighting terrorist compared with the Bush administration.
He spoke in a week in which Afghanistan's deputy security chief was assassinated and an al Qaeda suicide bomber came close to assassinating a senior Saudi prince.
Our counter-terrorism sources note that, in fact, Obama's pro-dialogue approach has actually encouraged Syria to believe it will not be punished for allowing terrorists to using its territory for attacking other countries.
Why did Obama allow a senior al-Qaeda commander into Syria?
For instance, Washington tacitly permitted Pakistan to export a high-profile al Qaeda operations executive and ideologue, Sheikh Issa al-Masri, from Waziristan to Damascus via Iran, to take charge of al Qaeda's Iraqi networks based in Syria.
This decision is incomprehensible to the counter-terrorism agencies battling al-Qaeda in the Middle East.
American intelligence officers whispered behind closed doors that US objections would have derailed Washington's Syria strategy which was vitally important to American interests. But some officers told DEBKA-Net-Weekly's sources that President Assad argued convincingly that he wanted Sheikh Issa in Damascus in order to keep an eye on him. He offered assurances that the sheikh would not continue to engage in terror.
However, the very opposite occurred. Since Issa arrived in Syria two months ago, he has been busy reorganizing al Qaeda networks in Iraq, resuscitating the dread “Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia” and rededicating it to subverting the Iraqi government in Baghdad – all under the protection of the Syrian Mughabarat (covert security agency).
US intelligence sources hold him responsible for orchestrating the most devastating terrorist attacks in Iraq including the August 19 Baghdad massacre since he arrived in Damascus,
He has been ably assisted by the shadowy “Abu Khalaf“, the live wire behind the streamlining of al-Qaeda's Iraq organization in eastern Syria. Born Sa'ad Uwayyid 'Ubayd Mu'jil al Shamari, Abu Khalaf was designated a global terrorist by the US Treasury in Oct. 2008. His main areas of responsibility today are the recruitment of foreign fighters, sending them across the border into Iraq for attacks and funding operations.
Both enjoy full freedom of action in Damascus.