Exclusive: Damascus lines its borders with troops ahead of semi-boycotted Arab summit

debkafile: The Lebanon crisis and its divisive effect on the Arab world loom large over the annual conference opening in the Syrian capital March 29. The Syrian hosts, anxious to divert attention from Lebanon, focused on the Palestinian-Israeli issue and the violence in Gaza. Any resolutions will lack credibility given the absence of high-profile Arab rulers.
Yemen and Jordan sent junior representatives, following the lead of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Morocco and Oman. Lebanon boycotted the meeting in protest against Syrian “meddling” which has deprived the country of a president since November.
Iraqi PM Nouri al-Maliki was too busy with his offensive against fellow Shiites in Basra. But Baghdad sent its Shiite Arab vice president Adil Abdul-Mahdi.
Iran sent FM Manouchehr Mottaki after backing away from Syria’s original plan to invite its president.
Palestinian Authority chairman Mahmoud Abbas and UAE president are there along with the rulers of Algeria, Comoros, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Qatar, Sudan and Tunisia.
Syrian Foreign Minister Waled Mouallem accused the US of orchestrating the boycott in a bid to diminish Syria’s influence.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly reported Friday:
Syrian president Bashar Assad has inexplicably responded to the partial boycott of the Arab League “summit” by lining up army units on his borders with Iraq, Lebanon and Israel, as well as pushing contingents across the border into Lebanon proper.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s military sources report that a group of Syrian armored divisions has been posted along the Beirut-Damascus highway at Zabadani, under the command of the president’s younger brother, Maher Assad, commander of the presidential guard.
Last Monday, debkafile‘s military sources revealed that the bulk of Palestinian terrorist forces under Syrian and Iranian command had been shifted out of the Damascus area and sent into Lebanon too, taking up battle positions in the Beqaa Valley.
Another 10,000 Syrian troops have been positioned at Kurdish centers along the Iraqi border following last week’s riots in Qamishli on the Kurdish New Year, in which several Kurds were killed.
Syrian forward positions on the Israeli border have also been beefed up.
Finally, military patrols have been posted in all of Syria’s main cities kitted out for subduing riots.
This rush of military activity appears to denote the Assad regime’s extreme nervousness as host to reluctant Arab governments.
It also demonstrates that three years after being thrown out of Lebanon, Syrian forces are still going strong in the country, in the face of Security Council resolutions, the efforts of the United States and France and the extreme displeasure of Arab rulers, led by Saudi Arabia.
It is the main reason why the Damascus conference will be attended by the smallest number of Arab rulers in Arab League summit history. US Secretary of State Condoleezza will on hand in the Middle East during the conference, mainly to make sure that Mahmoud Abbas at the head of the Palestinian delegation does not stray from Washington’s line on peace talks with Israel.
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