Monarch Wary of Assad’s Promised Red Carpet

Two Abdullahs got together in Riyadh last week. The Jordanian monarch put his head together with that of the Saudi crown prince in a private powwow to clear some ground before his forthcoming visit to Damascus.

DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s Middle East sources have got the details of their exchange.

First of all, Abdullah of Jordan asked his Saudi namesake to use his influence to lessen Syrian-Jordanian tensions before he goes to Damascus to meet Syrian president Bashar Assad.

That tension centers on five points.

  1. Syrian military intelligence, with Assad’s approval, continues to send terrorists into Jordan through the Yarmouk River.

  2. Assad’s direct involvement in the war against America in Iraq.

  3. Musab al Zarqawi, a Jordanian citizen who is thought to be one of al-Qaeda’s key agents (the Turks recently said that they believe Zarqawi masterminded the attacks on Jewish synagogues and British buildings in Istanbul in mid-November) moves freely in and out of the Syrian capital. King Abdullah complained that he had information that Zarqawi, in the past six weeks, had visited Damascus a few times to talk to other al-Qaeda people.

  4. The Syrians are obstructing progress on the construction of a Jordanian-Syrian dam on the Yarmouk.

  5. King Abdullah told the Saudi crown prince that, according to information he had got from American intelligence, General Baihat Suleiman, the head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon, told a US agent that if the Syrian army completed its withdrawal from Lebanon, it would create a vacuum in which nobody would be left to rein in the Hizballah. King Abdullah offered as his opinion to the Americans that this was nothing more than an excuse for the Syrians not to get out of Lebanon.

King Abdullah is reported by DEBKA-Net-Weekly sources as assuring the Saudi ruler that he would prefer not to take extreme action against Syria in the same way as his late father, King Hussein, once did. But if Bashar Assad continues in his present policies, he may be pushed to. In the 1970s and 1980s, King Hussein, sent Jordanian agents and activists of Jordan’s Muslim Brothers, to stir up trouble among the Druze of the Horan region of Syria. King Abdullah said, “I’m not going to play the same game as my father played unless I am forced to.”

Damascus takes note and responds

Within days of Jordanian King Abdullah’s talks in Riyadh, the Syrians – who received a report of his discussions – launched a charm campaign toward Amman. DEBKA-Net-Weekly’s sources report that, as a first step, the Syrian media stopped all its attacks on the Jordanian monarch. Since early this week, Syrian emissaries, mainly businessmen and academics with ties to Jordanians, have been arriving in the kingdom bearing promises of a red-carpet welcome for when the Jordanian king decides to visit Damascus.

Our sources say the king is not biting. He told the Syrians he wanted to send his prime minister, Faisal Al Fayez, to Damascus first as an advance guard to test the waters there.

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