Syria, Iraq recall ambassadors in falling-out over Damascus’ terror haven

Damascus has turned aside a demand from Baghdad to extradite two Iraqi Baathist leaders (Saddam Hussein’s party) believed to have orchestrated from their base in eastern Syria the deadly coordinated bombing attacks which rocked the Iraqi capital on Aug. 19, killing 100 people and leaving more than 1,000 injured. This is reported by debkafile‘s intelligence and counter-terror sources.
The Iraqi security authorities named Mohammad Younis al-Ahmed, head of the Baath party’s military arm based in Damascus and his operations officer Sattam Farhan.
The demand followed broadcast confessions by detainees held in Iraq on suspicion of taking part in the atrocity. They named the two Syrian-based chiefs as having ordered the bombing attacks and providing the explosives.
The Assad regime responded to the Iraqi demand by recalling its ambassador from Baghdad. Iraqi reciprocated by summoning his ambassador home from Damascus.
DEBKA file reports that this row is highly relevant to the Obama administration’s ambition to improve relations with Damascus.
On Aug. 13, a high-ranking US delegation headed by Fred Hoff, head of the Mitchell group’s Syrian desk and Gen. Michael Moeller of the US Central Command arrived in Damascus. They were there to find out if president Bashar Assad was ready to put a stop the flow of terrorists and weapons from his country into Iraq and the smuggling of Iranian arms to the Hizballah in Lebanon? That willingness is perceived in Washington as the litmus test for a possible rapprochement. But almost two weeks have gone by and Assad has still not answer those questions.
A few days later, on Aug. 18, prime minister Nouri al-Maliki went to Damascus with the same query. He told the Americans that Iraq was a sovereign state and their intercession on its security problems was unnecessary. This time Assad flatly denied that Syria was permitting Iraqi Baath terrorists to operate from its soil. The following day, Baghdad suffered one of the worst terrorist attacks in his history. Maliki was thus treated to a test of his neighbor’s two-faced attitude on terrorists. While promising to fight terrorists, Assad gives them free rein to operate undisturbed from bases in his country.

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