US 101st Tackles Arab Tribes Helping Guerrillas Reach Iraq from Syria

mg class=”picture” src=”/dynmedia/pictures/ThumbWestNorthIraq.jpg” align=”right” border=”0″> Syrian Vice President Khalim Haddam Saturday, September 20, dismissed any suggestion of Damascus bowing to pressure from Washington – or being scared by economic sanctions. American threats are futile, he said. Syria does little business with the US; its main trading partners are European. The Syrian leader was responding to US demands for a halt to the passage of terrorists and Islamic fighters pouring into Iraq and an end to Syrian-based terrorist activity.
To subscribe to DEBKA-Net-Weekly click HERE.
One of top anti-US officials left in place in the latest government reshuffle in Damascus, Haddam made this speech while preparing to receive a delegation of angry Arab-Sunni tribal leaders from the Syrian-Iraq borderlands. The purpose of that meeting was kept secret because its exposure would have belied Haddam’s declaration.
Whatever the Syrian leader may say to the contrary, there are two main issues preying on the minds of his government: One is the quiet US military action to shut down the tribal umbrella protecting smuggled anti-US fighting elements streaming across the porous Syrian-Iraqi border; the other is Washington’s refusal to re-activate the Kirkuk-Syrian oil pipeline which in Saddam Hussein’s day netted the Syrian exchequer a cool one billion dollars a year.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly (September 19) first revealed that troops of the US 101st Airborne Division had embarked on a cleansing operation against the Arab nomadic tribes ranging through the Iraqi-Syrian and Iraqi-Saudi border regions, who abet and shield the influx of fighters from Syria.
The operation began after US secretary of defense Donald Rumsfeld wound up his Baghdad visit on September 14. This week, the sheikhs sent a delegation post haste to Damascus to demand that Bashar Assad obtain the immediate release of the paramount chief of the Anaza, Sheikh Ibrahim Hanjari, who was captured by 101st troops with his entire court.
In his encampment, the troops discovered a large arsenal of weapons, ammunition, landmines, rocket-propelled grenades and explosives, packed ready for shipment into Iraq, as well as dozens of Saudi suitcases crammed with millions of dollars. In one hideout, US troops turned up $1.6 million in $100 bills. Eighty Saudi fighters, along with 48 armed Syrians, Yemenis, Egyptians, Pakistanis, Sudanese and Palestinians, were rounded up, together with documents and mail proving that the Anaza – from chiefs down to the lowliest Bedouin – run the pipeline smuggling Arab and Al Qaeda fighters of various nationalities through Syria into Iraq.
Since the Saudi royal family traces its origins to the Anaza, the US action has touched an extremely sensitive regional chord that may well provoke broad guerrilla action and reprisals in the form of the abductions of American personnel to obtain the sheikh’s release.
On the other hand, such kidnappings are already threatened by Iraqi guerrilla forces and their allies. Furthermore, the US authorities were shocked into action when they realized the scale of the incoming traffic in the last few weeks, estimated now in tens of thousands.
From Saudi Arabia alone, US intelligence has put together a list of 15,000 armed Wahhabist fundamentalists with military training and al Qaeda terrorists, who are either in Iraq or on their way there to join the campaign against the Americans.
As they were gathered, the names were forwarded to Riyadh with a request to detain potential guerrillas and terrorists or otherwise prevent them from reaching the Iraqi border.
The Saudis have so far made no response, according to DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s sources in the Gulf.
US troops also came up with evidence that Syrian President Bashar Assad had not acted in good faith when he promised Washington to direct the three Syrian divisions deployed along the Iraqi frontier to block the outflow of men and arms. Instead, he ordered them to afford every assistance to Hanjani’s men in speeding the traffic on its way.
In view of these discoveries, 101st Airborne troops have broadened their area of operation in western Iraq to include the Iraqi city of Anah on the banks of the Euphratest River between the Syrian border city of Abu Kamal, and the key Iraqi city of al Hadithah. After Anah was placed under curfew for house-to-house searches, the town was found to be the Anaza’s primary base and hideout for intruders. Anti-American gunmen and smuggled weapons were turned up in hiding places around the city, in the dense undergrowth lining both banks of the Euphrates and in other places in the al-Qaim region. The operation is still under way and is destined to move south to al Hadithah.
As for the threat of sanctions, the Syria Accountability Act and Lebanon Sovereignty Restoration Act – if enacted by the US Congress – could impose a virtual trade embargo on Syria. However, no legislation is necessary for the most painful measure already in motion. The American civil administration in Baghdad is withholding instructions to reactivate the Kirkuk-Banias oil pipeline which before the war carried 300,000 barrels a day of Saddam Hussein’s smuggled oil exports to Syria’s Mediterranean terminal, earning Syria $1bn per annum.
Last April, the Americans severed the pipeline when at a high point in the war they caught Assad opening the door wide for Arab fighters, including Palestinian and Hizballah terrorists, to cross over and fight alongside Saddam Hussein’s army.
In recent weeks, attempts to revive Iraqi oil exports through the main Kirkuk pipeline to Turkey have been frustrated by sabotage attacks every few days. debkafile‘s sources report that, while disregarding the American grievances against him, the Syrian president has been bombarding Washington with demands to restore the flow of oil through the Syrian pipeline under joint American-Syrian military protection.
So pressing is this issue, that Assad appealed to Tehran for help. At his invitation, the Iranian foreign minister Kamal Kharrazi arrived in Damascus on September 8. According to debkafile‘s Middle East sources, the Syrian ruler made no mention of the pipeline. Instead, he complained bitterly about the embarrassments caused him by the way Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers in Damascus and based in Lebanon flaunt their relations with Palestinian and other Arab terrorist elements from his turf.
He cited the case of the Palestinian suicide attack at Neve Afek north of Tel Aviv on August 12 that led Israeli intelligence to uncover an Iranian Revolutionary Guards money pipeline to Palestinian al Aqsa Suicide Brigades cells in the West Bank town of Nablus.
debkafile‘s counter-terror sources reveal that, in the wake of that suicide attack, Israel Israeli caught an al Aqsa operative called Osman Younes, who takes his orders from Col. Tawfiq Tirawi. The captive revealed under interrogation that Tirawi’s men were drawing wages from two sources, Yasser Arafat and Iranian Revolutionary Guards bank accounts in Beirut and Damascus.
Assad counted on Tehran being sympathetic to his complaint. He would then have been able to demonstrate to the Americans his success in cutting off Iranian ties and feed-lines to Palestinian terrorists. In return for this service, Washington would have revived the flow of Kirkuk oil to the Banias terminal. But he miscalculated. Tehran shows no sign of lowering the profile of its collaboration with Palestinian terrorists in Syria and Lebanon.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email