By Friday night, Dec. 23, Western intelligence sources were attributing the twin suicide car attacks which claimed 53 lives and injured more than 100 outside the Syrian Security Directorate in Damascus earlier in the day to President Bashar Assad himself and his security chiefs. His motive? To keep the Arab League team, just arrived for an effort to start brokering peace in Syria, busy in Damascus instead of following its schedule and inspecting Homs where the bloody military crackdown continued during the day.
Those sources point out that no Syrian security or intelligence official was hurt by the explosions.
They also hinted at hidden collaboration between Assad's henchmen and the leader of the Arab League team, Sudanese Gen. Mohamed Ahmad Al-Dabi. They said the Syrian ruler had made his consent to receive the Arab League observers conditional on its being headed by the Sudanese general, a close confidant of President Omar Bashir and friend of Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers, including the Al Qods Brigades commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani.
According to this theory, rather than bowing to Arab League demands to accept observers, Assad in fact dictated terms to the bloc.
Earlier Friday, debkafile reported another theory to account for the first terrorist attack in Damascus since the Syrian people rose up agianst the Assad regime nine months ago.
The Sunni Muslim war on the Shiite-Allawite ruler of Syria and the Shiite-led regime of Iraq has gained deadly momentum in the last 48 hours, debkafile's military sources report. Friday, Dec. 23, two suicide bombers blew up cars loaded with explosives at the compound of the Syrian Security Directorate and military intelligence building in central Damascus, killing at least 53 military personnel and civilians, and injuring dozens more. It was the first such attack to take place in the Syrian capital in the 10-month uprising against Bashar Assad and struck at the heart of his regime.
In Baghdad, Thursday, more than 70 people died and at least 200 were badly hurt by a series of roadside bombs, an exploding ambulance and sticky bombs. Most were directed against Shiite targets.
Since Assad and the Iraqi Prime Minister Nour al-Maliki share the same backer, Tehran, the spate of terror which erupted this week was not just a trigger for civil war in both their countries but signaled a new and violent round in the Sunni-Shiite struggle for control of the Middle East.
Standing to one side are Iran, the Damascus and Baghdad rulers, Hizballah and the Palestinian extremist Hamas and Jihad Islami. Ranged against them are the Muslim Brotherhood and elements or associates of al Qaeda. They are backed with arms, funds, training and fighting strength by several Sunni Arab regimes, chiefly Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Qatar, Jordan and Libya.
Our counter-terror sources report an expanding flow of extremist Sunni infiltrators from Iraq into Syria and Lebanon. Not all are al Qaeda, as Assad claims. Some belong to the "Awakening Councils" which have evolved into the Iraqi Sunni tribal community's principal military arm. They were originally set up by Gen. David Petraeus, presently CIA Director, to fight al Qaeda. With US funding, training and commanders, these Sunni tribal fighters were successful from 2006 to 2008 in beating al Qaeda into the ground.
But the final US military departure from Iraq this week left the Awakening Council fighters high and dry by. Prime Minister al-Maliki, who takes his orders from Tehran, refused to honor the contract to pay their wages and their families are destitute.
As a result, many Iraqi Sunni fighting men decided to join up with al Qaeda. Their pursuit of a source of arms and a livelihood is taking them across borders into Syria and Lebanon where they join the ranks of anti-Assad Sunni militias, including the Free Syrian Army.
Seasoned in the ways of violence, they were fully competent to carry out the deadly terrorist attacks in Baghdad and Damascus. More such outrages are certain to come, adding a whole new dimension to the popular campaign to unseat Bashar Assad as well as post-war Iraq.