October 20, 2005


Does Iraq arrest signal Syrian turnabout?: Captured insurgent backer was deported by Syria. (Dan Murphy and Rhonda Roumani, 10/21/05, NY Times)

Yasser Sabawi al-Tikriti's appearance at a rally demanding the release of Saddam Hussein in the former dictator's home town Tuesday, turned into a costly mistake that Iraqi officials quickly seized on.

"Basically he was found, and caught red-handed giving money to the demonstrators, who he was trying to incite to violence,'' says Mowaffak al-Rubaie, Iraq's national security adviser. "We believe he was a major fundraiser and a major supporter of the terrorists."

But there are indications that help in Mr. Sabawi's arrest came from an unexpected corner: Syria. [...]

[M]r. Assad's Syria, a secular regime that is confronted by Islamist militants, has been taking steps to relieve the pressure from the US. It also worries that fighters radicalized in Iraq could return home and cause trouble for the regime.

"In the last few months, Syria has been cracking down on Islamic insurgents and is trying to open up an intelligence dialogue with the US and show that they are cooperating,'' says Josh Landis, a history professor at the University of Oklahoma who runs the influential Syriacomment blog and currently lives in Damascus.

Mr. Landis says he doesn't know what aid, if any, Syria provided in apprehending Yasser Sabawi, but said it fits a recent pattern. "This [arrest] is Syria's way of saying that we're ready for a deal - of course, a backdoor deal.... They are not ready for public humiliation. They don't want to be completely humiliated in front of an international audience. And the US doesn't want to hear this kind of yes. The US is insisting that Syria [make] a clear break with the past."

Break or be broken.

Posted by Orrin Judd at October 20, 2005 7:50 PM

It sounds to me more like:

Here's a concession - now leave us alone.

Posted by: obc at October 20, 2005 11:38 PM

What's Mrs. Bush's thinking on Syria, I wonder?

Posted by: tefta at October 21, 2005 2:30 PM

Seems unlikely to favor Assad

Posted by: oj at October 21, 2005 3:52 PM

Smart lady.

Posted by: tefta at October 21, 2005 5:15 PM
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