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May 26, 2005
Syrian Operative Captured In Iraq?

The Daily Star in Lebanon reports that Iraqi security forces have captured a Syrian intelligence officer, one who staged a June 2003 attack on a television station owned by the late Rafik Hariri as a warning to get out of politics. The agent, Hussein Ahmed Tah, was captured in Baghdad attempting to bomb public facilities there as part of the so-called insurgency. If true, it may significantly shift Middle Eastern politics and strategy:

A Syrian intelligence officer detained in Baghdad has admitted to launching the missile attack on the late premier Rafik Hariri's Future Television in June 2003, according to Al-Rai al-Aam Kuwaiti newspaper. In an article published on Wednesday, the newspaper said Hussein Ahmad Tah, 32, was arrested by Iraqi police when he was attempting to assassinate employees in an Iraqi public institution. Following his arrest, Tah decided to admit to his previous crimes, among which is the Future TV bombing.

Tah said he worked for Syrian intelligence services, adding that he worked for a long time in Lebanon where he perpetrated several attacks. He then moved to Iraq, where he committed several attacks against mosques and Iraqi civilians. Security sources in Iraq said that Tah recounted the details of the attack on Future TV. The television station, situated near Raouche in Beirut, was attacked on June 15, 2003, resulting in the destruction of one of the newsrooms. No casualties were reported. The attack was considered as a message to then-owner of the station, former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri. Sources said the car used to perpetrate the crime was stolen in 1997 and hidden in a garage until the date of the attack. A previously unknown group called Jamaat Ansar Allah had held itself responsible for the attack in a statement issued the next day. However, Tah told Iraqi police that the group did not exist and that he had written and issued the statement.

Tah's statement makes an ironclad case for Assad's involvement in terrorism in the region and the attempt to undermine the democratization in Iraq. It does that so well that it may be best to wait for further corroboration before taking this as an established fact. Syrian intelligence agents building bombs in Baghdad spell big trouble for Bashar Assad, especially when they're not bright enough to avoid capture. The added bonus of finding one that can also substantiate Syrian involvement in attacks on Hariri puts it close to the "too good to be true" category.

If this can be substantiated -- and that may be a tall order -- it would corroborate our intelligence that Syria has at least assisted in the insurgency that has gripped the Sunni Triangle in Iraq since the end of the war. Once substantiated, then we need to take some action against the Syrian dictator that will push him from power. In the meantime, I think we can afford to wait for further evidence to support or refute this claim.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 26, 2005 12:19 PM

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