Syria, Iraq Want to Unite against U.S., Report Says
Gertz, Bill, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)
Syria, a former enemy of Iraq, is seeking to forge an anti-U.S. alliance with Saddam Hussein that would include using Syrian troops against U.S. forces should a ground war erupt again, according to a CIA intelligence report.
The classified report sent to U.S. policy-makers earlier this week said that Syria, which took part in the U.S.-led coalition against Iraq during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, proposed the rapprochement and alliance in November during a high-level visit to Baghdad by a group of Syrian government officials.
Those contacts were followed by a Nov. 21 visit to Damascus by Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who proposed reopening an oil pipeline with Syria and opening up border gates between the two countries.
The Syrian visit to Baghdad was "the result of extensive Syrian efforts to initiate a rapprochement with Iraq," the report, labeled "secret," stated.
The intelligence report is a clear sign that Syria, a key player in Middle East politics, has switched sides in the international standoff against Iraq. Syrian officials have said they oppose any U.S. military strikes on Iraq for its refusal to allow U.N. weapons inspections.
The new alliance would have a far-reaching impact on the region, forcing many states to moderate their opposition to Saddam's regime and their support for U.S. military action, analysts say.
During the Nov. 7 trip to Baghdad, Syrian government, military and intelligence officials presented a letter from Syrian President Hafez Assad to Saddam Hussein calling for the "formation of a Syrian-Iraqi alliance against the United States," the report stated.
Also outlined in the letter was a call for "extensive Syrian assistance to Iraq, including troop support in the event of military conflict between the United States and Iraq on Iraqi territory," the report said. …