Mr. Assad takes tea with the Queen

December 16, 2002


1. Assad to receive a red carpet reception as a guest of the Queen
2. "A man who sits at the very epicenter of terror"
3. "God Save the Queen from Terrorism"
4. "Hubris and naivety in the war against terror" (By Melanie Phillips, Daily Mail, Dec. 16, 2002)
5. "Syrian leader flies in to anti-terror protest" (London Times, Dec. 16, 2002)
6. "Syrian pipeline helps Iraq evade UN oil sanctions" (London Times, Dec. 16, 2002)
7. "The Assad visit to London: Background and implications" (JCPA, Dec. 15, 2002)
8. "Syrian information minister's briefing on al-Assad's visit to London" (Arabic News, Dec. 16, 2002)


[Note by Tom Gross]

Tomorrow (Tuesday), for the first time, a leader of Syria will be given a red carpet reception as a guest of the Queen of England at Buckingham Palace. Later he will attend the Lord Mayor of London's dinner.

President Assad's visit to London, at the invitation of British Prime Minister Tony Blair, has been much criticized. Writing the main opinion commentary in today's "Financial Times" explaining why he has invited the Syrian dictator, Blair forgets to mention several things about Syria:

* That it is in military occupation of much of Lebanon.
* That a Syrian-based terror group murdered the Israeli tourism minister last year.
* That Assad himself makes no distinction between hatred of Israel and hatred of Jews. For example, when he visited the Pope last year, he said: "The Israelis are trying to kill all monotheistic religious principles on the basis of the same mentality that led to the betrayal and torture of Jesus, and the same mentality through which they tried to kill the Prophet Mohammad."
* That Assad's defense minister Mustafa Tlass is the author of "The Matzah of Zion," an anti-Semitic book which claims that Jews drink the blood of children. The book has recently been brought out in its eighth reprint.
* That Syria (with Iran) is the main financial sponsor of Hizbullah, whose leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah just called on Palestinians to "take suicide bombings worldwide."
* That Syria has one of the worst human rights records in the world.



I attach the following pieces:

1. "Hubris and naivety in the war against terror". A piece from today's (London) Daily Mail by columnist Melanie Phillips. She writes: "The 'war on terror' [was meant to end] the practice of cozying up to state sponsors of terrorism... Yet today, [Blair] is rolling out the red carpet for a man who sits at the very epicenter of terror, the Syrian President Bashar Assad... Just how gullible can you get?" Calling it "groveling appeasement," Phillips adds Blair's "failure to take a principled, public stand against the sponsors of terror and the anti-Semitism that fuels it is taken as a sign of weakness, to be exploited by terrorism's many godfathers."

2. "Syrian leader flies in to anti-terror protest" (London Times, December 16, 2002). The Times notes that in an interview it carried last week with Assad he justified Palestinian suicide bombings against Israeli civilians. "Hundreds of British Jews are planning to protest against his arrival with placards reading 'A Sad Day for Britain' and 'God Save the Queen from Terrorism'," says the Times.


3. "Syrian pipeline helps Iraq evade UN oil sanctions" (London Times, December 16, 2002). "Syria has expanded its oil-smuggling operation with Iraq by opening a second pipeline between the two countries, according to intelligence based on recent satellite photographs."

4. "The Assad visit to London: Background and implications" (Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, by Mark Ami-El, December 15, 2002). An outline of the arguments against the Syrian regime.

5. "Syrian information minister's briefing on al-Assad's visit to London (Arabic News, December 16, 2002). An example of how the Arab media is reporting President Assad's visit to London.

(It should be noted that French leaders regularly meet with the Syrian dictator.)

-- Tom Gross



Hubris and naivety in the war against terror
By Melanie Phillips
The Daily Mail
December 16, 2002

When President George W Bush declared his 'war on terror', he effectively announced that the practice of cosying up to state sponsors of terrorism was now at an end.

Tony Blair is supposed to be America's ally in this struggle. Yet today, he is rolling out the red carpet for a man who sits at the very epicentre of terror, the Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Terror is absolutely central to Syria's policy. It sponsors Hezbollah in Lebanon, which not only carries out terror attacks against Israel but before September 11 had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.

At a rally in Lebanon last month, Hezbollah's leader, Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, called on Palestinians to 'take suicide bombings worldwide'. Yet the man being feted in London this week has forged a far closer relationship with Hezbollah even than his father, the late President Hafiz al-Assad.

Syria also hosts the headquarters of Islamic Jihad and numerous other terrorist organisations. As Damascus radio said earlier this year, 'Syria has turned its land into a training camp, a safe haven and an arms depot for the Palestinian revolutionaries'.

Last week in an interview with the Times, President Assad declared that he actually supported Palestinian 'suicide' bombers. Yet this is the man who will dine with the Prime Minister in Downing Street today, meet the Queen at Buckingham Palace tomorrow and attend the Lord Mayor's dinner.

As a Jew who believes that Israel is a principal victim of the terror sponsored by Syria and others, I am appalled by this honouring of a man with so much blood on his hands. But many others must also be wondering just what is going on.

The answer is that President Assad is New Labour's kind of guy. He and his wife have great PR because hey, they don't even look or sound like Arabs. The President is an ophthalmologist who studied medicine in England, no less. Mrs Assad is actually an Englishwoman who started life as plain Emma from west London.

The Times reported that he didn't look like a ruthless dictator no doubt because he didn't sport military fatigues, or goose-step across the room.

But of course, far from being a New Labour dream the Assads are the first family of a backward country with extensive poverty, absence of human rights and second-class status for women.

Yet this charmer with the bedside manner has apparently beguiled the Prime Minister into believing that here is a man who is going to lead Syria out of the dark ages and with whom Britain can therefore do business. Just how gullible can you get?

This state visit is presumably intended as a reward for President Assad's support for the UN resolution on Iraq. But this was clearly a tactical manoeuvre. In November, Syria's Foreign Minister Faruq al-Shar revealed that it had voted for the resolution to divide President Bush's administration and prevent war against Iraq.

In other words, this was a spoiling exercise. And indeed, in last week's interview President Assad warned that the campaign to topple Saddam would have 'catastrophic consequences' for the region.

Now, intelligence sources are claiming that Syria is actually surreptitiously arming Iraq. It is reported that more than 52 crates containing new air-defence systems and spare parts have been smuggled from Syria into Iraq since last December, enabling the Iraqis to upgrade their air defence capabilities. And Syria is also said to have allowed Saddam to open an oil smuggling route through the port of Latakia.

Well, what a surprise. But do many in Britain actually care? For a disturbing number of people still can't see the point of taking military action against Saddam Hussein. They think there is no link between the Iraqi dictator and al Q'aeda, and so he poses no terror threat to the west.

I happen to believe such a link does exist. But even if it did not, the threat from Saddam is still plain. He repeatedly declares his intention to become leader of the Arab world. Weapons of mass destruction would help him achieve this ambition.

This would mean that despite his secularism he would become leader of the Islamic jihad. The people who brought us September 11 would then be equipped with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons.

Mr Blair has grasped that we cannot sit by and wait for this to happen. Hence his support for President Bush. But this obscures significant differences between the two. For Mr Blair appears to believe that Islamic fascism is susceptible to reason, and in particular to the force of his own personality.

This hubris has already led him into humiliation. Last year, shortly after the murder of Israeli cabinet minister Rehavam Ze'evi by the Damascus-based Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Mr Blair went to Syria to tell President Assad to renounce violence. He got his reply at a press conference when he was forced to listen to the Syrian leader defend Palestinian terror attacks on Israel.

So why on earth is he honouring this man in this way? The main reason is that he is desperate to demonstrate that Britain has no quarrel with Islam or the Arab world as such. But this spectacularly misses the point. The west has indeed no quarrel with Islam, one of the world's great religions and civilisations.

It is rather that certain Islamist groups and their state backers have declared war in the name of Islam against the west in general and the Jews in particular and not just those in Israel.

President Assad himself makes no distinction between hatred of Israel and hatred of the Jews. In a disgusting remark when he visited the Pope last year, he said: 'The Israelis are trying to kill all monotheistic religious principles on the basis of the same mentality that led to the betrayal and torture of Jesus, and the same mentality through which they tried to kill the Prophet Mohammad'.

His defence minister Mustafa Tlass is the author of 'The Matzah of Zion', a grotesque anti-semitic libel which claims that the Jews drink the blood of children. This obscene publication, now in its eighth reprint, is doing a roaring trade in the Arab world. Earlier this year, President Assad extended Mr Tlass's term for another two years in appreciation of his services.

Mr Blair's refusal to acknowledge all this in public is more than shameful. It serves to perpetuate terrorism. His failure to take a principled, public stand against the sponsors of terror and the anti-semitism that fuels it is taken as a sign of weakness, to be exploited by terrorism's many godfathers.

Such grovelling appeasement also perpetuates ignorance and confusion among the British people, with the resulting lack of support for action against a terror network whose nature and reach are simply not understood. It has led too many to believe that Israel is the cause of world terror, rather than recognise that Israel is the principal target of a genocidal onslaught against the Jews and a wider war against the west.

Realpolitik is the art of the possible. Naivety and hubris merely make leaders look ridiculous or compromised and leave their countries dangerously exposed.



Syrian leader flies in to anti-terror protest
By Richard Beeston, Diplomatic Editor and Stephen Farrell in Jerusalem
The Times of London
December 16, 2002

Bashar Assad, the Syrian President, arrived in London last night at the start of an historic but controversial visit that is seen as a big political gamble by Tony Blair. Even before the Syrian leader, the first to visit Britain, and his London-born wife stepped off the plane, Israeli politicians had condemned his trip and Jewish groups were planning demonstrations against his support for militant groups that use suicide bombings against Israeli civilians.

Mr Assad told The Times last week that Palestinian suicide bombings were "a reaction to the terrorism practised by (the Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon against the civilian Palestinian population". Hundreds of British Jews are planning to protest against his arrival at Downing Street today with placards reading "A Sad Day for Britain" and "God Save the Queen from Terrorism", a reference to his audience tomorrow with the Queen at Buckingham Palace.

Downing Street and the Foreign Office had expected an uproar. Senior British officials said that the Syrian leader would be challenged over his support of militant groups, but that the visit itself was a risk the Prime Minister thought was worth taking.

With a war looming in Iraq and new peace efforts on the horizon in the Middle East, Syria's influential role in the Arab world could be pivotal to the success or failure of both. Nevertheless, Mr Assad's official visit could backfire badly on his hosts.

The "nightmare scenario" at the Foreign Office is the threat that militant groups in the Middle East, with strong links to Damascus, could launch new terrorist attacks in the region while the Syrian head of state is being feted in London.

Syria allows the militant Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad to run offices in Damascus and has close military ties in Lebanon with the Shia Muslim group Hezbollah, which pioneered the use of suicide bombers, kidnapped Western hostages and has large forces massed on Israel's northern border.

Dan Meridor, an Israeli Cabinet member, accused Syria of channelling arms and funding to the three groups, which are listed in Britain and America as terrorist organisations.

"I would be interested to know if he (Assad) is asked while he is there 'why do you allow these terror organisations to continue to operate and have their offices in Damascus, why do you continue the occupation of southern Lebanon and why do you supply Hezbollah with weapons capable of striking more than 50 kilometres into Israel when we have withdrawn from every inch of Lebanon?'" he asked. "Syria had to make up its mind to join or fight terror, and its decision was to continue with terror."

The Israelis were furious when Syria was the only country on the United Nations Security Council to vote against a resolution condemning the suicide attack on an Israeli hotel in Mombasa. A senior advisor to Mr Sharon is due in London today to make Israel's case as well as raise that of Ori Tenenboim, the son of an Israeli businessman kidnapped by Hezbollah.

The Syrians are one of Iraq's closest trading partners, helping the regime in Baghdad to smuggle hundreds of millions of pounds of oil out of the country. Syria also allows other goods to be exported to Iraq by plane and train, avoiding the United Nations embargo. Damascus has also spoken out consistently against any war.

British diplomats, however, are hopeful that behind Syria's tough public stand on Iraq and its illicit business contacts with Baghdad, the Syrian regime will be more flexible in private. The Syrians unexpectedly voted in favour of the tough UN Security Council resolution 1441, which Washington and London will use as the justification for any war with Iraq.

Since September 11 the Syrian intelligence has also been actively co-operating with Western intelligence agencies to share information on Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network. That relationship is credited with having saved lives in the West and will be strengthened during the London visit.

There are also distinct signals that Damascus is distancing itself from Iraq as war looms.



Syrian pipeline helps Iraq evade UN oil sanctions
By Michael Evans
The Times of London
December 16, 2002

Syria has expanded its oil-smuggling operation with Iraq by opening a second pipeline between the two countries, according to intelligence based on recent satellite photographs.

Iraqi crude oil is reported to be flowing at the rate of 60,000 barrels a day through the new pipeline, which connects two oilfields close to the Iraqi-Syrian border Ain Zalah in northern Iraq and Suwaydiyah in northeast Syria.

Imports of Iraqi oil are illegal unless approved by the United Nations' oil-for-food programme agreed after the 1991 Gulf War. The increase in oil imports from Iraq to Syria provides further evidence of closer ties between Damascus and Baghdad, after years of strained relations.

President Assad of Syria admitted last week that a pipeline, reopened in November 2000, had been used for sending oil from Iraq to Syria. But he insisted in an interview with The Times that the oil-flow had been agreed in order to test the pipeline, which had been closed for many years.

However, the flow of oil from Iraq to Syria through the two pipelines amounting to an estimated total of more than 200,000 barrels a day has enabled Damascus to increase its own oil exports by around 50 per cent.

Oil industry sources said that Syrian oil exports this year had suddenly risen from about 300,000 to 450,000 barrels a day. Syria has its own oilfields, which produce about 520,000 barrels a day.

The issue of illegal oil sales from Iraq to Syria is expected to be raised by Tony Blair when he meets the Syrian leader today, although a Foreign Office official said that Mr Assad was well aware of the Government's disapproval of the pipeline deals.

The sales are helping to boost funds for the Iraqi regime as it prepares for a possible war with an American-led coalition next year. Sixty thousand barrels a day over a period of 12 months is estimated to be worth about $500 million (330 million). Iraq has 112 billion barrels of proven oil reserves. Its oil resources are the world's second-largest, after Saudi Arabia.

The main oil-smuggling route is through the pipeline that runs from Kirkuk in northern Iraq to Banias in Syria. This was reactivated two years ago, in spite of the UN sanctions. The 150,000 barrels of oil exported through the Kirkuk-Banias pipeline are sold at much less than the international price. The new pipeline began operating two months ago, according to Middle Eastern reports. It eventually feeds into the Syrian domestic pipeline grid. Oil industry sources said that Syria tended to use the Iraqi oil for domestic purposes. This freed Syria's own crude oil for export. The 50 per cent rise in Syrian oil exports has occurred despite there being no significant increase in Syria's own oil production.

Ian Brodie, from the journal Oil and Energy Trends, said that it was difficult to be precise about Syria's oil exports. But it was clear that in the middle of this year there was a significant rise, due to Iraqi oil imports.

A report in The Sunday Telegraph yesterday said that crates of air defence equipment and spare parts had been smuggled into Iraq from Syria in the past few weeks. Defence experts were quoted as saying that the parts would help the Iraqis to improve the range and effectiveness of their Sam-6 anti-aircraft missiles.


Although Syria has not been directly implicated in acts of terrorism since 1986, it supports terrorist groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and allows them to maintain offices in Damascus.

The US State Department says that Damascus is the primary transit point for Iranian-supplied weapons to Hezbollah.

The Israelis claim that President Assad has met Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah, the leader of Hezbollah.



The Assad visit to London: Background and implications
By Mark Ami-El
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
Institute for Contemporary Affairs
December 15, 2002

Syria remains one of the worst state-sponsors of international terrorism, providing a haven for leaders of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas.

Syria sponsors Hizballah in Lebanon, an international terrorist organization with a global reach that, before 9/11, had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.

Syria refuses to recognize UN resolutions confirming Israel's full withdrawal to the Lebanese-Israeli border.

Syria helps Saddam Hussein smuggle oil out and smuggle weapons into Iraq.

President Bashar Assad becomes the first Syrian head of state to visit Britain when he arrives on December 15 for an unprecedented state visit. He will have a working lunch with Prime Minister Tony Blair and an audience with the Queen.


Yet Syria remains one of the worst state-sponsors of international terrorism. It sponsors ten international terrorist groups on its own soil, including the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. The latter two groups are responsible for some of the worst homicide bombings against the Israeli civilian population.

As a result of its harboring terrorist groups, Syria has been designated by the United States as a state supporting terrorism, and has been on the terrorism list of the U.S. Department of State since it was first prepared in 1979. Today, Syria is in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1373, which insists that all states refrain from providing any form of support, active or passive, to entities or persons involved in terrorist acts.


Syria is also a sponsor of terrorism through its position in Lebanon, where it has stationed a large occupation army since 1975. The Syrian military is primarily located in eastern Lebanon in the Bekaa Valley. The Hizballah (pro-Iranian Shi ite) organization has its training bases in this area in the vicinity of Syrian military camps. Moreover, Hizballah s chief supply route goes through Syria. On a regular basis, Iranian cargo aircraft land at Damascus International Airport, carrying weapons for Hizballah.

Hizballah is an international terrorist organization with a global reach. It is responsible for the murder of 241 U.S. Marines in a Beirut suicide bombing in 1983. It seized the CIA station chief in Beirut, tortured, and executed him. It murdered another U.S. officer, Col. Higgins, serving in a peacekeeping capacity. In 2001, U.S. courts identified Saudi Hizballah as responsible for the 1996 bombing of al-Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. Air Force servicemen. Prior to September 11, 2001, Hizballah had killed more Americans than any other terrorist group.

Hizballah has been openly expressing its global ambitions, with its leader, Sheik Hassan Nasrallah, calling recently for a widespread suicide bombing campaign. Speaking at a rally in Lebanon s Bekaa Valley in November, he said, Martyrdom operations suicide bombings should be exported outside Palestine....I encourage Palestinians to take suicide bombings worldwide. Don t be shy about it.

After banning Hizballah s military wing in late 2001, Canada finally slapped a total ban on Hizballah on December 11, 2002, after the group urged Palestinians to carry out more suicide attacks in Israel. However, Britain still recognizes Hizballah s political wing.

In addition, most EU delegations in Beirut maintain contact with Hizballah, despite the fact that in three different incidents, Hizballah sent recruits holding European passports to conduct terrorist missions in Israel. The continuously forgiving European approach is likely to encourage Hizballah to expand its operations in Europe and become more involved in international terrorism.


In 2000, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 425 from 1978. Israel s line of withdrawal (the blue line) was recognized by the UN Security Council as a full withdrawal, as enshrined in UN Security Council Resolutions 1310 and 1337. Nonetheless, Syria fully supports Hizballah s effort to wage war for further withdrawals, particularly in the Shebaa farms area, which technically is part of the Golan Heights. During Prime Minister Blair s last visit to Damascus, Assad had the audacity to compare Hizballah s struggle for this area to the French resistance to the Nazis.

Furthermore, on December 14, Syria voted in the UN Security Council against a U.S. sponsored resolution, approved 14-1, condemning the suicide bomb attack on an Israeli-owned hotel in Mombasa, Kenya. The Syrian ambassador, Mikhail Wehbe, said he could not accept the repeated mention of Israel in the text.


Syria has also undermined UN resolutions on Iraq. Presently, all Iraqi oil production is under sanctions, meaning that any sales of Iraq oil must be conducted through the UN oil-for-food program. Syria has permitted Saddam to export oil in a pipeline crossing Syrian territory, allowing Iraq to circumvent the oil-for-food arrangements.

Furthermore, according to the Telegraph, Syria has been secretly helping Saddam Hussein by smuggling vital arms supplies to Baghdad. According to Western intelligence officials, at least 52 crates containing new Russian-made air-defense systems and spare parts have been smuggled into Iraq from Syria since the start of December. The intelligence officials believe Syria has helped Saddam smuggle substantial quantities of arms and spare parts through its territory, for which the Syrians receive an estimated 20 percent commission on the purchase price.


Assads visit to London clearly undermines the coherence of the war on terrorism. How can the U.S. attack the Taliban as a state sponsor of terrorism and ignore Syria's backing of terrorism.

Because of the exceptionally high number of American fatalities from Hizballah attacks, Britains ignoring Syrian sponsorship of Hizballah can only alienate many Americans.

Had Syrian behavior improved, then the invitation to London would have made sense. Now, Assad understands that he can ignore his responsibilities regarding UN Security Council resolutions, threaten international peace and security, and be rewarded. He has lost any incentive to change his behavior. Because of his glaring violations of UN resolutions, any act that rewards Assad now will only undermines the UN in the longer term.



Syrian information minister's briefing on al-Assad's visit to london
Arabic News
December 16, 2002

Syria's Minister of Information, Adnan Omran, has underlined that President Bashar Al-Assad's visit to Britain comes within Syria's adopted strategy of international cooperation and relations.

In a meeting with the Lebanese Broadcasting Cooperation (LBC) TV, Minister Omran pointed out that such strategy aims at establishing best relations with all the world states on the mutual respect basis by which Syria occupied an important position on the international arena.

Omran cited President Bashar Al-Assad was able to deepen that policy of Syria and develop it by means of visiting a number of major European countries including France, Germany, Italy and Spain as well as his reception of a large number of senior European and World officials.

The information minister talked about the British role which is close to the US expressing hope that such close relation would be used for the interest of peace and the implementation of the international resolutions.

Meanwhile, Omran underlined that Syria is committed to her principled stances.

In an interview with the Egyptian newspaper on Sunday, Omran stressed the necessity of unifying Arab positions in the face of hostile policies targeting the Arab nation and her interests.

Omran called on the Arab states to build self-capabilities in the frame of an Arab security, economic and political integration and in different fields.

Omran pointed out that Syria voted for the Security Council resolution 1441 with the aim of protecting Iraqi people from an aggression.

Omran cited that the US Middle Eastern agenda is drawn by Israel referring to the US intentional disregard of the more than 200 Israeli nuclear warheads at a time it (the US) is preparing for a war against Iraq under the pretext of the possibility of her possession elements that may help Iraq to manufacture a nuclear weapon in the future.

All notes and summaries copyright © Tom Gross. All rights reserved.