Wednesday, April 28, 2004

The Harder They Fall - Update

CNN has a report on the possible terrorist attack in Syria, but no word on who may be behind it. The report in The Scotsman adds some details (describing it as an RPG attack on the building followed by a gun battle with Syrian security forces, not a car bomb as reported on CNN). The attack was apparently made on an empty UN building in a part of the city housing a number of foreign embassies. Not exactly a high value target, which makes the incident a little suspicious. If a Kurdish or other anti-Baathist group was involved, wouldn't they attack something connected to the government? Some are claiming the Syrian government might have staged the incident to show that Syria is a target of terrorists, not a supporter. The CNN article quotes a government spokesman:

"The Interior Ministry source blamed the incident on the atmosphere created by instability and confusion in security and politics in the region.

'The Syrian Republic ... is condemning this terrorist attack,' the source said, contending it was meant to affect the stability and security of the country."

Not quite right, its the prospect of a democratic Iraq that's intended to affect the stability and security of the country.

The report from reinforces this:

"Confirming that one assailant was killed and another captured, Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustafa, told CNN the authorities were investigating who carried out the attack.

'We've being doing our best against Al-Qaeda. We share the same enemy' as the United States, said the ambassador."

The whole incident looks like an attempt by the Syrians to transform themselves in the eyes of the world from terrorist sponsor to terrorist target. Why attack an empty building? Location, location, location. The proximity of the empty UN building to the embassy district makes sure that this little drama was played out directly in front of ofttimes too credulous diplomats - you can be sure that the diplomatic cables were flying as fast as the bullets. Additionally, attacking an empty building minimizes the diplomatic blowback that might have occurred if a meaningful target, like an actual embassy was hit. An attack on a Western embassy might have led to a charge of Syrian government complicity or at least indifference.

This attack differs from the al Quaeda attacks in Saudi Arabia because the later make strategic sense to al Quaeda relative to its stated goal of bringing down the Saudi monarchy. Attacking an empty UN building in a neighborhood under heavy security due to the presence of foreign embassies, doesn't seem to make sense for anyone except the Syrian government itself. The Baathists should pay more attention to their role models; the Nazi's actually set the Reichstag ablaze.