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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
08DAMASCUS155 2008-03-03 16:42:00 SECRET Embassy Damascus
Cable title:  

SARG UNLIKELY TO "OFFICIALLY" RECEIVE FOREIGN

Tags:   PTER PREL SY IZ 
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VZCZCXYZ0186
OO RUEHWEB

DE RUEHDM #0155 0631642
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
O 031642Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4691
INFO RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD IMMEDIATE 0783
					  S E C R E T DAMASCUS 000155 

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR NEA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/04/2018
TAGS: PTER PREL SY IZ
SUBJECT: SARG UNLIKELY TO "OFFICIALLY" RECEIVE FOREIGN
FIGHTER DEMARCHE

REF: STATE 18213

Classified By: CDA Michael Corbin for Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)



1. (c) Summary: The MFA is unlikely to "officially"
receive reftel demarche on Foreign Fighters, although Charge
presented its substance to the Vice Foreign Minister's chief
of staff February 27. Until the SARG deals with the problem
of how to distract attention from Lebanon(perhaps by using
the Gaza situation) and gain a minimum showing of Arab Heads
of State at the March 28 Damascus Arab League Summit, the
SARG, in classic Syrian fashion, is making very few decisions
and is unwilling to receive messages from the U.S. End
summary.



2. (c) Charge met Hussam Alaa, chief of staff to Vice
Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad February 27 to relay substance
of reftel demarche with the intention of laying the
groundwork in order to obtain a meeting to present the
demarche to the Vice Foreign Minister (who is the lead SARG
Foreign Ministry official on Iraq issues). Foreign Minister
Muallem and his office director were out of Syria delivering
Arab League Summit invitations to Mauritania and Oman.
Charge emphasized the importance the U.S. attached to Syria
taking steps to reduce the flow of terrorists responsible for
indiscriminate violence in Iraq. Alaa listened intently and
said he would seek an appointment for the Charge with the
Vice Foreign Minister to deliver the demarche although he
noted the VFM was very busy "with Arab League summit
preparations".



3. (c) In the Charge's subsequent phone calls with Alaa
seeking news on the demarche, Alaa has become increasingly
reticent on the subject of the demarche and stated
specifically on March 3 that the current atmosphere "with the
deployment of U.S. warships" made it very difficult for the
SARG to "officially" receive the demarche. When the Charge
emphasized the importance of this matter and noted that he
had on several occasions passed information on foreign
terrorists transiting to or from Iraq to the Chief of
Protocol (the SARG's designated POC for the Charge) in the
past and that it was very important that the SARG receive the
demarche at some level, Alaa replied only that the Ministry
was trying to decide how to receive the demarche.



4. (c) Comment: The combination of the extreme pressure
from "brother" Arabs over the upcoming Arab League Summit
(and particularly the Saudi-driven media campaign against
Syria as host) and the February 28 announcement of the U.S.
naval deployment has meant that decisions normally taken by
the MFA are likely being passed to Bashar himself for action.
The classic Syrian position in the face of a challenge is to
sit tight and hope things change to Syria's advantage.
Bashar, already on the spot over the Mughniyeh assassination,
is likely focused on the prospect of a less than impressive
showing of Arab Heads of State at the end of this month in
Damascus and looking for distractions from Lebanon, such as
the Gaza situation. It is Charge's assessment that the SARG
will not officially receive the demarche on Foreign Fighters
now, although we will continue to press to deliver it. Until
the SARG weathers the crisis (of its own making) of blindly
pushing forward on its plans to host the Damascus summit
while remaining inflexible on Lebanon, the SARG (and
particularly the MFA which has the lead on the summit) may
remain unwilling to receive U.S. messages.

CORBIN