Syrian Border Heating Up


Things are starting to heat up a bit between Iraq and Syria. (h/t Pro’s and Con’s)

The stiffest warning to Syria yet was issued Monday by US Iraq ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad

September 12, 2005, 7:48 PM (GMT+02:00)

?Our patience is running out,? he said at news conference over help Damascus is giving radical groups in Iraq.

Asked how Washington would respond, the ambassador said ?all options are on the table,? including military.

The United States believes Iraqi Sunnis are holding back on the new Iraqi constitution because of threats from Sunni extremists who have infiltrated from Syria, where they have training camps, said Khalilzad.

DEBKAfile adds: The US ambassador?s statement coincided with the arrival in Damascus of the UN Hariri murder?s UN investigator bearing testimony with dangerous implications for the Assad regime, the progression of the massive US-Iraqi offensive against Tal Afar, the Iraqi way-station for terrorists incoming from Syria, and the expiry of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi?s 24-hour ultimatum to US forces to halt the offensive or face a chemical attack.

Khalilzad went on to say: Syria has to decide what price it’s willing to pay to make Iraq?s success difficult. And time is running out for a decision. It simply must close the training camps. ?Youngsters misguided by al Qaeda from Saudi Arabia, from Yemen, from North Africa, should not be allowed to fly into Damascus international airport. It shouldn?t be that hard when young men aged 18 to 28 fly in without a return ticket.

?If people like Zarqawi were to dominate Iraq, it would make Afghanistan under the Taliban look like a picnic, given the resources of Iraq, the location of Iraq,? said Ambassador Khalilzad.

This comes on the heels of a successful operation to root out some of these same Syrian trained terrorists on the border:

TAL AFAR, Iraq (AFP) – Iraq’s prime minister toured the ex-insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar as security forces rounded up the last remaining rebels who failed to make their escape from a 10,000-strong Iraqi and US assault.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari visited the northern town of Tal Afar on a road to Syria “to show his defiance of the terrorists”, Interior Minister Bayran Baker Solagh said.

Jaafari authorised the operation on Tal Afar on Friday after days of deadly clashes failed to dislodge rebels.

Responding to Internet pledges by Al-Qaeda linked groups to launch deadly revenge — including chemical — attacks over the Tal Afar assault, Solagh said they had “lost their senses.”

In a series of Internet postings Sunday whose authenticity could not be verified, insurgents promised retaliation and offered rewards for killing top Iraqi officials.

Wonder where he will get these WMD’s since there isn’t any in Iraq?

“A majority of terrorists left the town without fighting,” according to interior ministry commando General Adnan Sabet.

The defence ministry’s General Adel Azis Mohammed said that “a total of 157 terrorists had been killed over the past 24 hours”, while nearly 300 people had been arrested and 24 weapons caches discovered.

One member of the Iraqi forces was killed and “five to six” civilians also died in fighting over the same period, Mohammed added, although more detailed civilian casualty figures were unavailable.

US Major General Rick Lynch, deputy chief of staff for coalition forces, said his soldiers had uncovered two tunnel complexes in the Saray district of town which he described as “rat lines”, allowing rebels to escape.

“We’re finding that terrorists are now trying to blend with civilians, with some dressed as women wearing wigs,” he told a news conference.

But Tal Afar, located between Mosul and the Syrian border, “is just one piece of an overarching operation,” he said. “We’re not going to tolerate a safe haven for terrorists anywhere in Iraq”.

US patrols roamed the empty streets of the neighbourhoods of Saray and Kadissiyah, searching for any remaining insurgents who had been virtually in control of the town for months.

Inhabitants were told to leave before the all-out offensive started. The men who stayed behind faced arrest.

The alert came one day after a truck loaded with explosives, gas canisters and a surface-to-air missile was intercepted by security officials, who said they were to have been used for an attack.

Authorities also fear a renewal of the tensions after rumours of a suicide bombing led to an August 31 stampede in which almost 1,000 people were killed during a Shiite pilgrimage.

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