JERUSALEM – To pressure the U.S., Syrian President Bashar Assad has reopened his country’s borders with Iraq, allowing more jihadists to get into and out of Iraq, according to informed Egyptian security officials.
The security officials said the move already has produced an increase in violence in Iraq at the hands of jihadists who transit through the country via Syria.
Previously, Assad acceded to U.S. requests to work harder to close his country’s porous borders with Iraq. The U.S. has long accused Assad of turning a blind eye to Iraqi insurgents using Syria as a refuge.
Assad has been locked in a bitter dispute with the U.S., which accuses him of using violent tactics to crack down on a months-long insurgency targeting his regime.
Upping the ante, the State Department announced last Friday it “may have no choice” but to close the U.S. Embassy in Damascus and remove all American personnel from the country.
While the U.S. has been distancing itself from Syria, WND reported that Russian military experts have been inside Syria helping Assad’s regime face down the insurgency, according to informed Middle Eastern security officials.
The officials told WND the team of Russian experts were currently advising Assad’s regime on how to quell rioting in Damascus and around the presidential compound.
It’s not the first report of Russian aid to Assad’s faltering regime.
Russia is a military ally to Syria. Moscow has been trying to water down United Nations Security Council resolutions targeting Syria in recent days, with Russia insisting that any council action should not only focus on the Assad government but also the opposition movement trying to end Assad’s rule.
The latest information comes as the Syrian opposition issued yet another call for foreign intervention in Syria.
The Syrian rebel army chief urged the world to protect civilians in the country, complaining that Arab peace monitors had failed to curb Assad’s response to the revolt against his rule.
Riad al-Asaad, Turkish-based commander of the rebel Free Syrian Army, stated, “We ask that the international community intervene because they are more capable of protecting Syrians at this stage than our Arab brothers.”
The opposition in Syria previously asked the U.S. and NATO to intervene.
Last week, Assad said he “absolutely rejects” any plans to send Arab troops into the country. He was referring to a statement from the leader of Qatar, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, who was quoted Sunday as saying Arab troops should be sent to Syria. It was the first statements by an Arab leader calling for the deployment of troops inside Syria.
Damascus officials claimed in November that NATO troops were training in Turkey for a Turkish-led NATO invasion of Syria.
Arab League diplomats previously told reporters they might recognize the opposition as the sole representative of the Syrian people in a move that would symbolically isolate Assad’s regime.
If such a step is taken, it would mimic the diplomatic initiatives recently utilized to isolate Moammar Gadhafi’s regime before the NATO campaign in Libya.
Any deployment would most likely come under the banner of the same “Responsibility to Protect” global doctrine used to justify the U.S.-NATO airstrikes in Libya. Responsibility to Protect, or Responsibility to Act, as cited by President Obama, is a set of principles, now backed by the United Nations, based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege but a responsibility that can be revoked if a country is accused of “war crimes,” “genocide,” “crimes against humanity” or “ethnic cleansing.”
A Turkish-U.S.-NATO strike could have immediate implications for Israel.
The Syrian president warned in an interview last month with a U.K. newspaper that foreign intervention in Syria would cause an “earthquake” across the region and create another Afghanistan, while directly threatening the Jewish state.
Assad reportedly made similar comments in a meeting in early October with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmad Davutoglu. He was quoted stating, “If a crazy measure is taken against Damascus, I will need not more than six hours to transfer hundreds of rockets and missiles to the Golan Heights to fire them at Tel Aviv.”
Assad also reportedly warned that “all these events will happen in three hours, but in the second three hours, Iran will attack the U.S. warships in the Persian Gulf and the U.S. and European interests will be targeted simultaneously.”