Syria puts down attack on US embassy

If, as we recently speculated, the White House was hoping it could groom Islamists in Syria as proxies to destabilize the regime, this ought to provide a little cold water in the face. In fact, much to the consternation of the neocons, we could see Washington mending fences with Damascus, viewing the Assad dictatorship as the most expedient proxy to put down the Islamists. Official embrace of the “terrorist” lingo indicates Assad may want such as arrangement, lest he be on the receiving end of the Pentagon’s smart bombs. From Canada’s CTV, Sept. 12:

Syria foils attack on U.S. Embassy; 4 dead

Armed Islamic militants tried to storm the U.S. Embassy in Syria on Tuesday, but security forces foiled the “terrorist attack,” the Syrian government said.

Officials and witnesses said four assailants tried to drive two stolen vehicles at the embassy compound, but were stopped when they were shot by security guards in a fierce firefight.

Three gunmen were killed, and the fourth militant was wounded. He has been detained, officials said.

One car bomb went off at the embassy’s gates in Damascus, but did not break through. A van filled with explosives failed to detonate, the government said.

The attack was a “terrorist operation targeting the U.S. embassy” using homemade bombs and automatic weapons, said Interior Minister Gen Bassam Abdel Majid.

No Americans were hurt, but at least 11 people were injured, the country’s official news agency reported. The wounded included a police officer, two Iraqis, a Chinese diplomat and seven people employed at a nearby technical workshop.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibly, the attack was blamed on an al Qaeda offshoot group, called Jund al-Sham, who are behind several attacks in Syria in recent years, Syria’s ambassador to the U.S. said.

The attackers apparently did not breach the walls of the embassy compound, but witnesses said they tried to toss hand grenades over the wall while shouting “Allahu akbar!” or “God is great!”

It was not clear if any of the grenades made it over the walls, which are about three-metres high.

After the hostile situation, television footage showed a delivery van outside the embassy loaded with pipe bombs strapped to large propane gas canisters, which could have caused massive damage.

The bold attack came hours after U.S. President George Bush issued a prime-time address at home on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, declaring the war on terror to be a “struggle for civilization,” one that must be fought to the end.

Speaking in Nova Scotia, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was “very grateful that the attack did not succeed.”

“It’s the case, unfortunately, that it is possible for people to make attacks of this kind, despite the fact that we do make an extraordinary effort to protect our people, an extraordinary effort to have facilities that are not capable of being attacked.”

About 30 Syrian guards usually monitor the embassy compound 24 hours a day, the embassy said.


Syria has been the scene of previous attacks by Islamic militants. In June, Syrian anti-terrorism police fought Islamic militants near the defence ministry in a gunfight that left five people dead and four injured.

Newsday notes Sept. 13:

The attack came amid high tension between Washington and Damascus. But the rapid response by Syrian guards won rare praise from the United States, which accuses President Bashar Assad’s government of supporting terrorism in its backing of Hezbollah guerrillas and Palestinian militants.

“I do think that the Syrians reacted to this attack in a way that helped to secure our people, and we very much appreciate that,” Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said.

No Americans were hurt, and the embassy was not damaged.

There are about 40 staffers, but no ambassador, at the embassy. The United States withdrew its ambassador several days after the Feb. 14, 2005, assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in a Beirut car bomb – an attack his supporters blamed on Syria. Damascus has denied any role, but Hariri’s killing further soured U.S.-Syrian ties.

White House spokesman Tony Snow also thanked Syrian officials and called for Damascus to “become an ally and make the choice of fighting against terrorists.” But Syria responded with a sharp criticism of the United States, blaming its policies in Lebanon, Iraq and the Palestinian territories for increasing Islamic militancy.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but suspicion immediately fell on a little-known al-Qaida offshoot called Jund al-Sham, Arabic for Soldiers of Syria.

See our last post on Syria, and our recent report on US designs against Damascus.