US embassy cable - 86DAMASCUS2090

LIBYAN SUPPORTED TERRORISM

Identifier: 86DAMASCUS2090
Wikileaks: View 86DAMASCUS2090 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 1986-04-02 11:46:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PTER SY
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 021146Z APR 86
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 4824
S E C R E T DAMASCUS 02090 
 
C O R R E C T E D C O P Y (TEXT ADDED PARA 7) 
 
TERREP EXCLUSIVE 
 
E.O.12356:  DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PTER, SY 
SUBJECT:  LIBYAN SUPPORTED TERRORISM 
 
REF:  STATE 98378 
 
1.  SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  FOLLOWING IS OUR ASSESSMENT OF THE MEDIUM AND 
LONG-TERM THREAT OF LIBYAN-SPONSORED TERRORISM IN 
THE WAKE OF THE MARCH 24-25 EVENTS IN THE GULF OF 
SIDRA, PER REFTEL. 
 
3.  IN OUR VIEW, QADHAFI'S COFFERS WILL PROBABLY BE 
EVEN MORE OPEN TO ABU NIDAL AND SOME OF THE DAMASCUS- 
BASED PALESTINIANS THAN PREVIOUSLY ON ACCOUNT OF 
THE EVENTS IN THE GULF OF SIDRA.  WHETHER THESE 
GROUPS WILL BE MORE LIKELY TO ENGAGE IN TERRORISM 
FOR THIS REASON IS DIFFICULT TO SAY.  THEY HAVE 
THEIR OWN AGENDA, WOULD OPERATE WITH OR WITHOUT 
QADHAFI, AND ARE NOT SPECIFICALLY CONCERNED WITH 
LIBYAN ISSUES SUCH AS THE GULF OF SIDRA PER SE.  WE 
ARE NOT IN A POSITION TO JUDGE WHETHER LIBYANS 
WILL THEMSELVES BECOME MORE DIRECTLY INVOLVED IN 
TERRORIST ACTIVITIES.  QADHAFI IS PROBABLY NOW 
MOTIVATED TO PAY A HANDSOME PRICE TO HIRED KILLERS 
TO GET AT AMERICANS, BUT HE WILL PRESUMABLY STILL 
BE CONCERNED THAT ACCOUNTABILITY NOT BE DIRECTLY 
TRACEABLE TO HIM. 
 
4.  WHEN ABU NIDAL COMMITS HIS NEXT OUTRAGE, WE 
THINK IT VERY LIKELY HE WILL CITE THE EVENTS IN 
THE GULF OF SIDRA AS AN EXCUSE.  OTHER DAMASCUS- 
BASED PALESTINIAN GROUPS, MOST OF WHICH DO NOT 
TARGET U.S. INTERESTS, ARE LESS LIKELY TO DO SO. 
 
5.  SYRIA ALLOWS ABU NIDAL TO MAINTAIN A PRESENCE 
IN SYRIA AND IN SYRIAN-CONTROLLED LEBANON.  RECENT 
PUBLICITY GIVEN TO ITS CONNECTION TO ABU NIDAL 
HAS BEEN A CAUSE OF SOME EMBARRASSMENT, BUT NOT 
YET SUFFICIENT TO CAUSE SYRIA TO CLOSE THE DOOR 
TO ABU NIDAL.  HOW MUCH SUPPORT SYRIA GIVES ABU NIDAL 
IS DIFFICULT TO SAY. THE SYRIAN STYLE IS 
COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FROM QADHAFI'S--MORE SUBTLE, 
LESS PUBLIC, LESS SELF-CONGRATULATING--AND THE 
SYRIAN FOCUS IS NARROWER, MORE PURELY LOCAL AND 
LESS IDEOLOGICAL. 
 
6.  AS WAS EVIDENT IN THE MARCH 27 DEMONSTRATION 
IN DAMASCUS AGAINST AMERICAN ACTIVITIES IN THE 
GULF OF SIDRA, SYRIAN POLICY IS TO PROTECT U.S. 
FACILITIES AND PERSONNEL IN SYRIA.  SYRIA WANTS TO 
MAINTAIN DIALOGUE WITH THE U.S. AND DOES NOT PERCEIVE 
AN INTEREST IN BEING SEEN TO DO HARM AGAINST U.S. 
INTERESTS HERE.  DAMASCUS REMAINS ONE OF THE MORE 
SECURE CITIES IN THE MIDDLE EAST, ALTHOUGH IT TOO 
HAS SUFFERED FROM TERRORISM (MORE BOMBS HAVE 
EXPLODED HERE IN THE LAST NINE MONTHS THAN IN AMMAN, 
FOR EXAMPLE). 
 
7.  THERE REMAINS THE POSSIBILITY THAT LIBYA MAY 
ATTEMPT TO STAGE AN ATTACK AGAINST U.S. PERSONNEL 
OR FACILITIES IN DAMASCUS WITHOUT SYRIAN KNOWLEDGE 
OR APPROVAL.  THERE ARE TWO FACTORS WHICH MITIGATE 
THIS:  THE VIGILANCE OF THE SYRIAN SECURITY 
SERVICES, AND QADHAFI'S CONCERN ABOUT THE NEGATIVE 
EFFECT SUCH AN ATTACK WOULD HAVE ON SYRIAN-LIBYAN 
RELATIONS. 
 
8.  EXCEPT FOR SOME CONCERN ABOUT THE EFFECTIVENESS 
OF THE SA-5 SYSTEM, THE SYRIANS PROBABLY DERIVE 
SATISFACTION FROM THE GULF OF SIDRA INCIDENT. 
IT BROUGHT ARABS TOGETHER AGAINST THE U.S., 
DEFLECTED ARAB LEAGUE ATTENTION FROM THE IRAN-IRAQ 
WAR, AND PRODUCED THE APPEARANCE OF A CLOSER USSR 
TIE TO THE ARABS.  IT WILL NOT MAVE A SIGNIFICANT 
IMPACT ON ALREADY COOL BILATERAL 
U.S.-SYRIAN TIES, EXCEPT TO ADD SOMEWHAT TO THE 
PERCEPTION OF THE U.S. AS ANTI-ARAB. 
 
 
EAGLETON 

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