US embassy cable - 87DAMASCUS3020

SYRIAN CLOSURE OF ABU NIDAL OFFICES

Identifier: 87DAMASCUS3020
Wikileaks: View 87DAMASCUS3020 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 1987-06-05 14:00:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PTER SY
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
O 051400Z JUN 87
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0018
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 03020 
 
TERREP EXCLUSIVE 
 
E.O. 12356: DECL: OADR 
TAGS:  PTER, SY 
SUBJECT:  SYRIAN CLOSURE OF ABU NIDAL OFFICES 
 
REF:  A) FBIS AMMAN JO 040709Z JUN 87 
--    B)  LINO/GREENE TELECON JUNE 4, 1987 
 
1.  SECRET - ENTIRE TEXT. 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  WE HAVE BEEN ABLE TO DEVELOP SOME -- BUT 
NOT YET CONCLUSIVE -- CONFIRMATION THAT THE SYRIAN 
GOVERNMENT HAS TAKEN STEPS TO END THE "OFFICIAL" ABU NIDAL 
PRESENCE IN SYRIA.  THE THREE OFFICES IN DAMASCUS APPEAR 
CLOSED.  WHILE THE SYRIAN JUSTIFICATION FOR THE ACTION 
MAY WELL BE ANGER OVER ABU NIDAL'S DALLIANCE WITH ARAFAT 
IN ALGIERS, THE REAL REASONS SEEM TO BE ANO-SYRIAN 
CONFRONTATION IN LEBANON AND WESTERN PRESSURES.  END 
SUMMARY. 
 
3.  POST HAS BEEN ABLE TO ESTABLISH SOME, BUT AS YET 
INCONCLUSIVE, CONFIRMATION OF "JORDAN TIMES" ARTICLE 
(REFTEL A) THAT SARG HAS FINALLY MOVED TO END THE 
ANO PRESENCE IN SYRIA.  DATT HAS SURVEYED THE THREE 
IDENTIFIED ABU NIDAL OFFICES IN DAMASCUS.  AS OF JUNE 4, 
SURVEILLANCE CAMERAS OUTSIDE THE PRESS OFFICE AND THE ANO 
HEADQUARTERS IN DAMASCUS PROPER HAVE BEEN REMOVED (THESE 
CAMERAS HAD BEEN PRESENT JUNE 3).  THE GUARD FORCE 
NORMALLY PRESENT OUTSIDE BOTH LOCATIONS HAD ALSO BEEN 
MOVED AS OF JUNE 4, AND REGULAR SYRIAN POLICE CARS, 
NEVER PREVIOUSLY SEEN AT THE HEADQUARTERS LOCATION, WERE 
PARKED IN FRONT.  FOLLOW-UP SURVEY ON JUNE 5 FOUND THE 
OFFICES APPARENTLY DESERTED.  LOCAL AP CORRESPONDENT TOLD 
POLOFF JUNE 4 THAT HE HAD VISITED THE ANO HEADQUARTERS 
THAT MORNING AND FOUND THEM OCCUPIED BY "ALI DUBA'S 
MEN" WHO WERE TEARING POSTERS OFF THE WALLS. 
 
4.  AP CORRESPONDENT INSISTS THE STORY IS TRUE, AND THAT 
THE ABU NIDAL ORGANIZATION HAS BEEN ORDERED TO VACATE 
SYRIA COMPLETELY.  HE ASSERTS ALSO THAT THE TRAINING 
CAMPS IN THE BIQA' HAVE BEEN CLOSED.  (THE SOURCE 
REMINDED US THAT HE HAD MADE THE LATTER CLAIM A WEEK 
AGO.)  PNSF CHAIRMAN KHALID AL-FAHOUM ALSO CONFIRMED THIS 
STORY TO THE ITALIAN COUNSELOR ON THE AFTERNOON OF JUNE 4, 
AS DID A "FORMER SENIOR MFA OFFICIAL" TO A NUMBER OF 
OTHER WESTERN DIPLOMATS (WEST GERMAN CHARGE SAYS THE 
SOURCE WAS MOHAMMED SAKARIAN ISMAIL). 
 
5.  ON JUNE 4 AND 5, MISSION OFFICERS CALLED ON AUSTRIAN, 
BRITISH, DUTCH, FRENCH, GERMAN, CANADIAN, SPANISH, 
ITALIAN AND YUGOSLAV COLLEAGUES.  DATT CONTACTED HIS 
CHINESE AND AUSTRALIAN COUNTERPARTS.  THE AUSTRIANS, 
SPANISH, AND ITALIANS CLAIM TO HAVE SOME CONFIRMATION. 
ALL OUR CONTACTS PROMISED TO FOLLOW UP WITH LOCAL 
PALESTINIAN SOURCES OVER THE NEXT FEW DAYS AND TO GET 
BACK TO US.  (ARAB EMBASSIES IN DAMASCUS WERE CLOSED 
FRIDAY, JUNE 5.  WE WILL FOLLOW UP WITH THEM OVER THE 
WEEKEND.) 
 
6.  COMMENT:  PHYSICALLY, THE ANO OFFICES APPEAR SHUT 
DOWN.  THEIR STATUS HAS GREATLY CHANGED FROM THE DATT'S 
LAST RECONNAISSANCE.  THE SYRIANS HAVE BEEN TELLING US, 
AS WELL AS THE REST OF OUR DIPLOMATIC COLLEAGUES, THAT ABU 
NIDAL'S ORGANIZATION HAD LEFT SYRIA, WITH THE EXCEPTION 
OF THE FRONT OFFICES WHICH WERE MANNED BY LOW LEVEL 
PERSONNEL, FOR SOME TIME.  WHEN ASKED ABOUT THE "JORDAN 
TIMES" STORY JUNE 4, MFA EUROPEAN DIRECTOR SULAYMAN HADDAD 
QUIPPED THAT "THE AMERICANS SPEND MILLIONS ON THEIR CIA 
AND YET THEY DO NOT SEEM TO BE ABLE TO GRASP THE FACT 
THAT ABU NIDAL IS GONE."  FAHOUM AND DFLP AND PFLP 
LEADERS HAVE ALSO BEEN INSISTING SINCE THE BEGINNING OF 
THE YEAR THAT, OTHER THAN THE TOKEN PRESENCE OF THE 
OFFICES, THAT THE ANO HAD LEFT SYRIA, FIRST FOR LEBANON 
AND THEN TO LIBYA. 
 
7.  COMMENT CONTINUED.  THE INFORMAL BUT OFFICIAL JUSTIFI 
CATION FOR THE FINAL SYMBOLIC GESTURE OF CLOSING THE 
OFFICES IS ABU NIDAL'S DEALINGS WITH ARAFAT IN ALGIERS. 
ONE LOCAL SOURCE TELLS US THAT ABU NIDAL REPRESENTATIVES 
MISREPRESENTED THE DISCUSSIONS TO THE SYRIANS FOLLOWING 
THEIR DEPARTURE FROM ALGIERS.  THE AUSTRIAN AMBASSADOR 
POINTS OUT, HOWEVER (AND WE AGREE), THAT THE SAME 
JUSTIFICATION SHOULD APPLY MORE APPROPRIATELY TO THE 
DFLP, PFLP, PCP AND OTHERS WHO PARTICIPATED FULLY IN 
THE PNC.  MORE LIKELY, THE SYRIANS HAVE GROWN INCREASING- 
LY IRRITATED BY THE ANO'S ACTIVE OPPOSITION TO SYRIAN 
EFFORTS TO END THE ARMED PALESTINIAN PRESENCE IN 
LEBANON AND THE SYRIAN MILITARY OCCUPATION OF WEST 
BEIRUT.  DAMASCUS, TOO, IS ANXIOUS TO RELIEVE WESTERN 
PRESSURE REGARDING TERRORISM AND MAY AT LAST  HAVE 
CONCLUDED THAT THE MAINTENANCE OF WHAT THEY INSIST IS A 
TOKEN POLITICAL PRESENCE IS NOT WORTH THE PRICE. 
 
 
LINO 

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