US embassy cable - 87DAMASCUS3703

SYRIA AND NEWS OF A "NEW AND GRAVE MOVE BY THE PKK"

Identifier: 87DAMASCUS3703
Wikileaks: View 87DAMASCUS3703 at Wikileaks.org
Origin: Embassy Damascus
Created: 1987-07-10 06:05:00
Classification: SECRET
Tags: PTER TU SY
Redacted: This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.
R 100605Z JUL 87
FM AMEMBASSY DAMASCUS
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 0541
INFO AMEMBASSY ANKARA
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 03703 
 
E.O. 12356:  DECL:  OADR 
TAGS:  PTER TU SY 
SUBJECT:  SYRIA AND NEWS OF A "NEW AND GRAVE MOVE BY 
THE PKK" 
 
REF:  STATE 208025 
 
1.  SECRET ENTIRE TEXT 
 
2.  SUMMARY:  REFTEL IS DEAD RIGHT TO SEEK ALL THE 
INFORMATION WE CAN GET ON A PKK ATTACK ON U.S. FACILITIES 
IN TURKEY.  IF WE FIND SYRIA IS INVOLVED, WE SHOULD 
PROTEST HERE STRONGLY -- BARRING TURKISH OBJECTIONS TO 
SUCH A U.S. MOVE.  BUT WE SEE SYRIA AS LARGELY -- IF NOT 
ENTIRELY -- ABANDONING   TERRORISM FOR A VARIETY OF 
REASONS.  END SUMMARY. 
 
3.  PKK ATTACKS SUCH AS THE ONE ALLEGED IN THE TURKISH 
PRESS ACCOUNT MENTIONED IN REFTEL MUST BE PURSUED BUT WE 
NO LONGER REFLEXIVELY ASSUME THAT SYRIA PROMOTED OR 
CONDONED THE ATTACK.  THE PKK HAS NOT BEEN TOTALLY 
UPROOTED HERE LIKE ABU NIDAL, BUT IT HAS BEEN RESTRICTED. 
IT WON'T BE COMPLETELY UPROOTED, IN OUR VIEW.  KURDS FORM 
ONE OF THE IMPORTANT MINORITIES OF SYRIA AND THE RULING 
ALAWIS  HAVE REACHED OUT TO THEM -- AS TO MINORITY 
CHRISTIANS, DRUZE AND ISMAILIS -- TO FORM THE COALITION 
WHICH IS NEEDED TO OFFSET THE GREAT MAJORITY OF SYRIANS, 
WHO ARE SUNNI ARABS, THE TRADITIONAL RULING CLASS.  KURDS 
ARE THE LEAST PROMINENT PART OF THE COALITION,  PARTLY 
BECAUSE THEY ARE SUNNI, AND ARE IN NO WAY IN A POSITION T 
ASSERT A RIGHT TO CROSS-BORDER OPERATIONS WHICH COMPLICAT 
SYRIAN RELATIONS WITH A RESURGENT TURKEY. 
 
4.  WE CONTINUE TO DOUBT THAT SYRIA IS ENCOURAGING, RATHE 
THAN DISCOURAGING, ANY SUCH ATTACKS.  SYRIA HAS CLAMPED 
DOWN ON ASALA -- THE ARMENIAN BISHOP HERE SAYS IT HAS 
BEEN THROWN OUT -- AND HAS MOVED PKK CAMPS OUT OF THE 
COUNTRY.  THE REASONS ARE MANY:  BLOWN OPERATIONS, 
EUPHRATES WATER, A SKILLFUL TURKISH DIPLOMACY WHICH 
COMBINES THE CARROT WITH THE STICK.  OPERATIONS CONTINUE, 
BUT IRAQI AND IRANIAN SUPPORT FOR SUCH OPERATIONS -- TO 
EMBARRASS SYRIA AND EMBROIL IT WITH TURKEY -- REMAIN 
PLAUSIBLE EXPLANATIONS FOR US.  BUT WE MUST FOLLOW UP 
SUCH GOSSAMER  POSSIBILITIES AS REFTEL - BUT - ALTHOUGH WE 
HAVE A LEGITIMATE INTEREST IN RAISING KURDISH TERRORISM 
AGAINST U.S. FACILITIES, THE TURKS WILL NOT RPT NOT 
WELCOME OUR DOING SO WITH SYRIANS IN THE CASE OF PKK. 
THE TURKS PROBABLY WILL WANT US NOT TO GET INVOLVED AT 
ALL, IN FACT -- EVEN IF IT IS PROVED THAT THE ALLEGED PKK 
ATTACKERS CAME FROM SYRIA. 
 
5.  UNDERGIRDING THIS NOW IS OUR FEELING THAT A BROAD 
AND DISPARATE NUMBER OF DEVELOPMENTS -- WITH THE WEST, 
TURKEY, MODERATE ARABS, IRAQ, IRAN, AND THE DOMESTIC 
ECONOMY HAVE FORCED A TURN-AROUND HERE ON TERRORISM.  EVE 
SYRIA'S MUCH PUBLICIZED SUPPORT FOR ITS OWN SUICIDE 
BOMBERS IN SOUTH LEBANON HAS ALL BUT HALTED IN THE PAST 
YEAR.  ASAD IS WEAK AND WANTS NO PROBLEMS WITH ISRAEL. 
WE DON'T EXPECT ATTACKS ON ISRAELI TARGETS TO BE 
DISCARDED ENTIRELY; AFTER ALL, SMALL SCALE, DENIABLE 
ATTACKS ARE THE WEAPON OF THE WEAK.  IN ADDITION, ASAD 
BELIEVES HE HAS EVERY RIGHT TO SUPPORT "NATIONAL 
RESISTANCE" INSIDE ISRAELI-OCCUPIED TERRITORY AGAINST 
CERTAIN TARGETS.  (THIS IS A PROBLEM FOR US.  THE ISRAELI 
DEFINITION OF "TERRORISM" ON THE WEST BANK AND SOUTHERN 
LEBANON APPEARS DIFFERENT FROM OURS -- UNDERSTANDABLY, 
SINCE WE CHAMPION FOES OF OCCUPATION IN AFGHANISTAN, NIC- 
ARAGUA, ANGOLA, CAMBODIA, AND ELSEWHERE, WHILE THE 
ISRAELIS ARE OCCUPIERS WITH NO LARGE STAKE BEYOND THEIR 
BORDER.)  THUS, ASAD MAY TOSS MOST PALESTINIANS OUT OF 
DAMASCUS, BUT HE WILL HOLD OUT A REMNANT TO FRONT FOR 
HIS TOTTERING POLICY OF "ARMED CONFRONTATION" WITH ISRAEL 
HE SIMILARLY WANTS TO USE HIZBALLAHIS AGAINST ISRAEL'S 
OCCUPATION AND WON'T HESITATE, WE THINK, TO TAKE ON 
CERTAIN LEBANESE GROUPS WHICH PUSH HIM TOO FAR; THE 
LEBANESE ARE WEAKER THAN SYRIA, AND USE TERRORISM EVERY 
DAY THEMSELVES.  WITNESS KARAMI, AND MANY OTHERS OF EVERY 
CONFESSION.  ANYWAY, SYRIA ISN'T OUT OF THE TERRORISM 
BUSINESS. 
 
6.  ONLY TIME WILL TELL WHETHER ASAD HAS REDUCED 
TERRORISM AS MUCH AS WE THINK.  "YOU WON'T BELIEVE ME," 
SHRUGGED ASAD, AFTER TELLING ONE AMERICAN VISITOR THAT 
THERE WOULD BE NO TERRORIST OPERATION RUN OUT OF 
SYRIA IN THE FUTURE, "BUT IT IS USEFUL TO SAY SO, TO 
CLOSE THE DOSSIER."  WE MUST BE ALERT TO EVERY 
INCIDENT--BUT NOT IGNORE THE SIGNS OF A BASIC CHANGE. 
 
 
RANSOM 

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