Reports contained in the war logs allege elements within Syrian intelligence provided support for al Qaeda in Iraq.
There are other reports that suggest al Qaeda also operated training camps on Syrian soil – with foreign fighters and military hardware, including chemical weapons, shipped across the border.
“There are other foreign fighters. We know for a fact that a lot of them find their way into Iraq through Syria.”
General Richard Myers, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 2004
The reports come from a single, uncorroborated source, but if true they have international implications.
Concerns over international support
From the start of the US invasion in March 2003, there have been concerns over Syria’s possible support for the insurgency. Speaking at a press conference in Baghdad in 2004, General Richard Myers, then Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said: “There are other foreign fighters. We know for a fact that a lot of them find their way into Iraq through Syria.”
Syrian President Bashar al Assad has repeatedly denied any state involvement with Islamist terrorist groups. In 2007 he declared, “If you stoke [terrorism], it will burn you. So if we have this chaos in Iraq, it will spill over to Syria … So saying this [that Syria aids Iraq's insurgency], it’s like saying that the Syrian government is working against the Syrian interest.”
The war logs, however, contain a report from July 2008 that alleges Syrian agents assisted with plans to attack Iraq’s mobile phone network.
“If we have this chaos in Iraq, it will spill over to Syria.”
Bashar Assad, Syrian President, 2007
July 15 2008
It is possible to gain insight into a larger AQI [al Qaeda in Iraq] network directing operations inside Iraq from Syria, a foreign intelligence officer ordered a trusted asset to enter Iraq and pass orders to intelligence and AQI teams in Iraq (specifically Ghazaliya) from Syria… reporting indicates Iraqna mobile phone towers being targeted throughout Iraq. HUMINT [Human Intelligence] reporting specifically identifies Syrian intelligence members paying individuals to destroy phone towers in Iraq.
Other reports indicate how, under interrogation, some al Qaeda detainees claimed links with Syrian intelligence.
Graphic map: deaths in Baghdad
Militant training camps
The war logs also report of two bases in Syria allegedly used to train al Qaeda recruits.
These were allegedly large-scale operations, with trained recruits being bussed across the border.
May 5 2008
Reported that terrorist group belong to AQI planning to enter Iraq from Syria after finishing their training in (Khoraba Al-sham) camp through Rabeaa entering point in three different bus trips from Haleb in Syria.
It is not known if US higher command dismissed these reports.
Dr Toby Dodge, an expert in Iraqi politics at Queen Mary College, University of London, advises caution, explaining, “Intelligence agents operate in a paranoid world and it would be dangerous to take what they say as gospel.”
However, he adds that if true, the international implications of these reports found in the US files could be “potentially explosive”.
“Just after the invasion, Colin Powell, as Secretary of State, reads the riot act to Syria. He says we’ve succeeded in Iraq and you’ve got to do what we say otherwise we’ll come after you. That was the starting gun fired. This was the stage in an ambitious attempt at reworking the Middle East. What the US files do is put legs on a lot of fairly well sourced rumours that there was support for the insurgency from within Syria.”
Chemical weapons and arms
The files also suggest a steady stream of weapons, including rockets, missiles, small arms, and pre-prepared Vehicle Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), having crossed over the Syrian border into Iraq. On October 13 2005, there is an allegation that chemical weapons were being smuggled across.
October 13 2005
As of late September 2005, Al-Qa’ida in Iraq elements allegedly planned to attack Abu Ghurayb prison (CUT – in early to mid-October using an unspecified number of mortars and car bombs)…. AQIZ [al Qaeda in Iraq] elements allegedly planned to use 20 “chemical munitions” brought from Syria.
In January 2006, an intelligence source also alleged that 10 men from Syria, believed to be chemical weapons experts, had entered Iraq and were travelling to a hidden weapons cache.
Related article: Al Qaeda’s use of chemical weapons
Since coming to power, President Obama has relaxed sanctions and renewed engagement with Syria in a bid to jump-start the Middle East peace process.
Jihad Makdissi, spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in London, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
“There are no Syrian links whatsoever to any extremist religious movements including al Qaeda, we shall always remember that Syria is a secular state by constitution and has a history in struggling against extremism far before the West managed to discover the evil ideology of al Qaeda.
“As for training camps of al Qaeda in Syria ….it is another bluff. The only training camp for al Qaeda acknowledged internationally was the one run by the Americans themselves in Afghanistan.
“A stable and safe Iraq is definitely in Syria’s strategic interest, and revealing these documents shall be another proof of how Syria was so right when it warned against the invasion of Iraq and the day after. “