Assad Tells Annan No Negotiations As Long as Terrorist Groups Remain in Syria
March 13, 2012 • 7:38AM

The Syrian authorities have proof of foreign special forces operating against the government, according to reports from Syrian sources sympathetic to the Bashar al-Assad government—and the sponsoring governments know it. Special forces soldiers and officers from France, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been active inside Syria, and have been captured by Syrian authorities in several cases. The Syrian government has been using these captured foreign forces in negotiations with the home countries, to exchange them for members of the Free Syria Army who are part of the armed operations against Syria coming from Turkey. Some of these cases of foreign special forces have been reported in the French-based intelligence newsletter, Réseau Voltaire. One exchange highlighted by the Syrian source, and also reported in the press, involves a high-ranking Syrian officer who had defected to Turkey, and then was arrested by Turkish intelligence and handed over to Syria. Turkish supporters of the overthrow of Assad have protested this act, but the reality is that the Syrian defector was turned over in exchange for the getting back Turkey's own captured soldier (or soldiers).

President Bashar al-Assad delivered a very strong message to Annan this weekend, reported the Syrian contact, that there will be no negotiations or reform as long as there are terrorist groups inside the country. The source also reported widespread suspicion about the role of Kofi Annan and the belief that Annan's intention is save some of these insurgents by letting them leave Syria for Lebanon and Turkey. However, this idea of creating a haven for terrorists in Lebanon has been met with stiff opposition by the Lebanese government: Syrian insurgents who fled to Lebanon are being arrested by Lebanese authorities and held (rather than being turned over to Syria).

The center of command of the armed groups was not in Bab Amro in Homs, from where the insurgents recently withdrew, but in Idlib and Jabal Azzawia, the source reports. That area is under siege by the Syrian army, but the government forces do not want to storm the city because there could be massive bloodshed among civilians. The terrorists keep civilians as hostages and human shields, as is happening right now in an outskirt of Homs called Qalat Al-Hisn (an ancient fortress). The assessment of the Syrian source is that when Idlib is cleared of the terrorists, all the major military operations would end. There will be smaller groups of terrorists spreading all over the country, but their effect will be very small.