Hit & Run

Family Plot

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Israel?s Ha?aretz is reporting that ?Munzar Assad, a cousin of Syrian President Bashar Assad, is under house arrest in Syria on suspicion he was aiding militias loyal to deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and supplying them with arms.? The source for the story is reportedly Syrian intelligence, according to a Syrian exile group called the National Council for Truth, Justice and Reconciliation in Syria.

The group issued a report noting, also: ?Munzar Assad was detained by the security services of an unnamed European country [before being handed over to the Syrians]. The report states the arrest was made in an effort to prevent American intelligence agents, cooperating with agents of a coalition partner, from detaining Munzar Assad.?

It is fairly certain that the Syrian intelligence services did not arrest Munzar in order to end the smuggling of arms or anything else to Iraq. Indeed, according to Syrian sources, the shootout that occurred in Damascus last April, and which was falsely blamed on Islamic militants, was, in fact, an exchange of fire between a group of smugglers reportedly tied to Military Intelligence, and a group from a rival intelligence service, the Political Security directorate, that was shadowing them. The smugglers, among many deeds, reportedly ran guns to Iraq.

By most accounts, Bashar?s control over the various centers of power in Syria is very weak, so that it?s unlikely that he would further erode this by going after a cousin. Nor would Syria's intelligence services hit on an Assad family member. The "house arrest" claim seems partly or entirely bogus.

The real question was which European intelligence service arrested Munzar, evidently to shield him? I have my doubts?if indeed the exiles? account is accurate.

Most interesting was the exiles' claim that "the events surrounding the Munzar Assad case were the reason that the Syrian president cut short a recent trip to China." I know people who were on that trip, and the rumor among the delegation was that a coup attempt, or something similar, had taken place. That never seemed plausible, but I'm not sure this story is either.