SYRIA: ASSAD AND THE TWA HIJACKING

Created: 6/20/1985

OCR scan of the original document, errors are possible

TRANS^jggRED TO OTHERf 1 REFEl^LiM-ipR DIRECTIA

DIRECTORATE OF INTELLIGENCE

5 SYRIA: Assad and the TWA Hijacking Summary

Syrian President Assad has been in contact with Anal leader Nabih Barri to urge an end to the TWA hijacking, but we do not believe Assad is willing to risk antagonizing Lebanon's Shias, the country's largest confessional group, by bringing pressure to bear on behalf of the United States.

Syrian leverage over the Shias is limited in any case. Barri cooperates with Damascus and receives Syrian support, but he has maintained his independence and resisted Syrian efforts to manipulate Amal. Barri is less dependent on Syria than other Lebanese factions/ particularly for supplies, because his forces aro an urban street militia using small arms readily available in Beirut. Syrian relations with the radical Shia factions are even more tenuous and increasingly strained.

Assad1

will

avoid strong steps against the hijackers either directly or indirectly through intermediaries.

memorandum was prepared by

South Asian Anaysis, and|and Weapons Research, of the Department ofused in its preparation, should be directed to Chief

Uttice otstern and Hof the Office of Scientificat the request iniornation as of5 was Questions and comments are welcome and

DATE:4

BY

DERIVED FROM .Mui'-igTe"

Assad's Response to thfr Hi-jacking

Assad almost certainly sees the current crisis over the TWA hijacking as an unwelccroe complication of his efforts to achieve Syrian aims in Lebanon and to move on to other issues- His summit meeting with President Geraayel two weeks ago set an agenda for reestablishing security and implementing political re forms. Meanwhile# the "war of the camps" in Beirut has brought to the fore the Palestinian and inter-Arab dimensions of the problem. Increasingly frustrated with the seemingly bottomless Lebanese morass and anxious to devote more attention to Syria's relations with the superpowers and threats to Syrian interests posed by the Hussein/Arafatssad must find his plate already full.

Assad has done what President ReaganAmal leader Nabih Barri to become actively involved inbut Damascus remains publicly neutral on the hijacking. The Syrians press has reported the eventsint of denunciation and, indeed, has given preminence to the hijackers'

does not

want to arltAgdni26difficult allied in LeDAnon at least in part because to do so would cancel the influence he hasem.

Syrian Relations with Nabih Barri and the Shias

In contrast to Syria's control over Walid Junblatt's Druze and several other Lebanese factions, Amal leader Nabih Barri has remained relatively independent of Damascus. Barri refused to join the Syrian-sponsored National Salvation Front duringighting and he has strongly resisted Syrian attempts to manipulate Amal. Barri has attempted to counter Syrian efforts to coopt top Amal leaders and to constrain the activities of pro-Syrian Amal officials.

Syrian leverage over Barri is reduced by Amal's lack of. dependence on Damascus for supplies. Amal receives Syrianmost recently cooperated at least tacitly with the Syrians in the war over Beirut's Palestinianthe nee oforces are limited. Amal fields an urban street militia that uses small arms, mortars, and rocket-propelled grenades, which are easily obtainable on the open market or from abandoned Palestinian arms caches in Beirut.

Syrian relations with the extremist Shia factions are even more tenuous. Damascus has tolerated radical Shia activities and has provided support to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards working with them to maintain Syria's lucrative ties to Iran, to hasten total Israeli withdrawal froa South Lebanon, and to serveounter to Barri in an effort to force him to come to terms with Damascus. Syrian aims in Lebanon are imccmpatible with the radical Shia goal of an Iranian-style fundamentalist regime, however, and signs of increasing strains in the relationship are

evident. Syrian troops have clashed with Shia extremists In the Bekaa Valley several times since

Assad has provided assistance in releasing Americans when there hasompelling Syrian interest to do so and whon the costs of Syrian actions have been minimal. Inhe Syrians obtained the release from Iranian hands of kidnapped Airerican University of Beirut President David Dodge almost certainly to let Tehran know thatostage through Damascus without Syrian compliance was unacceptable. Inhe Syrians released captured US Navy pilot Lt. Goodnanost-free gesture to hasten American withdrawal frera Lebanon. Recently, onune, Assadublic appeal to the kidnappers holding hostages in Lebanon* bluntly stating his ccfanitjaent to President Reagan and his opposition to tho kidnapping of diplcmats, but he reiterated Syrian support for the extremist groups involved and gave no hint that Syria was prepared to take action to effect their release.

Original document.

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