August 08

08DAMASCUS541 2008-08-03 15:03 2010-12-20 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Damascus

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INFO RUEHAD/AMEMBASSY ABU DHABI IMMEDIATE 1456
RUEHAM/AMEMBASSY AMMAN IMMEDIATE 7376
RUEHAK/AMEMBASSY ANKARA IMMEDIATE 5616
RUEHGB/AMEMBASSY BAGHDAD IMMEDIATE 0911
RUEHLB/AMEMBASSY BEIRUT IMMEDIATE 4973
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO IMMEDIATE 3702
RUEHDO/AMEMBASSY DOHA IMMEDIATE 0511
RUEHKU/AMEMBASSY KUWAIT IMMEDIATE 1354
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON IMMEDIATE 0440
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 DAMASCUS 000541

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPT FOR NEA/ELA
NSC FOR ABRAMS/SINGH

EO 12958 DECL: 08/03/2028
TAGS PGOV, PTER, SY, LE, IS
SUBJECT: TOP ASAD SECURITY AIDE ASSASSINATED

Classified By: Pol/Econ Counselor Tim Pounds for reasons 1.4(b,d)

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Summary
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¶1. (S/NF) Syrian Presidential security aide Brigadier General Muhammad Sulayman was assassinated by a sniper late on the evening of August 1 in the coastal city of Tartous. Sulayman enjoyed a reputation among Embassy contacts as having special status and proximity to Bashar. Sulayman was said to have managed special projects for Asad, some of which may have been unknown to the broader Syrian military leadership. Our expectation is that the SARG will try to keep this incident under wraps as long as possible, but that will become more difficult as regional and international press run with the story. End summary.

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Details Murky After Official News Blackout
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¶2. (S/NF) On August 3, the Israeli daily Ha’aretz cited “senior sources in Damascus” in reporting Sulayman’s assassination on its website, identifying Sulayman as Asad’s “liaison” to Hizballah. Al Hayat and the news ticker Al Bawaba also reported the story. A reliable Embassy press contact said that he had heard of the attack yesterday, and said that the version of the story he had heard was that Sulayman’s entire family had also been killed. According to the contact, Syrian security services quickly cordoned and searched the entire beach neighborhood where the shooting had occurred. Other Embassy sources would say little except that Syria-based reporters are under instructions not to report the story. As of late August 3, all Syrian-based press remains silent.

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Pointing the SARG Finger
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¶3. (S/NF) As in other recent assassinations in Syria, speculation about who could have done it will likely be rampant. The most obvious suspects are the Israelis. SARG security services are well aware that the coastal city of Tartous would offer easier access to Israeli operatives than would more inland locations such as Damascus. Sulayman was not a highly visible government official, and the use of a sniper suggests the assassin could visually identify Sulayman from a distance. As Tartous is also close to the northern-most part of the Syrian-Lebanese border, the SARG might blame pro-Saudi Islamist militants from Tripoli or the Nahr al-Barid camp. Some may even go so far as to suggest the (comment: unlikely) possibility that this was an inside job to prevent Sulayman from damaging the Syrian regime.

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Implications
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¶4. (S/NF) Although officially just a Brigadier General, Sulayman was considered President Asad’s top security aide and was known to manage several special projects for Bashar — some of which may have been unknown to the broader Syrian military leadership. Sulayman’s proximity to Asad granted him special status in the eyes of more senior Syrian military officials.
DAMASCUS 00000541 002 OF 002

¶5. (S/NF) If the SARG were to suspect an Israeli role in the assassination, it may be reluctant to level public accusations as (1) they may not know who did it; (2) such accusations could impair or end Syria’s nascent peace negotiations with Israel; and (3) publicizing the event would reveal yet another lapse in Syria’s vaunted security apparatus. Syria could seek to retaliate against Israel via proxies and allies in Lebanon or elsewhere. If terrorist groups are suspected, this may prompt a domestic crackdown or counterstrikes on targets within the suspected group.

¶6. (S/NF) Although unlikely, elements within the SARG may suspect or allege a U.S. role. Possible responses could include staged demonstrations against U.S. interests in Syria, retaliatory diplomatic or security measures, or the threat of targeting U.S. installations via proxies. To date, Post has no indications that the SARG is seeking to blame the USG for the assassination, impose retaliatory measures, or retreat from its commitment to ensure security for our facilities and personnel. Additionally, core country team assesses that no immediate, new threats have been identified as a result of post-incident reporting.

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Probable Short-term Reaction
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¶7. (S/NF) For now, the most likely default SARG response will be to clamp down on information and say nothing while the various security services scramble to identify a culprit and avoid being blamed. However long the Syrians can hold out without saying anything, they will. SARG leaders will likely view any publicity of the assassination as a net loss for the regime.

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Comment
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¶8. (S/NF) As press in Lebanon and elsewhere in the region reports Sulayman’s assassination, it will be increasingly difficult for the SARG to keep a lid on this high-profile attack. Coinciding with Bashar’s trip to Tehran and on the heels of the latest round of indirect talks with Israel, the assassination will likely weaken advocates of the peace negotiations, including Bashar himself. CHASE

08CAIRO1878 2008-08-25 15:38 2011-08-30 01:44 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Cairo

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INFO RUEHXK/ARAB ISRAELI COLLECTIVE
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RHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FL
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S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 02 CAIRO 001878

NOFORN
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR NEA/FO AND NEA/ELA
NSC FOR PASCUAL
OSD FOR AGUIRRE

E.O. 12958: DECL: 08/25/2018
TAGS: PARM PREL KPAL PTER MOPS MARR IS EG
SUBJECT: STRATEGY FOR THE GAZA BORDER

REF: A. CAIRO 1542 (NOTAL)
¶B. CAIRO 1516
¶C. CAIRO 1436
¶D. CAIRO 1029

Classified By: Ambassador Margaret Scobey per 1.4 (b) and (d)

¶1. (S/NF) Summary: Since the Egyptian-brokered “tahdiya”
(“calming”) between Israel and Palestinian groups in Gaza
took effect June 19, rocket attacks from Gaza have decreased,
and Israeli public pressure on the GOE to stop smuggling via
tunnels into Gaza has relaxed. However, smuggling remains an
important security issue. We are working closely with Egypt
to develop a comprehensive counter-smuggling strategy.
Assisting the GOE with deployment of a U.S.-supplied
counter-tunneling system on the Egypt-Gaza border provides
Egypt with an opportunity to more fully exploit tunnels and
break up smuggling rings. As Egypt moves forward into a new
phase of counter-smuggling efforts, we will continue our
cooperation in a variety of areas: helping interdict
smuggling on Egypt’s western, southern, and eastern borders;
economic development in the Sinai; border security
assistance; and de-mining. End summary.

¶2. (S) The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) conducted
site surveys on the Gaza Border in June and at a training
site in Giza, near Cairo, to support the GOE in deploying a
U.S.-supplied seismic-acoustic counter-tunneling system (ref
B), aiming to deploy this equipment on the Gaza border by
early 2009. The GOE’s agreement to accept this equipment
after initial resistance in 2007 is a sign of increased
bilateral cooperation on border security, and the new
technology, which can detect the sounds of tunnel digging and
movement through tunnels, should improve GOE interdiction
efforts. The Egyptian-brokered tahdiya (“calming”) that took
effect June 19 has reduced tensions, and Israel’s opening of
some border crossings for supplies has slightly alleviated
the humanitarian pressure on Gaza. Yet, economic incentives
for smuggling remain on both sides of the Gaza border, and
Hamas’ re-arming efforts will continue to drive the smuggling
of weapons and explosives into Gaza, often through the same
tunnels used for smuggling commercial items and contraband.

¶3. (S) Destroying tunnels on the Gaza border is not as cut
and dried as it might appear. For example, the GOE believes
that exploding the main tunnels under the border would result
in unacceptable damage to housing in both Egyptian and
Palestinian Rafah. Moreover, Egypt realizes that Hamas
retains the capacity to repeat its January 2008 border
breach, despite Egyptian steps at deterrence, such as the
GOE’s recently completed three-meter high stone wall that now
extends along the length of the 14 km border with Gaza.
Shutting down tunnel smuggling could place added economic
pressure on Gaza and increase the risk of another breach.

¶4. (S/NF) We plan to engage the GOE on a number of short and
long-term steps the Egyptians can take to prevent smuggling,
including: tunnel exploitation; interdicting smugglers on
Egypt’s western, southern and eastern borders; economic
development in the Sinai; border security assistance; and
de-mining. The following is a list of steps we are taking to
strengthen our dialogue with the GOE as it addresses
smuggling into and out of Gaza.

— Tunnel Exploitation: Current GOE counter-tunneling
strategy focuses on closing tunnel openings. A more
effective GOE strategy would be to exploit the tunnels by
using knowledge of the tunnel routes to catch smugglers
red-handed and break up smuggling rings. We are working with
the GOE to understand the origins of smuggled munitions and
explosives seized in the tunnels. We will continue
working-level discussions with the GOE on this issue, and the
Ambassador will continue to raise tunnel exploitation with
the Defense Minister and EGIS Chief Soliman. (Note: As
noted in Cairo 1542, Soliman told the Ambassador that he knew
that Egypt needed to close the main tunnels down. End note.)
We will work with the GOE on using the new USACE
counter-tunneling equipment effectively to map tunnel routes
and catch smugglers when they arrive at the tunnel openings
to deliver their goods.

–Engagement on Smuggling Routes: Although interdicting the
Rafah tunnels is essential, it is still tantamount to playing

CAIRO 00001878 002 OF 002

“goal-line defense.” Disrupting the smuggling routes in
southern and eastern Sinai, from the Suez Canal crossings,
the western desert, and the Sudanese border will be key to
effectively decreasing smuggling into Gaza. We will open a
dialogue with the Interior Minister on MOI’s role in stopping
Sinai smuggling further away from Gaza.

–Border Security Assistance: We are initiating a
comprehensive strategy to offer the GOE assistance on all
elements of border security. However, the GOE has been
resistant thus far to admitting its need for assistance. We
have increased our engagement with the border guard forces
and accompanied BGF officers on a recent trip to Sandia labs
and a U.S. Border Patrol Headquarters in Texas. We are
urging the GOE to establish a relationship with the U.S.
Border Cooperation Monitoring Center annex in Jordan. We
plan to begin a dialogue with the Ministry of Defense on how
to shore up security on the Sudanese and Libyan borders by
increasing BGFs and patrols, as well as possibly using FMF to
upgrade BGF capabilities. We also want to visit the southern
and western borders to assess current GOE capabilities
first-hand.

–Economic Development in the Sinai: Economic deprivation is
a prime motivating factor in Bedouin smuggling between the
Sinai and Gaza. USAID is supporting the North Sinai
Businessmen’s Association micro-finance program,
headquartered in Al-Arish, with a branch in Sheikh Zweida,
approximately 10 km west of Rafah. The Sheikh Zweida branch
has micro-finance borrowers in Rafah. USAID is also managing
a $10 million project in central Sinai to develop
infrastructure, community centers, schools, and eco-tourism.
We will also continue our dialogue with the GOE to encourage
creating an economic stimulus program for the Sinai.

–De-mining/Munitions Collection: Every year, Bedouin
smugglers uncover buried munitions caches and mines in the
Sinai dating to the Egyptian-Israeli wars. The GOE currently
focuses its de-mining efforts in areas identified for oil
exploration and resort development. We plan to open a
dialogue with the MOD on expanding these efforts throughout
the Sinai, possibly using FMF money.

¶5. (C) Maintaining Humanitarian Flows into Gaza: The
shortage of goods in Gaza due to the Israeli embargo has
stimulated a commercial smuggling network that arms smugglers
have exploited. The USG should encourage Israel to continue
to allow humanitarian food and fuel shipments to enter Gaza,
and to increase these shipments consistent with civilian
needs in Gaza. Increased humanitarian shipments will be
especially important as increased smuggling interdiction puts
added economic pressure on Gaza and raises the risk of
another Hamas breach.
SCOBEY

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