Who Bombed Damascus?

On the morning of December 23, two suicide car bombs ripped through Damascus, killing over 40 people and wounding about 160. According to Syria’s official state media organ, SANA, the bombings targeted the State Security Department and another “department of security” -- euphemisms for Syrian intelligence.

Unlike other incidents occurring within Syrian borders, such as the Damascus assassination of Hezballah leader Imad Mughniyeh, state TV was immediately on scene with reports. Gruesome pictures of the bodies were broadcast on official websites and television stations.

The Syrian government news agency announced that the explosions were designed “to kill the largest amount of citizens possible” and bore “hallmarks of al-Qaeda.” During the nine-month-long mostly nonviolent uprising, regime newspapers have regularly claimed that the oppositionists were actually radical Islamist terrorists.

During his interview with Barbara Walters, President Bashar al-Assad said:

We are having terrorists in many places. ... Not everybody in the street was fighting for freedom. ... You have extremists, religious extremists ... outlaws ... drug smugglers, and you have like-minded people of al-Qaeda.

The regime’s argument: either Assad wins or anarchy and radical Islamism prevails. This is not necessarily a false dichotomy if there is evidence to prove it. So is the regime starting to manufacture such evidence?

It is true that after months of being mowed down by Assad’s forces, the Syrian opposition has started to militarily engage the regime in a more organized fashion. Yet the opposition’s main armed force, the Free Syrian Army, denied any involvement. Besides, it is comprised of people who were in the Syrian army just weeks ago. There is no al-Qaeda connection.

Some Western media sources published a variation that also backed the regime’s version, blaming the Muslim Brotherhood rather than al-Qaeda for the attacks. Yet the alleged communique on the bombing doesn’t sound at all like the Brotherhood, especially since it refers to “Sunni” units. The Muslim Brotherhood denied the claim saying it was "completely fabricated under our name on the Internet. ... [The claim was] orchestrated by the regime, just as the attacks were."