When two suicide bombers allegedly blew themselves up in front of mukhabarat offices in Damascus a week ago, my first thought was that Al Qaeda did it. The world’s most radical Sunni Arab terrorist organization has worked with the Assad family before, but now that the “infidel” Alawite regime is massacring Sunnis by the thousands, albeit in medium if not slow motion, what’s for a bin Ladenist to like? Suicide bombings certainly fit the modus operandi.
My second thought, which occurred to me within seconds, is that the Syrian government did this to itself.
I chose not to say so in print or in pixels because that sort of charge is almost always outlandish. It’s the sort of idea conspiracy theorists hatch in the tea shops of Cairo and the coffeeshops of Haight–Ashbury. You’d better have some serious evidence before going public with something like that even if we are talking about the Assads.
Well, Michael Weiss at World Affairs found some evidence that Damascus is behaving in a way that is at the very least odd.
According to the Syrian state media, suicide bombers drove two cars rigged with explosives to points just outside two hard-to-reach facilities: the State Security Administration building and the Military Security base in Kafarsouseh, a neighborhood in central Damascus. These facilities are preceded by several military checkpoints, and any person or vehicle desiring access to them will need to carry a special permit. Cars also tend to be searched thoroughly before being able to roll right on up to the doorstep of secret police headquarters. When a terrorist attack is perpetrated, it takes oodles of man-hours of forensic analysis and data-gathering to determine the party responsible and the methods used. Not so in Syria. The regime’s Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA) reported in an impressive 13 minutes that al-Qaeda was the culprit and that a man called Munir al-Binjali “conducted” the attack. The only problem is, al-Binjali is alive and well in Saudi Arabia, not blown to bits in Damascus.
There’s plenty more where that came from, including a hilarious announcement on state TV that the terrorists who blew themselves to smithereens had been “arrested.” An Arab League observer claimed the bodies appeared to have been moved to the blast site a little too perfectly from somewhere else. And when the Al Qaeda story finally collapsed under its own absurdity, Syrian intelligence set up a fake Muslim Brotherhood Web site and forged a responsibility claim.
Saad Hariri—Lebanon’s former prime minister, son of the slain former prime minister Rafik Hariri, and a man not known for conspiracy theories—is now saying, yeah, the Syrians staged it.
Whether or not the Assad clan is responsible, they’re definitely up to shenanigans.