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Syrian Subterfuge

6:01 PM, Jun 20, 2011 • By LEE SMITH
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Today’s Asharq al-Awsat, the London-based pan-Arab daily, reports on the role of “Syrian embassies abroad in sabotaging and subverting any movement or activity aiming at expressing solidarity with the Syrian people, and at taking a stand condemning the regime's repressive actions.” In Berlin, the Syrian embassy kept one Syrian opposition figure, Burhan Ghalyoun, from participating in a conference of Arab intellectuals. According to Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury, the organizers of the event received direct threats from Syrian diplomatic officials as well as Palestinian figures allied with the Assad regime.

Syria

This appears to be part of a larger Syrian campaign against opposition figures around the world. A Turkish report explains that Syrian intelligence has teamed with Iran to track Syrian dissidents and stage “joint operations targeting the Anti-Assad movement outside of the country.” Syrian opposition meetings in Turkish cities were obstructed by Assad supporters, handled by Syrian and Iranian intelligence who since April have been tracking the almost 2,000 Syrian dissidents now living in Turkish cities like Hatay, Adana, Kilis, Gaziantep, and Istanbul.

Syrian subterfuge has also struck here in the U.S. Two weeks ago, as Politico reported, the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee dropped the German-born Syrian composer and pianist Malek Jandali from its program when he refused to reconsider his choice of songs. There was speculation that the song he intended to sing, “I am my homeland,” “might have troubled the Syrian government.” The chairman of the ADC board, Safa Rivka, is close to the Syrian ambassador to the United States, Imad Mustafa, who calls Rivka one of his best friends in Washington.

“The argument for keeping Imad Mustafa in Washington, that we needed someone to send tough messages to, was never convincing,” says Tony Badran, research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “This is all the more so now after the attack on one of our diplomats in Syria; and with France reportedly considering severing diplomatic ties with Syria over the brutality of the Assad regime. Now there’s the regime's concerted effort to use diplomatic missions to suppress the voice of dissidents abroad, whether it’s in Europe, Lebanon, Turkey, or, as we've learned from the Jandali episode, even here in the U.S. By sending Mustafa home, the White House would be taking a public stand against the Assad regime’s thuggery.”

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