Damascus Embassy Attacked (Updated)

I don't usually like to air my guesswork here. But does anybody else think there's something a little fishy about this, in a country where the government is in such complete control?syria_car_bomb.jpg

Four attackers armed with grenades and machine guns tried to storm the American embassy in Damascus today, but security forces repelled the assault, killing three of the gunmen and injuring the fourth, Syrias official Arabic news agency said...The Syrian Interior Minister, Bassam Abdel-Majeed, said that a terrorist operation aimed at the embassy had failed, and that preliminary investigations indicated that the attackers used two stolen cars, according to the Syrian news agency. He said that the attackers gained access to the vicinity of the embassy by way of a busy public street.It appeared that one of the cars, primed with explosives, was parked at the embassy gate with the aim of detonating it and blowing the gate open, according to the agency.I saw two men in plain clothes and armed with grenades and automatic weapons, a Syrian political commentator who was in the area, Ayman Abdel-Nour, told Reuters. They ran toward the compound shouting religious slogans while firing their automatic rifles.[According to Bloomberg, "Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majid said one suspected assailant had been captured. He said the vehicles used in the attack were stolen."]The motive of the attack was not immediately clear. But public sentiment in Damascus has been anti-American lately, because of the turmoil in Iraq and because of tensions during the recent war between Israel and the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon, when the Bush administration called for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria to order Hezbollah to halt its attacks on Israel.The State Departments latest Country Reports on Terrorism, issued in April, says that Syria provides political and material support to Hezbollah and to some Palestinian terrorist organizations, and that Damascus, the Syrian capital, is a haven for leaders of these groups.
UPDATE 12:24 PM: Time is calling it a "bold challenge to the rule of President Bashar Assad... the Syrian regime's own long war with Islamic extremists is heating up again."UPDATE 3:41 PM: Quoting "well informed Syrian sources," the Counterterrorism Blog says that "the [Assad] regime 'allowed' the operation to happen, 'knew' it would happen, and let the security guards on the ground sacrifice themselves in the line of diplomatic duty."UPDATE 4:08 PM: Good stuff from Stratfor.
A covered pickup truck loaded with poorly constructed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) remained intact Sept. 12 after the smoke cleared from a gunbattle between Syrian security forces and at least four attackers outside the U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria... At first glance, the incident appears to have been a jihadist attack against the embassy, though if that is the case the perpetrators quite obviously failed to adequately plan and execute the operation.Not only were the IEDs poorly constructed -- meaning they probably lacked sufficient power to even breach the embassy compound's perimeter wall, let alone damage the interior of the compound -- the attacking force also was completely inadequate for hitting a hard target such as the embassy. The compound is surrounded by Syrian security forces, and guarded on the inside by U.S. Marines. Although small details suggest the embassy was the target, it is hard to believe such an attack would have been so botched...Due to the tension between Washington and Damascus, the degree of Syrian surveillance around the U.S. Embassy in Damascus is equal to that which was in place outside the U.S. Embassy in Moscow during the Cold War. In addition to the approximately 30 Syrian guards posted around the embassy on any given day, the compound is under constant and heavy surveillance by Syrian intelligence and security forces. This surveillance begins several blocks out, and all locals in the vicinity are watched by the Syrians as possible U.S. intelligence sources. Anyone acting suspiciously near the embassy immediately attracts the attention of Syrian security forces.The high level of security in the district, and in Damascus in general, might have prevented the militants from conducting adequate pre-operational surveillance, which would go a long way toward explaining the poor planning and execution of the attack. It would also explain the rapid Syrian response.
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