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5 killed in violence in Damascus

Generally, the Syrian government releases little information about terrorist attacks and attempted attacks within its borders. Further, it is risky to take those details that are released at face value, as post-attack reports may have been written in the service of government or personal political agendas. In the aftermath of a recent attempted attack (Terrorist Incident forthcoming), Syria has claimed that a group of militants attempted to storm a group of buildings, allegedly deserted, in Ummayad Square. State-run media outlets responded by blaming four different parties. The official news agency SANA has said that the militants were from a Takfiri, or Jihadi, group. The state-run paper Tishreen, in an editorial, lashed out at ?people in neighboring countries,? implying Lebanon , Israel , and/or the United States . The unnamed Syrian neighbors were accused of supporting both terrorism and ?American and Zionist plans.? ?We have heard from some time the fiery declarations from certain persons in neighboring countries threatening to move suicide and terrorist operations into Syria?Is what happened Friday in the heart of Damascus a translation of American and Israeli verbal threats into the Arabic language?? The editorial also claimed that this was the first time that unused American weapons had been confiscated in Syria, after the Syrian government released photos of six M-16 A2s said to have been confiscated by militants. In the current context, since Syrian forces have been driven from Lebanon and prominent Syrian personalities abroad are calling for regime overthrow while claiming to be forming a government in exile, it is logical that the Syrian government should try to play up certain threats and deemphasize others. Emphasizing threats from outside, like the perennial Middle Eastern boogeyman?American-?Zionist? conspiracies?is used to try to improve internal cohesion through a ?rally around the flag? effect. At the same time, fissures in internal security and stability, however small, can impair the image that both al-Assads, father and son, have cultivated: iron-clad control over the country. A successful campaign of attacks by an Islamist group in the right environment can win over recruits and supporters and spawn copycat or splinter groups. When the Muslim Brotherhood (MB) was rising in the early 1980s in Syria, its short-lived show of strength attracted thousands of Syrians. While small, isolated bands of militants do not represent anywhere near the same threat to the regime, Syria?s previous experience with Islamic militants makes it important to the regime to maintain a deterrent to the Islamists it has cultivated. This deterrent is the idea that Jihad cannot be waged in Syria because of the strength and power of the government and the security and intelligence bodies. With Salafi Jihadist groups, as opposed to the MB, this deterrent is somewhat less effective because the short-term goals of Salafi Jihadists are more modest. The MB hoped to take over control of the country. Some Salafi groups will resort to trying to inflict damage wherever they can, believing that their efforts will contribute to the international Jihadist movement, if only by providing an example of sacrifice to future Mujahideen. This philosophy puts Arab regimes in danger of occasional, mostly small-scale, attacks and attempted attacks. Syrian vulnerability may have increased in recent years, however, because both its territory was used as a conduit for Jihadists to Iraq and the presence of insurgent groups just over the border in al-Anbar province. Syria is still at less of a risk than most countries in the region because of the security and intelligence capabilities of police-state apparatuses and their success suppressing indigenous Jihadist organizations.

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OODA Analyst

OODA Analyst

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