The U.S. military has learned how the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad supports the Sunni insurgency in Iraq from the capture of several Syrian nationals who had been relaying funds and fighters into Iraq.
The detained operatives told U.S. interrogators that the Assad regime obtains hefty fees from Saddam Hussein loyalists and Al Qaida operatives to use Syria as a staging ground for attacks.
The Syrian operatives believe the Syrian embassy in Baghdad has been providing support for the supply of vital equipment to the Sunni insurgency in Iraq. Saddam loyalists have been allowed to use the embassy to coordinate shipments of cash and the arrival of insurgents, they said.
Military sources said the Al Qaida logistics effort based in Syria is headed by Mohammed Nassif, director of Syrian State Security and responsible for Damascus's link with Al Qaida and other terrorist groups.
Nassif has been assisted by Ali Yunis, the chief aide of Gen. Assaf Shawkat, the head of Syrian intelligence and Assad's brother-in-law. Nassif and Yunis have also been using Al Qaida operatives to stage attacks on U.S. interests, including the U.S. Embassy in 2006.
The disclosures have been sent to Washington and Defense Secretary Robert Gates will have to decide whether to recommend a more aggressive U.S. policy toward Syria. Gates has already approved a U.S. campaign to capture Iranian intelligence agents who have been helping the Shi'ite insurgency in Baghdad and other areas of Iraq.
"I think a decision to act against Syria will come up over the next few months," a U.S. military source said.