(Zaman Al Wasl)- Syrian intelligence archive reveals the regime’s extreme obsession with anything related to religion, big or small. The regime ensured it planted agents within all religious institutions to guarantee it could document all details related to any of the religions practiced in Syria.
An intelligence document, issued in February 2007, presented the proceedings of a regular meeting held among the heads of divisions and detachments of the 271 Branch (Military Intelligence - Idlib Branch), headed by Brigadier General Ahmed Fares and his deputy Brigadier General Nofal al-Hussein.
During the meeting, the political and military situation was reviewed as well as the security situation which was discussed for most of the meeting. Of the 26 articles recorded from the meeting, around half are devoted to research on issues related to different Islamic currents and trends without neglecting “following the activities of Christian clergy men”.
-Tools and consequences-
The document reveals that the al-Assad intelligence included all religious trends such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist groups, or Sufi paths in their research, and did not leave a single field of activity unobserved whether sermons, da’wa, Quran memorization, Jihad, or teaching. Almost all of these different currents and activities received the same treatment which included, following up on their activities, conducting research on them, meeting and speaking to them, trying to persuade them to become closer to the regime, and plant intelligence agents in their ranks.
Paragraph 15 under the security situation article explicitly states, “Attracting the largest number of sources and new delegates, and activating them for security work in all political and religious organizations.”
Scrutinizing the document shows clearly that the regime adopted a multi-faceted policy in its dealings with various Islamic currents. This policy is based on: monitoring, sorting, containment, and infiltration. Each of these four aspects involved particular tools, and each of raised particular consequences and ramifications. The consequences of some of these tools were revealed several years later with the outbreak of the Syrian revolution.
The content of the document presented in this report largely aligns with the contents of two leaked (WikiLeaks) documents, the first of which dates back to 2010 and documents an American delegation meeting with the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Syria which was attended by the then Director of General Intelligence Ali Mamluk. The second document is dated August 2007, and relays part of a conversation between the then Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and Bashar al-Assad.
In the first document, Mamluk boasts in front of the Americans of “30 years of Syrian experience in fighting extremist groups.” He continued, “In principle, we do not depend on attacking them or killing them immediately, but plant our agents inside them [the groups], and then we move at the right moment.”
The second document confirms that Bashar al-Assad told al-Maliki during his visit to Damascus that the main danger to Iraqis and Syrians is extremism, before reassuring his guest that the numbers of extremists have increased, but they do not exceed a few thousands. He added, “Which makes them within the limits of our security services which are capable of disciplining and controlling them.”
Al-Assad's intelligence services devoted most of their activity to tracking, monitoring and infiltrating the religious milieu, specifically within its Sunni framework, but this did not prevent the intelligence services from pursuing other activities happening beyond this framework. As illustrated in paragraph 19 of the February 2007 document which dictated “following the activities of Christian clergymen”. The paragraph confirms previous intelligence documents’ content which include descriptions of Christian clergymen.
Zaman al-Wasl will present a document shortly regarding the regime intelligence services’ infiltration of the Shiite sect’s affairs in Syria.
Zaman A Wasl