West sends spies to Syria to counter jihadist threat

There's a 'schism' between those in West who want Assad gone and those who fear what replaces him

LAST UPDATED AT 08:59 ON Wed 15 Jan 2014

WESTERN intelligence officers have visited Damascus to discuss the most effective ways to tackle radical Islamist groups, Syria's deputy foreign minister has told the BBC.

The revelation that Western governments are consulting with the government of President Bashar al-Assad – the man they hold responsible for Syria's bloody civil war – suggests two things. Firstly, the high level of concern in the West at the spread of militant Islam in Syria and secondly the existence of a "schism" between Western politicians who continue to call for Assad to step down and security officials who fear he will be replaced by jihadist groups, the BBC says.

Faisal Mekdad, the Syrian deputy foreign minister, says that members of several Western intelligence agencies – including Britain's – recently visited the Syrian capital. "I will not specify but many of them have visited Damascus, yes," he says.

He also claims that an increasing number of countries are requesting that their diplomats return to Damascus. While some Western nations are waiting for the outcome of peace talks in Geneva next week before reassessing their engagement with Syria, others are asking to "co-operate on security measures", Mekdad claims.

The British Foreign Office told the BBC it does not comment on intelligence matters.

The BBC's chief international correspondent Lyse Doucet says it is still not clear "how far the West is prepared to make common cause with a regime it still holds responsible for this brutal war".

While Western politicians continue to insist Assad will eventually step down, it seems increasingly clear that the risk of power falling into the hands of jihadists is giving security agencies the jitters.

It is hard to confirm the extent of the contact between Damascus and the West, says Doucet. But "informed sources" say there have been meetings between Western and Syrian intelligence officials including security chief General Ali Mamluk. · 

Disqus - noscript

Never forget that idiotic Cameron and Hague wanted to send the rebels arms.

Another good idea of yours, Mr Cameron!!

...How will Cameron, Hague, Kerry et al explain away their impetuous move to send aid to the "rebels"?

This was screamingly obvious to anyone with even a modicum of IQ and common sense. Cameron seems to exist in a bubble of naivete. In the face of many, mutually confirming, stories of atrocities committed by both sides of the Syrian conflict Cameron pushed this issue to the brink.

Thank God for Parliamentary Democracy insomuch as Cameron, (Mrs Cameron) and Hague lost the vote and were thus prevented from rushing into yet another futile and idiotic military adventure. Rather late in the day Obama, too, had a flash of sanity and decided that further, measured, analysis would not be a bad idea.

Hague exacerbated the situation by whining afterwards that we "did not understand" the problem - the problem, Mr Hague, is that we are facing a threat of radical Islam - by weakening Assad we make that threat more acute - simple really. The Russians clearly understand the gravity of the situation.

Perhaps Cameron and his boy blunders should pay more attention to these blogs - he would probably find more common sense and - yes- experience on these pages than he will ever find around his committee tables at Downing Street and in the Foreign Office.

John - has Cameron had ANY good ideas?

I'll have a think, How long have I got Chris????

...take your time.

We should keep well away from the Syrian conflict, we have already caused more trouble and more deaths by intervening in Middle East problems.

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