Intelligence: Watch out Ghazi Kanaan; your days
(December 23, 2004) Syrian Interior Minister Ghazi Kanaan has become the
point man in Syria's security effort as well the person who controls the
Saddam Hussein-aligned insurgency movement in Damascus. That makes Kanaan
a focus of U.S. intelligence. Western intelligence sources said Kanaan and
his colleagues are making a killing from his dealings with former Iraqi
Ba'athist Party officials. Kanaan receives money to look the other way as
Saddam aides recruit foreign volunteers to attack the U.S.-led coalition
in Iraq. He also looks away as the Saddam movement, called the "New
Regional Command," pours insurgents and weapons across the Syrian border
into Iraq. All this has the United States fuming and could spark a
get-tough policy with Syria to ensure the success of Iraqi elections on
Jan. 30. Senior U.S. officials have been discussing the new policy, which
might mark U.S. military incursions into Syria. Kanaan is one of the few
senior officials to have survived the regime of Assad's late father,
Hafez. For nearly 20 years, Kanaan was responsible for Syria's occupation
of neighboring Lebanon. He oversaw the deployment of troops, introduction
of tens of thousands of intelligence agents and ensured that any opponents
of Syria's occupation were either killed or exiled. As the chief Syrian
military intelligence officer in Lebanon, Kanaan was able to kill Assad's
key opponents and co-opt the rest. In the 1980s, he neutralized pro-U.S.
Lebanese Forces by luring key operatives to Syria's side. Ironically,
Kanaan has excellent ties with the U.S. intelligence community and visited
Washington in 1992. His supporters in the CIA, including then-CIA Director
George Tenet, urged President George Bush not to impose sanctions on
Damascus. For about two years after Bashar succeeded his father, Kanaan's
career appeared to be on the wane. Kanaan was regarded as one of the most
corrupt officials in the Ba'athist regime, said to have made tens of
millions of dollars a year from the Syrian occupation of Lebanon and
control of the opium trade from the Bekaa Valley. His involvement in
narcotics production and trafficking in the Bekaa Valley, counterfeiting
and other illegal activities have made him a very wealthy man. Kanaan is
even rumored to have had affairs with the wives of numerous Syrian-backed
Lebanese politicians who know better than to object to such impropriety.
Kanaan's return was attributed to the new threats to the junior Assad. In
October, Kanaan was appointed interior minister replacing Gen. Ali Hamoud.
The new interior minister has several responsibilities. His first is to
protect the regime against dissidents and insurgents. The dissidents have
become emboldened by the U.S. drive for democracy in the Middle East.
Kanaan's goal is to nip any civil unrest in the bud. He has overseen
several crackdowns since assuming office. They include the arrest of
Syrian intellectual Nabil Fayyad and the harassment of artist Issa Touma
in Aleppo. Kanaan's other role involves the community of Saddam loyalists
in Syria. As interior minister, Kanaan has a major role in how the Saddam
insurgency operates. The interior minister monitors all public gatherings,
the nation's borders and the flow of money in and out of Syria. Western
sources said Kanaan has been trying to bolster Syria's intelligence
relationship with Washington. Kanaan has been making promises of
cooperation along the Iraqi-Syrian border while pleading poverty. The
minister has asked the U.S. for technical and financial assistance to help
control the 600-kilometer border.
the Bush Administration and the new CIA Director already know his game.
Watch out Ghazi Kanaan; your days are numbered.