The Training of Terrorist Organizations


by Major David E. Smith USMC



Syria also continues to sponsor and support terrorism in the

Middle East. President Assad employs it to demonstrate his ability to

strike at enemies and influence events in the Middle East and

Europe. He is cautious to only sanction operations that further his

ends, and has kept a tight rein on the groups he employs towards

those objectives. Assad does not allow terrorist strikes into areas

that would generate conflicts with antagonists he is not willing to

battle conventionally.

Syria has been involved in direct acts of terrorism such as the

September l982 murder of Lebanese President Bashir Jumayyil in

Beirut, and Jordanian diplomat Ziyad Sati in Ankara during July

l985.30 Assad's nation maintains a significant intelligence apparatus

in Western Europe and Lebanon that aids it in directing the groups it


Syria supports numerous groups with sanctuary, training, and

equipment. The Abu Nidal Organization, the Popular Front for the

Liberation of Palestine-General Command, Al Sa'iqa, the Kurdish

Revolutionary Workers Party (PKK), and Hamas are all its

beneficiaries. Additionally, Syria is linked to Hizballah. It has

provided these groups, and others, with military and technical

training. It also provides official documents such as passports and

the use of diplomatic pouches to transport weapons and explosives

into foreign countries.31 Its influence and ability to affect groups

operating in areas it controls, such as Hizballah, is significant. Syria

can simply shut down the supply routes for groups based in Lebanon

in order to control their activities for a certain period of time.

Syria has attempted to distance itself from many terrorist groups

during the l99O's and has made a series of moves designed to

demonstrate its "change of heart" to the world. Carlos was expelled

during September l99l, and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) base

at Helivah in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon was closed during l992.32

Unquestionably though, Damascus International Airport is still used

for the transshipment of arms from Iran to Lebanon. Damascus also

serves as a focal point for many Middle Eastern terrorist groups.

Syria was instrumental in development of the PKK, a powerful

group that deserves close attention. Assad used the group to

pressure the government of Turkey and to strike at American

military targets in that country. Despite closing the camp at Helivah,

Syria continues to provide that group with substantial support. The

original PKK recruits were drawn from expatriate Kurdish

communities in Europe and Syria. Many recruits are women and

more and more are coming from Eastern Turkey. The PKK's main

training camp, the Mashsum Korkmay Academy in the Bekaa Valley,

was reportedly training 3OO-4OO recruits every three months. The

organization's leadership has spread the group among Syria,

Lebanon, Iraq, Iran and Turkey, presumably to increase its

survivability if one sponsor turns against it.33 The group has

employed guerrilla tactics and has conducted battalion sized

operations against targets in Turkey, prompting a Turkish retaliatory

strike against the PKK in northern Iraq.

The PKK is also allegedly trained by the Greek government.

Camps at Lavion and the Greek part of Cyprus are employed for

political indoctrination and explosives training. Captured PKK

members revealed that they had been trained in the production of

explosives by a Syrian instructor at a site 2OO kilometers east of

Athens. The same individuals stated that they had been transported

across the border into Turkey and had witnessed PKK recruits

moving from Istanbul into training camps in the vicinity of Athens.34