World, Europe

CIA memo remarks on Syrian, Greek ties to terror groups

Declassified document from 1987 says Turkey's neighbors provided bases for terrorism

24.01.2017
CIA memo remarks on Syrian, Greek ties to terror groups

Ankara

By Ugur Cil

ANKARA

Greece turned a blind eye to terrorists based on its territory during the 1980s while Syria offered a haven to terror groups, recently declassified CIA documents claim.

According to a memo on a 1987 Terrorism Warning and Forecast meeting, Greece’s Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) government under Andreas Papandreou adopted a “hands off” approach to groups possibly including Lebanon’s Hezbollah, the Abu Nidal Organization (ANO) and the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA).

The group led by notorious terrorist Abu Nidal was particularly violent and organized atrocities such as the simultaneous attacks on Rome and Vienna airports in December 1985 while ASALA claimed the lives of dozens of Turkish diplomats in the 1970s and 1980s.

The memo, dated June 1, 1987, was sent by senior counterterrorism officer Charles E. Allen, who would later be appointed Homeland Security intelligence chief by President George W. Bush, to the agency’s director and deputy director.

“Foreign terrorist groups are also active in Greece and several are believed to have developed support infrastructures there,” the memo, which reported on a meeting held 10 days earlier at CIA headquarters in Virginia, said.

It added: “The Greek government has not moved to restrict the activities of these groups and there is a ‘hands off’ attitude toward them. For example, if Libyan and Palestinian groups there focus on non-Greek targets, there is tendency on the part of the government to look the other way.

“The Armenian Popular Movement, the political arm of ASALA, has an office in Athens and there are reports that ASALA itself has a covert presence there.”

Neither PASOK nor the Greek Foreign Ministry were available to comment on the claims.

The memo said “serious tensions” had arisen between Syria, then ruled by Hafez al-Bashar, and the ANO over the latter’s involvement in fighting inside Palestinian refugee camps.

It noted that although Syria was “attempting to lower its profile in regard to the use of terrorism” it did not mean to end its support for terrorism. “Syria instead is keeping its options open on the use of terrorists.”

The document also revealed Syria had “maintained ties to the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK) and recently offered haven to two organizations with a history of terrorist activity in the Persian Gulf region.”

It added: “Damascus will especially continue to use terrorism in a regional context. Syria’s ability to prevent some of the terrorist groups it supports from conducting attacks outside the region is questionable.”

The PKK is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU and has launched violent attacks in Turkey since 1984 that have led to tens of thousands of deaths.

Allen also noted that it would be “unrealistic to expect that he [Assad] will not support radical Islamic groups in the region.”

Syria was one of the first countries listed as a state sponsor of terrorism in 1979 and remains one of three countries on the list.

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