BEIRUT (Reuters) - Analysis
A car bomb exploded in Damascus on Saturday, killing 17 people in the third significant attack in tightly-controlled Syria this year.
Interior Minister General Bassam Abdel Majeed described the bombing as a terrorist attack.
Below are possible implications of the attack.
* The car bomb exploded less than 100 meters away from a major security base on a highway leading to Damascus’s international airport, raising speculation that the base was the attackers’ target. If confirmed, it would be the most brazen attack on Syrian security forces for several years.
* No group claimed responsibility for the attack but the interior minister’s remarks indicated that Syrian investigators suspect Muslim militants were involved.
* The attack, in which a suicide bomber has not been ruled out, was reminiscent of attacks by the Muslim Brotherhood in the early 1980s.
* The attack is the latest blow to Syrian security as it follows the assassination of the military commander of Lebanon’s Hezbollah in Damascus and a senior military aide to President Bashar al-Assad in northern Syria earlier this year. It comes also a year after Israeli warplanes destroyed what was a suspected nuclear facility deep in Syrian territories.
* The Syrian authorities have for long boasted that Syria was a haven of stability in a troubled area, with volatile Iraq, Lebanon and Israel on its borders. A rise in attacks is sure to change all that and make officials nervous over long-term stability in the country.
* Syrian authorities are expected to crack down on Muslim militants and other dissident groups. Syria’s ties with militants including al Qaeda-linked groups is complex and complicated. The United States and other countries have long accused Damascus of allowing al Qaeda to use its territory to transfer fighters to Iraq and even Lebanon — charges Syria denies. But Damascus has a track record of cracking down on Syrian Islamists since the 1970s. Over the past two years its forces have killed several militants and arrested hundreds.
* The attack is unlikely to change Syrian policies, especially in pursuing indirect peace talks with Israel in Turkey and diplomatic detente with Europe after years of international isolation. But it might harden Syria’s position on Lebanon and what it sees as the rise of Sunni Muslim militancy in the north of its smaller neighbor. Syria pulled out its forces from Lebanon after the 2005 assassination of Sunni statesman Rafik al-Hariri. Hariri’s son Saad currently leads Lebanon’s anti-Syrian coalition.
Writing by Nadim Ladki, Editing by Samia Nakhoul