Posted by Joshua on Thursday, October 30th, 2008
[Landis analysis] The following “Exclusive” ABC story is not so exclusive. Syria Comment has been writing since August 2008 that Petraeus tried to go to Damascus in the fall of 2007, but was refused permission by the Vice President. It wasn’t the president. (That little bit of info is an SC exclusive told to me by a top intelligence officer.)
The refusal to find a political solution to the border problem, which could have been done at the price of returning a US ambassador to Damascus, left the officers in Iraq with no alternative but to solve their problem with the only means that remained – force.
Because Washington in its wisdom refused to pay the political price to win better Syrian cooperation and intelligence sharing, the boots on the ground had to use the method available to them. Of course there are many more infiltrators to kill where Abu Ghadiya came from. There is no military solution to this problem. The Syrian-Iraq border is a smugglers paradise. 30% of its inhabitants live under the poverty line, making less than $2 a day. The risks of smuggling may just have gone up due to America’s extra-judicial killing, but with hundreds of smugglers opperating along the border, the chances of being killed remain very small. Poverty is a cruel but effective whip. Others will step in to take Abu Ghadiya’s place.
Exclusive: Petraeus Wants to Go to Syria; Bush Administration Says No
Petraeus Proposed Visiting Syria But Was Rejected By Bush Administration
By JONATHAN KARL, ABC
Oct. 30, 2008
Apparently Gen. David Petraeus does not agree with the Bush administration that the road to Damascus is a dead end.
Officials familiar with Petraeus’ thinking on the subject say he wants to engage Syria in part because he believes that U.S. diplomacy can be used to drive a wedge between Syria and Iran. He plans to continue pushing the idea.
ABC News has learned, Gen. Devid Petraeus proposed visiting Syria shortly after taking over as the top U.S. commander for the Middle East. The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and Pentagon.
The idea was swiftly rejected by Bush administration officials at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon.
Petraeus, who becomes the commander of U.S. Central Command (Centcom) Friday, had hoped to meet in Damascus with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Petraeus proposed the trip, and senior officials objected, before the covert U.S. strike earlier this week on a target inside Syria’s border with Iraq.
Damascus has decided to cut off its diplomatic relations with Iraq in response to a deadly raid carried out by the U.S. on Syrian soil earlier this week, Al-Arabiya reported on Thursday.
In Washington, Syrian diplomats were quoted as saying they were reversing their earlier decision to have a senior U.S. State Department official visit Damascus to advance Syria-Israel peace talks.
US mulling over next move against Syria
Thu, 30 Oct 2008 02:16:25 GMT
The US State Department says it is considering a response to Syria after Damascus shut down US schools and a cultural center in the country.
“We will not go into further details of the diplomatic exchange. We’re looking at how to respond,” Wood said.
US Charge d’affaires Maura Connelly was summoned Wednesday to the Syrian Foreign Ministry where the chief of protocol “verbally communicated” Syria’s “request that the American cultural center be closed immediately,” Deputy Spokesperson Robert Wood said.
An abuse of power
James Denselow, guardian, Thursday October 30 2008
The US raid into Syria has damaged its relationship with the Iraqi government as well as highlighted its weaknesses
In May David Satterfield, under-secretary of state with responsibility for Iraq, boldly predicted that the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) with Iraq would be agreed within weeks. Three months later with the agreement still unsigned it appears the Americans are resorting to more traditional arm twisting to secure the deal that legalizes their presence in Iraq.
The good cop routine has been to remind the Iraqi government how reliant they really are on US forces and how they shouldn’t get too big for their boots. This was delivered by the US commander in Iraq, General Raymond Odierno, who warned that the “Iraqi security forces would collapse” if US forces withdrew to barracks . Ironically this came out just before the 13th of Iraq’s 18 provinces, Wasit, was handed over to these same Iraqi security forces. ….
The pressure can be described as a “good cop, bad cop” routine. The bad cop decision to conduct a special forces raid into Syria appears to be rapidly backfiring. Indeed the decision by Washington to offer no public diplomacy has allowed the Syrians, perhaps the least media friendly of all Middle Eastern states, to control the agenda.
…. All we are left with [on the American side] is the comments from unnamed US officials that: “We are taking matters into our own hands”.
Al Jazeera provided the most in-depth coverage, managing to interview local residents of Sukkariyeh as well as obtaining mobile phone footage of the audacious daylight helicopter assault. …
The bigger picture is that the relative success of the surge has led to increased confidence in military action amongst US commanders who believe that having gained the initiative they can afford to be more assertive. Indeed the US press linked the attack to the policy that President Bush assented to earlier this year. This secret directive, for which Congress made an outlay of $300m, promised backing for covert attacks by US forces from Lebanon to Afghanistan.
Politics and peace
By Yossi Alpher Published: October 30, 2008
The Likud and Kadima are running neck-and-neck in early polls. Far behind is Labor’s Ehud Barak, whose peace platform appears to be based on a broader regional approach that embraces the controversial 2002 Arab Peace Initiative spearheaded by the Saudis. Unfortunately for Barak, the Saudis and other moderate Arabs are prepared to do precious little to make good on their initiative until Israel and its Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese neighbors first make peace on their own.
To this list of key actors we must add Olmert himself. By refusing to declare himself unable to continue in office due to his legal difficulties, he remains acting prime minister and leaves Livni out in the cold during her upcoming campaign.
Were he to step aside, she would automatically replace him, with all the advantages this would give her in the campaign. Moreover, by pursuing his own peace initiatives with the Palestinians and Syria despite his lame duck status and abject lack of a mandate, Olmert threatens to become a factor in these elections.
Another key factor in the campaign is the American election. If Barack Obama is elected president, this could influence some middle-of-the-road Israeli voters to pull to the left.
TV station: Syria pulls troops off of Iraqi border
DAMASCUS, Syria (AP) – A Syrian television station is reporting that the country is reducing the number of troops on its border with Iraq in response to a deadly U.S. cross-border raid.