Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, October 28th, 2008
…..I have two sons at the school and heard this also from a board member. I don’t suppose those gung-ho CIA types thought about what this would mean when they swung in on their helicopters.
If the closure is permanent, it will be devastating not just for my family, not just for Americans, but for the whole international community here in Syria. There are dozens of children at this school with parents at international companies such as Shell, working for the UN and also many children from well-off Syrian families.
The school has had some difficult times recently — last year the government delayed the issue of 34 visas so the school started late. This year, the education ministry imposed a Syrian studies element in the curriculum and made it compulsory for all students to take Arabic. But the school was doing its best to cope. No way can they do anything in the face of such a foreign policy disaster….
U.S. Calls Raid a Warning to Syria
By Ann Scott Tyson and Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post staff writers
Tuesday, October 28, 2008; Page A01
U.S. military helicopters launched an extremely rare attack Sunday on Syrian territory close to the border with Iraq, killing eight people in a strike the government in Damascus condemned as “serious aggression.”….
The military’s argument is that “you can only claim sovereignty if you enforce it,” said Anthony Cordesman, a military analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “When you are dealing with states that do not maintain their sovereignty and become a de facto sanctuary, the only way you have to deal with them is this kind of operation,” he said.
…. U.S. officials have long complained that the Syrian government has allowed Arab fighters to pass through the country to enter Iraq, but since last year, top military leaders have praised Syrian efforts to curb the flow. In recent months, officials have estimated that as few as 20 fighters a month have been crossing into Iraq, down from more than a hundred a month in 2006.
But officials said the raid Sunday, apparently the first acknowledged instance of U.S. ground forces operating in Syria, was intended to send a warning to the Syrian government. “You have to clean up the global threat that is in your back yard, and if you won’t do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our hands,” said a senior U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the cross-border strike.
The United States has offered similar justifications for recent cross-border strikes in Pakistan, where it has launched missile attacks and at least one air assault against suspected members of Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgency. “As targets present themselves, and are identified . . . they become more and more at risk. Just like in Pakistan, there will be steps taken to deal with it,” the senior official said.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem called the operation Sunday a “criminal and terrorist aggression” that killed seven civilians. Speaking to reporters in London, he said Bush administration officials were following “the policy of cowboys” and noted that the United States has been unable to seal its own border with Mexico.
The office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy issued a statement expressing “serious concerns” about the raid and the loss of Syrian lives. Syria has lately embarked on policies that France and other Western governments have viewed favorably, including indirect peace talks with Israel. Russia also voiced concern about the operation.
In the raid, four helicopters carrying U.S. troops flew into an isolated area of scattered residences and buildings in search of an Iraqi insurgent whom the U.S. Treasury designated in February as a key facilitator of the transfer of weapons, money and fighters into Iraq. Treasury officials gave his full name as Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih and his nickname as Abu Ghadiyah, and said that the founder of the insurgent group al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, had named him the organization’s commander for Syrian logistics in 2004.
On the ground, U.S. troops disembarked and opened fire to kill “several armed males who posed a threat to U.S. forces,” according to the senior official. The official declined to say whether Mazidih was killed or injured in the fighting. Other unnamed U.S. officials were quoted in news media accounts Monday as saying he had been killed.
Moualem said U.S. troops landed at a farm where they killed a father and his three children, the farm’s guard and his wife, and a fisherman.
The network run by Mazidih has smuggled hundreds of foreign fighters into Iraq, including many who became suicide bombers, officials and analysts said. “He ran one of the largest and most productive foreign fighter networks out of Syria” and was “directly responsible for hundreds of foreign fighters who killed thousands” of Iraqis, the senior official said.
The U.S. military has shown patience, the official said, but “eventually you can’t wait for guys like that to come back across the border and kill scores of Iraqis or, worse, your own forces.” …
July report made public their latest findings.
The documents indicated that at least 95 Syrian “coordinators” were involved in moving the foreign fighters. Many of the coordinators were from smuggling families in Bedouin clans and other Syrian tribes. A number of them appeared to be cooperating with al-Qaeda in Iraq for pay rather than out of ideological sympathy.
Many recruits reported to their handlers in Iraq that they had passed through Damascus, Syria’s capital, and then an area near the Iraqi border called Abu Kamal. Sunday’s raid occurred in Abu Kamal. ….
Sami Moubayed, The strike that shattered US-Syria ties, Asia Times
It is certain that the attack, for which full details are yet to be known, will lead to plenty of bad blood between Damascus and Washington.
Syrians already feel that the US is ungrateful for a range of accomplishments in which Syria has assisted, such as harboring 1.5 million Iraqi refugees, tightening control of the border, hammering out the Doha Agreement, ending the presidential dilemma in Lebanon, and helping moderate the behavior of Iran.
Although the US is upset that Syria has managed to shake off US-imposed isolation, Washington does realize that Syria’s cooperation is needed to get things done in the Middle East. In December 1990, former US secretary of state James Baker described Syria as “a major Arab country who happens to share the same goals as we do”.
But, in December 2004, US President George W Bush said, “Syria is a very weak country, and therefore it cannot be trusted.”
The huge difference in US policy on Syria over the past 15 years shows how difficult it is to mend a very fractured, and perhaps irreparable, relationship. This is especially true after the events of October 27 and will remain so as long as Bush is in the White House, or if he is replaced by Senator John McCain.
When the Gulf War started in 1991, Syria was on America’s blacklist because of a failed attempt to blow up an Israeli airplane at Heathrow Airport in London in 1986. In light of the Gulf War, however, Bush realized that as much as he would have loved to punish Syria for its anti-Israel behavior, he needed Syria to prevent the occurrence of similar attacks.
The late president Hafez al-Assad, eager to comply, met with Baker for the first time on September 14, 1990, signaling the start of a 10-year honeymoon between Damascus and Washington. Then, on November 23, Assad met with Bush, who requested Syrian support in Operation Desert Storm, and promised to hold an Arab-Israeli peace conference once Kuwait was liberated. ….
… After Sunday, Syria is no longer satisfied. History proves that when the Syrians become angry, they can do much in the Middle East. Nazem al-Qudsi was right in 1945: America is Syria’s potential best friend. But this potential friendship will only work with a wise man like Roosevelt, not someone who invades air space and kills civilians, like George W Bush.
Senior Al Qaeda member killed in U.S. raid in Syria, officials say
LA Times By Greg Miller and Josh Meyer
October 28, 2008
The raid was the latest sign that the U.S. is now willing to mount attacks in sovereign nations in pursuit of insurgent groups operating in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as those who support them. Last month, U.S. special operations forces carried out a similar raid in the tribal border region of Pakistan, drawing loud criticism from the Pakistani public and senior government officials in Islamabad, the capital.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem said the U.S. committed “criminal and terrorist aggression” by conducting a raid in which seven civilians died, including three children, a woman and a fisherman. …
Abu Ghadiyah, an Iraqi native believed to be in his late 20s, has for several years been a key figure in the flow of foreign fighters and weapons into Iraq, American officials said.
“He comes from a family of smugglers,” said the senior U.S. official. “He seems to have turned the family business toward the movement of terrorists, explosives, weapons, etc., into Iraq.”….
“He’s the classic example of a terrorist facilitator and financier,” said Matthew Levitt, who from 2005 to early 2007 helped oversee a U.S. government crackdown on Abu Ghadiyah’s financial network while deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department.
However, Abu Ghadiyah’s death is unlikely to decimate the network because of its strong funding streams and because other members, including a brother, have been active, said Levitt, now with the Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington-based think tank….
U.S. officials said Abu Ghadiyah, a nickname for Badran Turki Hishan Mazidih, was appointed by former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi to be the group’s Syrian commander for logistics in 2004. After Zarqawi’s death in 2006, Abu Ghadiyah began working for the new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub Masri, according to U.S. officials.
Abu Ghadiyah provided and arranged false passports, weapons, guides, safe houses and allowances to foreign terrorists preparing to enter Iraq, Treasury officials said….
In Baghdad, the Shiite Muslim-led Iraqi government said it wanted good ties with Syria but that Damascus needed to do more to stop fighters from slipping across its borders
New york Times
By ERIC SCHMITT and THOM SHANKER, Published: October 27, 2008
The timing was startling, not least because American officials praised Syria in recent months for its efforts to halt traffic across the border.
But in justifying the attack, American officials said the Bush administration was determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries’ consent…..
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has attacked terrorism suspects in the ungoverned spaces of countries like Yemen and Somalia. But administration officials said Monday that the strikes in Pakistan and Syria were carried out on the basis of a legal argument that has been refined in recent months to justify strikes by troops and by rockets on militants in countries with which the United States is not at war.
The justification is different from the concept of pre-emption the administration articulated immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks, and which was used as the rationale for the invasion of Iraq. While pre-emption was used to justify attacks against governments and their armies, the self-defense argument would justify attacks on insurgents operating on foreign soil that threatened the forces, allies or interests of the United States.
Administration officials pointed Monday to a passage in President Bush’s speech to the United Nations General Assembly last month as the clearest articulation of this position to date.
“As sovereign states, we have an obligation to govern responsibly, and solve problems before they spill across borders,” Mr. Bush said. “We have an obligation to prevent our territory from being used as a sanctuary for terrorism and proliferation and human trafficking and organized crime.”
In seeking to carry out cross-border missions inside Pakistan and now in Syria, the United States government is expected to make the case that these operations will help protect the lives of American troops. It is not clear how far-reaching the White House may be in seeking to apply the rationale, but several senior American officials expressed hope that it would be embraced by the next president as well….
But one military officer said Monday that while Syria had been able to take specific steps like detaining combat-age men found flying into Damascus airport on one-way tickets, there had been less success in halting the flow of money and weapons to the insurgency.
The Iraqi government found itself in an awkward position on Monday as it sought at once to remain on friendly terms with Syria, which is a neighbor and now home to more than a million Iraqi refugees, but also to bolster the United States in going after people believed to be fomenting antigovernment unrest in Iraq.
“This area was a staging ground for activities by terrorist organizations hostile to Iraq,” said Ali al-Dabbagh, the Iraqi government spokesman. He said Iraq had previously requested that Syrian authorities hand over insurgents who used Syria as their base.
“We will do what is necessary to protect our troops,” Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said in Senate testimony last month, when asked about the cross-border operations….
The US incursion says a lot about American weakness, too. In Iraq, withdrawal looms. Securing the “surge” gains, handing off to the Iraqi security forces, and signing an end-of-year status of forces agreement (Sofa) are imperative military aims. But they are also political needs that opponents, such as Baghdad’s Shia politicians and al-Qaida in Iraq, are trying to exploit. ….
Even though Iraqi government spokesmen justified the US action, politicians warned it could further complicate the Sofa negotiation. The raid has again highlighted the limitations of Iraq’s sovereignty and the instability of its frontiers with Syria, Turkey and Iran. It also demonstrated Washington’s readiness to disregard border security agreements between Iraq and its neighbours that it was instrumental in creating.
Just as Russia’s Vladimir Putin accused the Bush administration of engineering the Georgia crisis to help John McCain’s presidential bid, yesterday’s surprise is certain to be cast in a similar light by some in the US. It may also be seen as a sort of “goodbye” present from the neocons. Conversely, Bush’s growing propensity for sending special forces after the “bad guys” wherever they are thought to be, and damn the consequences, may help convince American voters that Obama is the safer, saner bet.
The quote attributed to an unidentified military official in Washington justifying yesterday’s raid – that “we’re taking matters into our own hands” – could serve as an epitaph for the Bush administration
قال وزير الخارجية وليد المعلم إن الغارة الأمريكية على سورية كانت تهدف إلى طمأنة أعداء دمشق أن واشنطن لا تحذو حذو فرنسا وبريطانيا في التقارب مع سورية.
WSJ [Reg]: Hitting Syria, Five Years Late
2008-10-28 03:18:26.160 GMT
Polls Show Even Split Between Israeli Blocs
JERUSALEM, Oct. 27 — Israel moved closer Monday to a bruising election campaign that will decide the future of peace talks, as polls showed the centrist foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, in a surprisingly close race with hard-line opposition leader Binyamin Netanyahu.