Posted by Joshua on Sunday, October 26th, 2008
Addendum: This report was just sent by a reader (6:30 p.m. central time, Sunday):
Joshua and all,
I just spoke on the phone with a doctor in ABou Kamal- He confirmed that the attack happened around sunset. The 4 helicopters came from the East of the township, he saw them coming. The soldiers debarked and shot people who were working in a building under construction on the periphery of the township.
9 people were pronounced dead on arrival to the hospital- Two more are severely wounded and are being operated on right now [he does not expect them to survive]- He has not read the papers (there are none to read at this time of the night) nor listened to the news and there is no internet there….His report was completely spontaneous-
I was not able to get the details on the ages of the injured but he described them as poor simple people (Masakeen)from the town. If the matter were otherwise, he would have let me know.
[Landis analysis] The Bush administration seems to be ratcheting up action against Syria during its last days in power. The cross border raid undertaken on Sunday, which killed eight people, seems to fit into a broader pattern of the Bush administration initiating cross boarder attacks into countries that it is not officially at war with. The recent attacks in Northwest Pakistan are a case in point.
In late 2007 then-Coalition commander General David Petraeus praised Syria’s cooperation in reducing violence in Iraq; “Syria has taken steps to reduce the flow of the foreign fighters through its borders with Iraq” (VOA, December 6, 2007). Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told US President George W. Bush last month that Iran and Syria — long targets of US blame over the deadly unrest in Iraq — no longer pose a problem.
Syria, however, has refused to restart intelligence sharing with the US, which was broken off following the deterioration of relations in 2005. Petraeus sought to go to Damascus in December 2007 to restart intelligence sharing, but was forbidden from doing so by the White House.
Syria has been eager to restart intelligence sharing which would help to reduce cross border violations, but it demands a price – that the US recognize Syria’s assistance by returning an ambassador to Damascus. The White House has refused to do this, preferring to use sticks to force Syrian compliance. One must presume that the most recent killing of Syrians is designed to be just such a stick.
It will, of course, not force compliance, but the Bush administration must assume that an Obama victory on November 4 will force Syria to behave nicely in order to win favor with the new administration. Thus, White House analysts may assume that it can have a ‘freebee” — taking a bit of personal revenge on Syria without the US paying a price. Damascus may just have to write it off as a good bye salute from its friends in Washington.
[End of Analysis]
Ian Black and Ewen MacAskill in the Guardian, “Washington admitted it had targeted “foreign fighters.”
In Washington an unnamed military official told the Associated Press the raid had targeted elements of a “foreign fighter logistics network”, and that, due to Syrian inaction, the US was “taking matters into our own hands”. It was the first known American attack on Syrian soil.
Intriguingly, Farhan al-Mahalawi, mayor of the nearby Iraqi border town of Qaim, told the Reuters news agency that the targeted village had been surrounded by Syrian troops.
… Joshua Landis, an American expert on Syria, commented last night: “The Bush administration must assume that an Obama victory will force Syria to behave nicely in order to win favour with the new administration. Thus White House analysts may assume that it can have a “freebee” – taking a bit of personal revenge on Syria without the US paying a price.”
…. While US commanders may have calculated that a cross-border raid was tactically necessary to tackle Islamist extremists using Syrian territory, the attack also sent a tough strategic message to Syria that it is not inviolate and must choose carefully whom it supports.
AMERICAN STRIKE ON SYRIA: A GIFT FROM CHENEY TO MCCAIN? , by Marc Gopin
… We are closer than ever before to serious conversations between Israel and Syria, Syria has recognized an international border with Lebanon for the first time in modern history, and this is horrifying to neoconservatives who ran Washington for the last decade. They need to use force and force only to conquer Iraq, Iran and Syria. And they need to promote a conception of the American presidency that is focused on the use of military force.
The U.S. military said it is investigating claims from Syria that U.S. helicopters based in Iraq killed eight people and wounded another Sunday in an attack inside Syria’s territory Sunday.
Syria’s state news agency SANA said four U.S. helicopters crossed the border and struck a farm about 5 miles inside Syria before returning to Iraqi airspace.
The raid occurred about 4:45 p.m. The helicopters hit a civilian building under construction on the farm, killing killing three men, the wife of a guard and four children, SANA said.
Military officials are investigating the claims, Sgt. Brooke Murphy, a U.S. military spokeswoman, told CNN. “Unfortunately, we cannot confirm anything at the moment,” she said.
The attack occurred near the town of Al-Bukamal, which is home to a Red Crescent camp for Iraqi refugees. The town is across the border from the Iraqi city of Qaim, which has been a major route for Sunni Arab fighters battling U.S. troops in Iraq.
“We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement, not much, through Anbar, because of our activities out there,” Kelly said. But he said Iraqi intelligence believes al Qaeda operatives and others “live pretty openly on the Syrian side, and periodically we know that they try to come across.”
Syria demanded Iraq’s government “immediately investigate this serious violation” and bar U.S. forces from striking Syria from its territory. The Syrian government summoned U.S. and Iraqi diplomats to the Foreign Ministry in Damascus to condemn the attack, SANA reported
“American soldiers” who had emerged from helicopters “attacked a civilian building under construction and fired at workmen inside, causing eight deaths,”
Iraqi President Jalal Talabani told US President George W. Bush last month that Iran and Syria — long targets of US blame over the deadly unrest in Iraq — no longer pose a problem.
Iraqi officials have also said that Syria has been boosting border security.
Syria’s first ambassador to Iraq in 26 years took up his post in Baghdad this month, marking the official end of more than two decades of icy relations.
On September 28 US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice confirmed she had met her Syrian counterpart, Walid Muallem, to discuss Middle East peace efforts despite renewed criticism from Washington over Syrian policies.
Their talks came after Bush slammed Syria in his farewell address to the UN General Assembly. “A few nations — regimes like Syria and Iran — continue to sponsor terror,” he charged.
Syria: US choppers attack village near Iraq border
By ALBERT AJI, AP, Sunday, October 26, 2008; 3:31 PM
DAMASCUS, Syria — U.S. military helicopters attacked an area along Syria’s border with Iraq Sunday, killing eight people, the Syrian government said.
The Syrian report comes just days after the commander of U.S. forces in western Iraq told reporters that American troops were redoubling efforts to secure the Syrian border, which he said was an “uncontrolled” gateway for fighters entering Iraq.
A government statement carried by the official Syrian Arab News Agency said Sunday’s attack was on the Sukkariyeh Farm near the town of Abu Kamal, five miles inside the Syrian border. Four helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction, firing on the workers inside, shortly before sundown, the statement said. The U.S. military in Baghdad did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The area is near the Iraqi border city of Qaim, which had been a major crossing point for fighters, weapons and money coming into Iraq to fuel the Sunni insurgency.
Iraqi insurgents seized Qaim in April 2005, forcing U.S. Marines to recapture the town the following month in heavy fighting. The area became secure only after Sunni tribes in Anbar turned against al-Qaida in late 2006 and joined forces with the Americans.
On Thursday, U.S. Maj. Gen. John Kelly said Iraq’s western borders with Saudi Arabia and Jordan were fairly tight as a result of good policing by security forces in those countries but that Syria was a “different story.”
“The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side,” Kelly said. “We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement.”
He added that the U.S. was helping construct a sand berm and ditches along the border.
“There hasn’t been much, in the way of a physical barrier, along that border for years,” Kelly said.
Marc Gopin, AMERICAN STRIKE ON SYRIA: A GIFT FROM CHENEY TO MCCAIN? … After years of scrupulously avoiding crossing into Syrian territory, the American military receives instructions to invade a town in Syria and kill 8 people.
A U.S. military official confirmed late Sunday an American helicopter attack in an area along Syria’s border with Iraq, which left 8 people dead and three people wounded.
Syria condemned the attack, which it called “serious aggression.”
We are closer than ever before to serious conversations between Israel and Syria, Syria has recognized an international border with Lebanon for the first time in modern history, and this is horrifying to neoconservatives who ran Washington for the last decade. They need to use force and force only to conquer Iraq, Iran and Syria. And they need to promote a conception of the American presidency that is focused on the use of military force. It is vital to their conception of American hegemony.