Is the US Raid is a “Parting Shot” by the White House?

(Addendum – Monday Morning): Recent information has caused me to trim my sails a bit on the notion that  Petraeus is angry about this raid. It was probably constructed by Special Forces and not Cheney’s office. Evidently there are real issues at the border and Petraeus has been warning the Syrians that they must do more. His interest in going to Syria in the fall of 2007 was as much to read Syria the riot act about compliance as it was to seek intelligence sharing, although that had been a principal subject of the Sharm al-Shaykh meeting between Mu`alem and Rice in May. Bashar al-Asad is no mood to give anything to Bush or Rice in the closing months of their administration.

Satellite intelligence probably picked up smugglers, which were interpreted to be al-Qaida. Quite possibly these poor people killed in the raid were a family of smugglers. The US is now claiming that the raid sucessfully killed their target, a facilitator for Iraqis. Seymour Hersh wrote a brilliant story about a similar raid five years ago that killed a eight smugglers. Here is a bit of “The Syrian Bet: Did the Bush Administration burn a useful source on Al Qaeda?

Army helicopters and Bradley Fighting Vehicles attacked two groups of cars heading into Syria, triggering enormous explosions and fireballs that lit up the night sky. A gas station and nearby homes were destroyed. Task Force 20 sped across the border into Syria….

“The operation was a fiasco in which as many as eighty people—occupants of the cars and trucks as well as civilians living nearby—were killed. The vehicles, it turned out, were being used to smuggle gasoline….

In short, this may have been a simple botched operation based on bad intelligence. But in the larger scheme of things, it is the price of refusing to repair relations with the Syrians when they could have been.

[Older Landis Analysis]:Overnight, the US has managed to turn the press coverage to its favor by putting out releases that focus on "rat lines" and the like, i.e. "The US and Iraqi government accuse Damascus of being reluctant to guard its borders and not doing enough to stop militants, including those from al-Qaeda, crossing the border into Iraq."

But the real question is why now. Syria has been improving border compliance steadily.  Petraeus announced this month that Syria has brought down infiltration from 100 to 20 a month. (As quoted in the LA Times)

In the past 5 years, the US has had plenty of reason and opportunity to pursue cross border raids, but did not do so because it believed that the way to solve the problem was by cooperating with Syria, not by bombing it. Undoubtedly, policy makers also feared that Syria might punish the US in response. Both the State Department and DOD have consistently pushed for intelligence sharing with Damascus only to be shot down by the Vice President’s office. This was told to me by a high ranking intelligence officer in Washington.

Secretary of State, Rice asked Syria’s F.M. at Sharm al-Shaykh in May 2007 for permission to send two US generals to Damascus to restart intelligence sharing. Damascus was excited by this prospect because it is in Syria’s national interest. But Damascus demanded that Washington appoint an Ambassador to Damascus in recognition of Syria’s support and cooperation. The White House refused to permit the normalization of relations, so Syria refused to allow the US generals into Syria.

In Dec. 2007,  Petraeus himself tried to go to Damascus to restart intelligence cooperation. The Vice President refused him permission. This was the time that  Petraeus announced that Syria had improved compliance and cut back infiltration across the border.

I think we can assume that this cross border raid was not inspired by Petraeus. It has the finger prints of the White House.  Petraeus and Rice have consistently fought to improve relations with Syria in order to win better coordination on the border.

This would explain why press releases on this issue are being released from “sources” in Washington and not being made by boots on the ground in Iraq. My hunch is that Centcom in Iraq is furious about being pressed to carry out this raid during the last minutes of Bush authority. They understand that it will complicate any future efforts to improve Syrian-US relations, which is the only real way to get better cooperation on the border issue. By ordering this raid, the Bush administration has administered a poison pill to US-Syrian relations and to Syrian-Iraq relations. 

As Jonathan Marcus of the BBC has written, “With the Bush administration on the way out, this US military incursion may represent something of a parting shot against the Syrians.”

The White House may be counting on Syria not to respond to this provocation, believing that Damascus will be constrained by its interest in cultivating a new relationship with an Obama administration. There is much hope in Damascus that an Obama administration will resume dialogue and allow the Defense Department to re-establish intelligence sharing and allow the State Department ot restore proper relations with Damascus.

[end of Landis analysis]

LA Times:

"This month Gen. David H. Petraeus, the former top commander in Iraq, said [Syrian] efforts had helped cut the number of foreign fighters crossing the Syrian border from about 100 to 20 a month. But he made it clear that more needed to be done."

Baghdad (Deutsche Presse- Agentur )

The Iraqi government on Monday said that it is talking to US officials over the American raid on the remote Syrian border village of Al-Sukariya and that it hoped the incident would not spoil Iraq’s ties with Damascus.

“The Americans failed to reply to all the requests by the Syrian government and to allow the Iraqis to build up security co-ordination across the border,” Samir al-Taqi, director of the Orient Centre for International Studies, a Syrian think-tank, told al-Jazeera.

Aljazeera English reports on the US raid into Syria.


LONDON (Reuters) – An alleged U.S. attack on a Syrian village near the border with Iraq was an “outrageous crime”, a Syrian diplomat told the BBC.

Syria says U.S. military helicopters attacked the Bou Kamal border area on Sunday, killing eight civilians. The United States, which accuses Syria of not doing enough to stop al Qaeda fighters and other insurgents crossing into Iraq, has neither confirmed nor denied the incident.

"This is an outrageous crime and an act of aggression, of course," Syria’s press attache in London, Jihad Makdissi, told the BBC.

He said the U.S. strike hit “a building under construction, a civilian building”.

"If they (the United States) have any proof of any insurgency, instead of applying the law of the jungle and penetrating, unprovoked, a sovereign country, they should come to the Syrians first and share this information," Maqdisi said.

“This administration … have proved to be irrational and they have no respect for international law or human rights. We expect a clarification, and of course Syria reserves the right to respond accordingly in the proper way.”

Syria’s foreign ministry has summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires in Damascus to protest over the raid.

Syria also called on the Iraqi government to carry out an immediate inquiry into the attack and to ensure that Iraq was not used for “aggression against Syria”, the state news agency SANA said.

Comments (64)

Innocent Criminal said:


I wouldn’t link US actions in Pakistan to what happened last night in Syria. The Pakistani army has covertly given the US a green light in cross border attacks against militants because the Pakistani Army cannot or unwilling to enter such areas. Their politicians critisizes washington publicly to save face with its own anti-american public

Syria on the other hands prefers to do these types of things on its own. So we can safely say that this was a unilateral attack on the part of the americans.

October 27th, 2008, 6:58 am


Chris said:

It seems odd that such heavy handed methods of fighting the flow of foreign terrorists into Iraq would begin to be used after the level of violence in Iraq has dramatically fallen. If this strike is an attempt to use all methods available to stem the flow of terrorists into Iraq and/or convince the regime in Damascus that it is in its interest to police the borders then why is this being done now? The end of he Bush term may be part of the answer…

October 27th, 2008, 8:53 am


alia said:

The silence is deafening

Anyone noticed that so far no reaction, condemnation!! has come out of the European allies? Le Monde, Der Spiegel, The Guardian have been repeating the same litany : The Syrians said, the Americans said…but their leaders are still silent-

This brings to mind the remark of the Singaporan Dr. Kishore Mahbubani on “the implicit solidarity of the West and how little we understand it and how little it has been researched”. Although, the Germans are clearly rooting for Obama, they will not come out and condemn a clear act of breach of Sovereignty, by the outgoing -frequently-mocked Bush regime-, regardless of its justification.

Joshua, The Guardian is following your analysis on SC and quoting you on the matter.

October 27th, 2008, 10:42 am


norman said:

The US army did not know about the attack,

Print | Close this window

Syria condemns U.S. raid as “terrible crime”
Mon Oct 27, 2008 6:17am EDT
By Marwan Makdessi

DAMASCUS (Reuters) – Syria accused the United States on Monday of committing a “terrible crime” in killing eight civilians during a helicopter attack on a Syrian farm near the border with Iraq.

Syria has said four U.S. helicopters attacked the al-Sukkari farm in the Albou Kamal area in eastern Syria on Sunday and that U.S. soldiers stormed a building in the area.

The United States, which accuses Syria of failing to stem the flow of al Qaeda fighters and other insurgents into Iraq to attack U.S. forces, has neither confirmed nor denied the incident.

“This is an outrageous raid which is against international law. It is a terrible crime. I don’t know the political meaning of it. We are expecting clarifications from the Americans,” Syrian Ambassador to London Sami al-Khiyami told Reuters.

Khiyami said the Syrian authorities were still awaiting details from the Americans on the raid before deciding what measures to take and whether to lodge a complaint with the United Nations Security Council.

“We are expecting clarifications. Depending what they give as reasons we will see what to do next … They killed civilians. They had to admit their mistake and they have to compensate (the people) for it.”

U.S. forces in western Iraq denied that they were involved in the incident. Their denial suggested that it may have been carried out by a special unit outside the regular U.S. command structure in Iraq.

Reuters Television footage showed a half-acre (0.45 hectare) fenced farm and a truck riddled with bullet holes. Blood stained the ground. Syrian state television showed columns of a building under construction and a nearby tent with food and blankets. Spent bullets lay around.

“Four helicopters came from different directions and hovered. Two of them landed and soldiers got out and started shooting,” Osama Malla Hameed, who owns a farm nearby, told Reuters.

“They stayed for about four minutes and then departed,” said Hameed, whose farm is about 300 meters (yards) from where the raid occurred. His nephew, who was on a motorcycle nearby, was hit in the hand.

A wounded woman in hospital, who was the wife of the building guard, confirmed Hameed’s account to Syrian television and said she had come under machine gun fire.

Syria’s foreign ministry has summoned the U.S. charge d’affaires in Damascus to protest about the raid.

Syria has also urged the Iraqi government to carry out an immediate inquiry into the attack and to ensure that Iraq was not used for “aggression against Syria,” the state news agency SANA said.

“If they (the United States) have any proof of any insurgency, instead of applying the law of the jungle and penetrating, unprovoked, a sovereign country, they should come to the Syrians first and share this information,” Syria’s press attache at its embassy in London, Jihad Makdissi, told the BBC.

“This administration … have proved to be irrational and they have no respect for international law or human rights. We expect a clarification, and of course Syria reserves the right to respond accordingly in the proper way.”

Last week Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdel Majeed said Damascus “refuses to be a launching pad for threats against Iraq.”

(Additional reporting by Samia Nakhoul and Mark Trevelyan in London and Yara Bayoumy in Beirut; writing by Samia Nakhoul)

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October 27th, 2008, 10:50 am


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh stated a few days ago:

Syria has curtailed infiltration into Iraq even though Washington has refused to reward it or resend an Ambassador. It has not complied completely with US demands on the border, but it has shown good will in the face of a powerful US diplomatic boycott.

I guess the US government doesn’t agree with the good professor.

Many signs indicate that the US and Israel are just taking a breather following the Bush failures…

What failures? Opening Iraq and Libya’s WMD programs doesn’t seem like a failure to me. And isolating other ME countries that still support terrorism is a good policy. The ME hasn’t been this peaceful in years…

October 27th, 2008, 10:51 am


Innocent Criminal said:


I usually advise people not to even give you any attention by replying to your comments. but the fact you posted a two and a half year old link to back up your argument was just hilarious. i mean..WOW!!!

October 27th, 2008, 11:05 am


qunfuz said:

I suggest an international legal case against these murderers. The entire chain of command, from the pilots to Bush, should die in prison.

My comment-making capacity is incapacitated by anger this morning, anger at the murderous terrorists in Washington, anger at the propaganda machine that describes itself as media: the London Times describes last night’s atrocity as “a warning”, and describes last year’s illegal, unprovoked Israeli attack as “a daring raid.”

I suggest a case against Western media too, on the grounds that it glorifies and incites terrorism. (Of course, I’m plucking words from the War on Terror lexicon here).


October 27th, 2008, 11:17 am


AKbar Palace said:

Innocent Criminal,

OK, here’s something my web browser says is 25 minutes old. BTW – Do really think Syria has changed in the past 2.5 years? 25 years?

If you want change Habibi, vote Obama…;)

October 27th, 2008, 11:18 am


Murphy said:

“describes last year’s illegal, unprovoked Israeli attack as “a daring raid.”

This is the kind of schoolboy banter which is so often used to refer to Israeli activities,no matter how criminal and/or inept they may be. Much the same way as Israeli hitmen are called ‘commandos’. The trouble is, the people who come up with this nonsense don’t realise that Entebbe was 30 years ago and more. The days of ‘daring raids’ are long over for Israel, assuming they ever really existed. Who can forget the ‘daring raid’ (yes, that is what they called it) on Baaalbek during Israel’s 2006 assault on Lebanon? The ‘audacious commandos’ managed to….. capture a local grocer who happened to go by the name of Hassan Nasrallah.

October 27th, 2008, 11:28 am


BraveJeWorld said:

‘Daring Raids’ do still happen. The most daring of them we will probably never know about. Yes, I realise that may well be a Catch 22 type situation. But still.
The US attack however was one that was daring though am not sure as to what it will likely achieve, unless it is the first of many. What is sure is that it has raised the temperature a lot more in this most unstable region.

More at BraveJeWorld.

October 27th, 2008, 11:33 am


Solomon2 said:

“Irrational”? The Syrians are complaining that the action was irrational? That implies that the raid itself had merit – but that the U.S. should have conducted itself in a “rational” manner first.

There’s more here than meets the eye, I guess.

October 27th, 2008, 12:22 pm


Apollodorus said:

This attack will likely bring more jihadi to the borders ,in fact ,for these tribes ,these boundaries are non existent,the people of this region have strong family and tribal ties with the tribes of the other side of the border.In fact eastern Syria is culturaly closer to Al Qaim,Faluja and Ramadi than to Aleppo,Hama,Homs and Damascus.(this is true for the arab tribes of course)

October 27th, 2008, 12:38 pm


Alia said:

My earlier comment must have gone into SPAM.

For the Americans who are unhappy with News obtained directly from a reliable source in the town where the incident occurred- SORRY!!
Since I do not own a TV, I could not wait for FOXX News to give me the scoop….:((

The facts are very straightforward on the ground. The sovereignty of a country was insulted, civilians were killed…Those who question the weight of these facts anytime, any day, are doing so based on their own biases, nothing else. Such incidents are rather instructive about people’s biases: “There must be something fishy here”

Some of us oppose the regime and have been censored because of our rabid opposition; this here has nothing to do with approving the regime.

October 27th, 2008, 1:03 pm


Carl Rollins said:

As the days left in his presidency dwindle to but a few, George W. Bush has apparently come completely unhinged.

I recall the day I watched him on CNN over 8 years ago as he stood underneath a tent in Iowa at the unofficial kickoff for his 2000 campaign. In a nod to Clinton’s impeachment and the plethora of partisan-inspired independent counsel ionvestigations that his administration had spawned, Bush theatrically raised his right hand and said he (the clear implication being unlike Clinton or Gore) would defend the Constitution. It was dramatic and I recognized instantly that he was going to be a formidable candidate.

Unfortunately, he never kept his promise. It wasn’t just the sneaky way he sidestepped Congress and the UN to invade Iraq. It wasn’t just the manipulation of intelligence and dishonesty in packaging the war. It wasn’t even the reliance on legal technicalities, long a bane of conservatives that shocked the conscience. It wasn’t just the holding innocent Muslims and Arabs incommunicado indefinitely in contravention of repeated high court pronouncements that this was unconstitutional. It wasn’t the illegal wiretapping and information gathering that saw Bush sign an order that essentially placed him above the law as a monarch. It’s the countless smaller transgression of the law that have occurred throughout the government agencies over the last 8 years that have been unreported because the compliant media has abdicated its role in the face of the “war on terror” that is the most troubling.

But recently, it has gotten much worse. Sensing that they have nothing left to lose and attempting to preserve their legacy the remnants of this once overconfident neocon administration, now wheezing like an old two pack a day smoker, is trying every last-ditch military tactic it can think of that even it was ashamed to try before for fear of the political and public relations fallout.

They have convinced the press and the public that the situation in Afghanistan is far worse, even though total deaths in theater are down this year; perhaps by as much as 25%. They have used this false pretext to conduct attacks (even on the ground) inside of Pakistan. Hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians have been displaced, there have been innocents killed by missile strikes from drones, and there is little hope that this will result in any long term improvement of the situation. The tribal areas of Pakistan have been hotbeds of extremism for centuries, The latest tactics seem destined to have little effect but to create more terrorists, Indeed, many of the extremists fighting now picked up their arms when the Pak army attacked the Red Mosque last year, seemingly at the behest of the Americans.

America’s hypocritical leaders insist that all others around the world be hauled into special courts for war crimes, yet as they negotiate an agreement to keep our troops in Iraq they insist on carving out an exception for US troops guilty of war crimes that this country has maintained for at least a decade now. In the warped thinking of supremacist Americans it is somehow fair for them alone to have their twisted war criminals sent home to be slapped on the wrist by friendly “home court” judges.

Likewise, no one else in the world can negotiate with “terrorists” without being tagged as Nazi-loving appeasers; but the US alone can actually pay the former al-queda Sunni Awakening group mafia-like protection money to keep them from attacking our forces.

But this is not all. Yesterday’s news brought word that Blackwater and other private “security” contractors who have wrought havoc in Iraq may now be heading to Somalia to fight pirates. On top of the US’s mishandling of the situation there this can only lead to further disaster. Then, today, we find that the US military is attacking Syria from Iraq. The purpose of this antagonism: stopping what US intelligence estimates is a whopping 18 foreign fighters a month from crossing the border.

Taking such risks for such insignificant gains is irrational to say the very least. Other boneheaded moves, such as pulling all Peace Corps workers from Bolivia, can only hurt the neediest innocents and not harm those in power. Where is the long-discussed economic aid package for the Pakistan Northwest Territories? Seven years in and we’re still just trying to kill them all; this is lunacy.

Bush will only be happy to see the entire Middle East in flames. His anti-Hamas strategy has completely failed (twice now), and hope for any Arab-Israeli peace deal, near term, is dead. On top of all this the international financial system has been crippled and he, along with Congressional leaders, has hamstrung future presidents with an unprecedented mountain of debt that will make it nearly impossible to address our own problems much less the world’s.

Mr. Bush will present the next president with a world, nation, and economy in complete chaos. The body count is in the hundreds of thousands; he probably has his dad beat in this respect. Both men are more bloodthirsty than Reagan ever was, despite his harsh rhetoric. Frankly, Bush couldn’t have performed worse if he had been drunk for the last 8 years.

Bush once called “terrorists” people “who place no value on life, allow no room for dissent and use terror to apply their harsh ideology on as many people as possible.” This could easily describe America and its policy during his regime. I don’t see how he and those that follow him can look themselves in the mirror.

October 27th, 2008, 2:00 pm


Chris said:

It’s interesting that the Syrian (state) news media is using the term “civilian” to describe everyone who died in this incident. That in fact would be expected, since terrorists are not members of a military. Terrorists do not wear uniforms. They are in fact civilians (i.e. non-military), although they are not non-combatants. Perhaps I’m wasting my time because I don’t think anyone, including fans of the nepotistic and kleptocratic regime, finds the reportage of SANA (the state news agency) credible.

October 27th, 2008, 2:02 pm


abasi said:

what is astonishing is the timing. if the americans did that long time ago, following the turkish example of threatening to occupy syria after Ojlan Crisis, the Iseali sample of threat to target syria if more attacks took place in its northern Borders,they would have saved thousands of lives in Iraq. but i cannot see the point in the timing now with the US is on the verge of change.

Could this be a move to provoke a reaction of some sort to support McCain? those people in the white house would not leave easily. they are some sort of Comapny compared to Al-Qaida in many aspects.

it could also be a radical change of policy on the militery front regardless Bush’s status.

October 27th, 2008, 2:32 pm


Ford Prefect said:

It appears that Cheney’s White House still does not get it that a Tsunami of voter anger is about to kick them back to dark holes they came from. So they resort to reckless military endeavors like this one.

Our hope is that Syria does not take the bait and show some kind of intelligence by ignoring this incident and wait for the American voters to correct this situation. January 20th just cannot come soon enough.

What what a funny comment by Innocent Criminal above. Yes, IC, I would have said that conservative neocons are freaking out and have lost their mind. The problem is that they didn’t have it to start with.

October 27th, 2008, 2:47 pm


Rabia said:

[because the Pakistani Army cannot or unwilling to enter such areas.]

Innocent Criminal,
Don’t you find it a little strange to claim that the Pakistan army is “unwilling to enter such areas” considering that it is currently in the middle of a major anti-terrorist military operation in the tribal district of Bajaur?

October 27th, 2008, 3:03 pm


Murphy said:

“It’s interesting that the Syrian (state) news media is using the term “civilian” to describe everyone who died in this incident. That in fact would be expected, since terrorists are not members of a military.”

You might just as well come out and say exactly what you mean: all of the victims (including the 4 people under the age of 18) were Arabs and therefore potentially ‘terrorists’ anyway.

“Could this be a move to provoke a reaction of some sort to support McCain?”

Personally, I find it impossible to think of it any other way. After all, though Syria would never reach the abject levels of servitude demanded by the US, in recent months it had been far more cooperative as regards the whole ‘foreign fighters’ issue. So, if the US were genuinely worried about this, it would have bombed Syria years ago, when the Sunni insurgency was at its height and US-Syrian relations at their worst. This can only be an incredibly lame attempt at an ‘october surprise’. It is, as you say, to be hoped that the Syrians do not let themselves be provoked.

October 27th, 2008, 3:13 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


IMHO unwilling is a fair comment to certain areas and periods of the Paki-Afghani border. There are several factors that forces the army to think twice about attacking militants in such areas.

First is the fact that its quiet difficult. i.e The American army along with a huge coalition has been unable to completely wipe out the Taliban. So it is understandable that the Pakistani army will have great difficulty running them out in the Taliban’s own turf.

Another reason, though to a lesser extent, is the anti-american sentiment in Pakistan plays against the army. Its much more difficult to gain public support (including local informants against the taliban) when the americans are killing their “brothers” next door.

and below article is one of many that makes the case i am making

October 27th, 2008, 3:24 pm


Rabia said:

I apologize… I just read your original comment again and I think I misinterpreted it. I agree with your last comment about the reasons why the Pakistani army has been unwilling to enter the tribal areas and that in the past the cross-border attacks have had the implicit approval of the military establishment. But where I disagree with your original comment is that I don’t think that the current round of cross-border attacks into FATA have been approved by the Pakistani government or military leadership.

October 27th, 2008, 3:32 pm


Off the Wall said:


Yesterday’s news brought word that Blackwater and other private “security” contractors who have wrought havoc in Iraq may now be heading to Somalia to fight pirates.

It takes a pirate to fight a pirate.

October 27th, 2008, 3:35 pm


Ghat Albird said:

There must be a pagan-like karma about October. And as usual innocent men, women and children die and in this year 2008, the dying aside from the few Georgians and Russians, have been Iraqis, Palestinians, Afghans, Pakistanis and now Syrians.

Are the latter as Dr. Landis suggests parting shots or the omens of future acts? What, given the past neocon led disasters of US policy in the ME can any decent results be expected from the bombings of Syrian villages?

October 27th, 2008, 3:38 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

The “Departing Salvo” is a common colonialist tactic, viz. the Dutch conducted a naval bombardment of Jakarta killing 5,000 people as it said farewell to its Indonesian colony in the late ’40’s-early ’50’s.

October 27th, 2008, 3:42 pm


Frank al Irlandi said:

One of Admiral Fallon’s problems was reported to be that Special Forces Command did not inform Centcom of their operations.

This does rather look like someone hit the wrong target. Doing it in daylight is an obvious provocation.

To what end?.

October 27th, 2008, 3:46 pm


Jad/2 said:

– (Schizo) Amos Harel,

“This modus operandi is reminiscent of Israeli “targeted killings”: an effective combination of intelligence and operation, with the use of aerial strikes accompanied by a commando force to confirm the operation’s success.”

“However, it appears that the success of Sunday’s operation will not cancel out the continued frustration of the U.S. in its struggle with al-Qaida and its allies. It’s not just that the Taliban and its partners are retaking control in Afghanistan, but that the pursuit of Osama bin Laden remains crowned by failure, more than seven years after 9/11.”

“It is a sore point for the Bush administration. In the opening sketch of “Saturday Night Live” last week, George W. Bush (portrayed by comedian Will Ferrell) proudly exclaimed: “George Bush always gets his man”, before adding, “save for one huge exception.”

(Late) Joseph Samaha (2007-01-12)

” Bush is not only going forth with his destructive war, he intends to deepen it and even expand it. Thus he used for his own interest a well-known Israeli slogan that says: what is not solved with force can be solved with more force. “

October 27th, 2008, 5:06 pm


dan said:


It would be worth updating this post with something about the Mu’alem press conference in London this afternoon.

Funny thing, the UK Foreign Secretary, David Milliband, was supposed to be co-hosting this press briefing with Mu’alem, but ducked out – I don’t think that I can ever remember a UK foreign secretary ducking out of a scheduled event with a foreign counterpart like this…in London, at home, as it were. I would imagine that privately the FCO are fucking furious – it’s well beyond embarrassment at this stage. The presser was carried live by both the BBC and Sky – and the Syrian FM’s denunciations are being endlessly replayed.

The UK-Syria event was scheduled quite some time ago….I wonder what they were going to announce? It strikes me that the raid was an attempt to spike something.

October 27th, 2008, 5:24 pm


Atassi said:

It’s regrettable to see innocents Syrian lives wasted and being used as an opportunity to deflect the attention from a pressing Internal US issues with a strategic goal of boosting a candidate election numbers based on security issues .
I still think the Syrian “peoples” most do their best to help the Iraqis get rid of the extremists getting into IRAQ … ..

October 27th, 2008, 5:33 pm


Alex said:


The timing might be related to the Syrian foreign minister’s visit to the UK, but I imagine they have some “intelligence” to justify the attack on Syria.

I watched Mouallem’s press conference live. It was impossible for the British foreign minister to sit next to him for 30 minutes listening to questions exclusively about the American attack on Syria and listening to Mr. Mouallem call the American administration terrorists etc.

Finally, this was not the first time British FM “ducking out of a scheduled event with a foreign counterpart”

Our Saudi friends were about one year ahead of us : )

Saudi visit marred by David Miliband cancellation

David likes to avoid controversies.

October 27th, 2008, 5:36 pm


Friend in America said:

I think we are prone to too much groundless political speculation over something quite simple. Consider:
The region where this farm is located is arid, near desert. Farmers in such locations are subsistence farmers. They are poor and their lives are very simple. A building of this type is inconsistent with their style of farming. So, who came onto this farm to construct this building? Who financed it?
Further situational information offers some clues. The farm is close to the paths used to cross into Iraq illegally. Walking distance. The nearby refuge camp is a staging place for fighters waiting to cross. Captured Saudi youths recruited to fight in Iraq have given accounts of their stay in this refuge camp while arrangements for crossing into Iraq are completed. They even identified the paths.
It would be helpful if someone on this blog could go to the site and nearby village before the building is bulldozed.

October 27th, 2008, 5:55 pm


Innocent_Criminal said:


Then i think you will be in for surprise. Ask most Pakistanis in the know and they will agree that the Paki army has given the US army green light to get rid of the problem on their behalf. its not something that is easily proven but it is somewhat of an obvious given

October 27th, 2008, 5:58 pm


qunfuz said:

That’s true, Friend in America. We all know that Arabs live in tents. The presence of concrete in a Middle Eastern country is a sure pointer to terrorist activity. Keep us posted on your further discoveries. And thanks.

October 27th, 2008, 6:02 pm


Alex said:


“It would be helpful if someone on this blog could go to the site and nearby village before the building is bulldozed.”

Did you see pictures of “the building”? … it was on Syrian television.

Why would you think the Syrian authorities will bulldoze that building?

Was it a specially designed building for hiding Saddam’s lost WMD’s?

October 27th, 2008, 6:08 pm


Friend in America said:

Qunfuz –
I am not being sarcastic and I wish you would not be either. This is too serious.
Farming on poor land with little water can never be prosperous anywhere in the world. This location is no exception. Are we sure concrete was used? I wonder why. Why not a simpler material more in keeping with the buildings of that region?

October 27th, 2008, 6:10 pm


Chris said:


You said:
“You might just as well come out and say exactly what you mean: all of the victims (including the 4 people under the age of 18) were Arabs and therefore potentially ‘terrorists’ anyway.”

No Murphy I mean what I said and what I said didn’t come close to even approximating the notion that “all of the victims were Arabs and therefore potentially ‘terrorists’ anyway.”

I wrote that when SANA says that all of the victims were “civilians” we can disregard this for two reasons: first, terrorists are civilians in the sense that they are not associated with any military (if they were then they would be military and not terrorists which are non-state actors). Secondly, SANA is an agency of an authoritarian regime.

It is odd that you read “…Arabs and therefore potentially ‘terrorist'” from my earlier statement. Some may be offended by your suggestion that Arabs are potential terrorists. I say your suggestion, after all, because I made no such suggestion and well you came up with it. I’d be careful making blanket comments like that about ethnic groups (not that I’m saying that Arabs are an ethnic group).

October 27th, 2008, 6:10 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Went back an looked at my own blog for 2005 and that year was a banner year for US raids on Iraq’s border with Syria. Such raids are also a convenient excuse for provocation:

12 April 2005
Al-Qaïm. The Multinational Force conducted a raid on foreign fighters and smugglers near al-Qaïm, a town on the border with Syria.

10 May 2005
Operation Matador is launched to “eliminate insurgents and foreign fighters” from an area on the Syrian which the US military claims is a route for infiltration and a sanctuary for “Jihadists”.

Syrian Comment readers may remember an event when the US fired artillery into Syria…But this is the first time the US military crossed the border.

And then there’s events like this…
September 2006
BRITISH soldiers have been caught smuggling stolen guns out of Iraq and allegedly exchanging them for cocaine and cash on the black market.

October 27th, 2008, 6:14 pm


Alex said:


SANA actually has a picture of that highly suspicious building.

Notice the deep foundations … clearly showing that this was going to be a very high structure.

October 27th, 2008, 6:23 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Alex, are you saying that the building was going to be some kind of watchtower and the US military did not want snooping on their side of the border?

October 27th, 2008, 6:28 pm


Alex said:

: ) … There are no foundations.

I am saying this was possibly going to be a smugglers’ depot.

People who live near borders usually smuggle goods for a living.

Syria subsidizes everything …

October 27th, 2008, 6:31 pm


AIG said:

Form the latest AFP release:
Major General John Kelly, the US commander in western Iraq, told reporters Thursday that Iraqi intelligence believes that “Al-Qaeda operatives and others operate, live pretty openly on the Syrian side.”

“And periodically, we know that they try to come across,” he said.

The Syrians are harboring Al-Qaida terrorist and letting them operate freely because it serves their interests. That is the definition of a terrorist state.

October 27th, 2008, 6:31 pm


AIG said:

More likely it was going to be an underground munitions depot or a bunker.

October 27th, 2008, 6:34 pm


Nur al-Cubicle said:

Ho, Iraqi intelligence! Who knew? Which factional “intelligence” by the way? A rival tribe?? And the worn AQ canard is raised and AIG dances for joy!

October 27th, 2008, 6:39 pm


Jad said:

“More likely it was going to be an underground munitions depot or a bunker.”
Yes AIG, it was a bunker and they asked your mother to help them with the design.

October 27th, 2008, 6:41 pm


Alex said:


welcome back

remember please that you are still under a six-comments per day limit … 1.5 times the average number of comments I post.

And “more likely” is something that needs proof.

In my comment above I first typed “probably” .. then, before posting, I erased it and typed “possibly” instead. Because I can not prove that it was “probably”a smuggler’s depot.

October 27th, 2008, 6:43 pm


dan said:


Not quite the same thing, old boy – Milliband and Mu’alem had their meeting, but young David ducked the presser afterwards.

The Saudis rarely bother with press conferences – and the article that you’re referencing is about the cancellation of a function, amidst a domestic political scandal regarding BAE and intelligence cooperation threats, rather than a substantive policy session ( which still seems to have taken place ) followed by a public briefing.

Now, not all London FM meetings have pressers afterwards – when they do, it’s usually ‘cos there’s something that they want to announce to the public. Wonder what it was?

It may well have been “impossible” for Milliband to appear in public with his Syrian counterpart, but it’s not Mu’alem’s fault that the news agenda got hijacked by a third party.

Whenever anybody reaches for “intelligence” as a rationale, I turn my skepticism up to the max.

Now, one can believe that the first time the US do a cross-border action against Syria, for no obviously compelling reason, the day before a UK-Syria policy session cum press briefing is pure happenstance and just an unfortunate accident…, no, not in a million, matey!

October 27th, 2008, 6:46 pm


Alex said:

Where is Shai? : )

I got it right last week! … Livni’s popular and Labour dead.

Polls show Livni edging past Netanyahu for PM, Labor headed for debacle

By Haaretz Service and The Associated Press

New polls on Monday showed Kadima leader Tzipi Livni pulling ahead of hawkish rival Likud Chairman Benjamin Netanyahu, a day after she steered the country toward early elections at the beginning of next year.

For much of the past two years, Netanyahu has been the clear front-runner in polls which asked prospective voters their choice for prime minister.

The polls also showed Labor in dire straits with the electorate. As Labor officials were quoted as seeking to replace him as party chair, Ehud Barak Monday dismissed talk of a possible joint electoral list with the ruling Kadima.

A poll by the Dahaf Research Institute showed Livni’s Kadima Party winning 29 of parliament’s 120 seats, the same number it has now, and Netanyahu’s Likud taking 26 if elections were held today. A TNS Teleseker survey gave Kadima 31 seats to Likud’s 29.

October 27th, 2008, 6:51 pm


JustOneAmerican said:

Well, it looks the guy they were after was killed and two were captured.

The picture of the construction site is unremarkable. There is not a “foundation” per se, but a footer upon which the forms for the initial pour of concrete for the walls. Based on the dimensions, it looks more like a high-end residential two-story structure to me.

October 27th, 2008, 7:19 pm


Alex said:

Sarah Palin …

Israeli Ambassador to the US Sallai Meridor met with GOP Vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on Monday during the latter’s three-city tour in Virginia.

Palin greeted Ambassador Sallai Meridor and apologized for not being able to meet with him sooner. Somewhat enigmatically, she told the ambassador: “We look forward to … working with your Jewish agency.”

Akbar Palace … go ahead and vote for her! : )

October 27th, 2008, 7:28 pm


Rumyal said:

The scent of blood in the air draws so many creatures out of the woodwork…

October 27th, 2008, 7:48 pm


Solomon2 said:

AP reports that the local officials say that there were seven people killed and that they were all men – implying that the Syrian government story of women and children being killed is a lie.

October 27th, 2008, 7:51 pm


Shai said:


Yes, you were right. But I’m afraid the polls were taken before the campaign really got under way, before any candidate other than Livni uttered a single word, and more than likely attributed a few extra seats to Kadima based on Labor’s disastrous record. In fact, if you look carefully at the poll results, the Likud’s accomplishment seat-wise is far more impressive than Kadima’s. From 12 to 29. Kadima gains merely 2 seats, from 29 to 31.

October 27th, 2008, 8:13 pm


Rabia said:

[Ask most Pakistanis in the know and they will agree that the Paki army has given the US army green light to get rid of the problem on their behalf. its not something that is easily proven but it is somewhat of an obvious given]

Well, I wish I were one of these Pakistanis in the know so I could get a perfect understanding of the Pakistani military establishment’s master plan in the tribal areas the way you seem to have! OK, so your argument is that Gen. Kayani is actually calling in US special ops to target high value al Qaeda targets in Waziristan because he believes that given enough of these raids, the insurgency in the tribal areas will magically disappear?

If you are arguing that these raids are conducted with the full knowledge of the Pakistani establishment, I will certainly agree with you. However I do not think that they are conducted on BEHALF of the Pakistani establishment.

October 27th, 2008, 8:20 pm


Naji said:

Joshua is on Al Jazeera Arabic right now… a relatively extensive interview about the raid… doing very well, but why in English…?!! For more credibility…?! 😉

(Just teasing, of course!)

October 27th, 2008, 8:29 pm


Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh writes:

Recent information has caused me to trim my sails a bit on the notion… It was probably constructed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and not Cheney’s office. Evidently there are real issues at the border and Petraeus has been warning the Syrians that they must do more. His interest in going to Syria in the fall of 2007 was as much to read Syria the riot act about compliance as it was to seek intelligence sharing, although that had been a principal subject of the Sharm al-Shaykh meeting between Mu`alem and Rice in May. Bashar al-Asad is no mood to give anything to Bush or Rice in the closing months of their administration.

Professor Josh,

Why are we supposed to take your hypotheses as fact? “Probablies” don’t cut it. One minute you say “Syria has curtailed infiltration into Iraq even though Washington has refused to reward it…” and the next minute you say “there are real issues at the border”.

Just a suggestion, instead of the “yes men” surrounding you in Syria, academia, and on this forum, get some facts instead of presenting your “probablies”. That’s all we need is more conspricacy theories. I have enough of those to fill a shoe box!

Akbar Palace … go ahead and vote for her! : )


Thanks – I’m way ahead of you!

Lastly, Professor Josh adds a profound and ominous statement:

Bashar al-Asad is no mood to give anything to Bush or Rice in the closing months of their administration.

Damn that Bush. He ruins everything!;)

October 27th, 2008, 8:54 pm


Shai said:


If you guys (the good ‘ole conservatives still supporting McPalin) are doing so well, where’s all the anger coming from? You’re tired of liberals, now you include academics, “yes-men” in Syria and on this forum, what’s next? Book burnin’? Starting sentences with Yeehaw? Did you see my earlier post about Alaska’s largest newspaper? It’s endorsing Obama! Isn’t freedom a wonderful thing? 🙂

October 27th, 2008, 9:06 pm


Ghat Albird said:

Came across an item on a web site that reported the execution of Israel’s chief of Mossad along with the head of the Jordanian Government’s head of intelligence within the last two weeks.

Could that possibly be the rational behind this “parting shot” done by the US “in lieu” of the Israeli Air force in an eye for eye?

Must be Elliot Abrams’s [Norman Podhoretz’s son in law] last act in the Bush Administration.

October 27th, 2008, 9:33 pm


qunfuz said:

Friend in America – I have been to Aal Bukamal. Sadly, like everywhere in the world, poor places included, there are breezeblock and concrete buildings aplenty.

October 27th, 2008, 9:34 pm


Jen said:

This is the October Surprise from the Bush Administration to put fear in the american people so that they can vote for McCain. We are not fooled no matter which way you cut it!

October 27th, 2008, 9:39 pm


Friend in America said:

Alex, my friend –
Sorry for interruptions that caused my delay in replying to #33. I thought my comment would be taken as humor. I apologize to anyone here who took offense. No, this is not a matter of wmd. It is a small matter of smugglers being paid to lead Saudi recruits across the border. Now that Abu Ghaduya has been found and killed, the number of identified terrorist facilitators is Syria is down to three.
I assume Syrian authorities were warned that if the border is not closed (as it has been in Jordan and Saudi Arabia) to people who wish to travel into Iraq and kill innocent civilians (mostly Shia), a risk of assertive action is created. I assume so because it is standard diplomatic procedure to do so. Do not expect the governments to acknowledge this soon after the incident. Maybe in several years.

October 28th, 2008, 12:39 pm


Roger said:

No one seems to have asked why, if the US knew where this guy was, why it couldn’t have waited until he crossed the border again into Iraq. Has the hands of Cheney & Bush all over it, probably for election gain.

October 28th, 2008, 9:30 pm


Stephen R said:

Killing members of al Qaeda who target Iraqi police and U.S. troops is now nothing more than playing political games with Assad’s disgusting regime?

Take off the hate-Bush goggles Josh please. They make the truth very difficult to see.

November 1st, 2008, 3:22 pm


Syria Comment » Archives » Imad Moustapha on Raid: Newsweek & FP said:

[…] are signs that Petraeus remains skeptical about Syria’s stated desire for cooperation. Landis reported that “there are real issues at the border,” and that Petraeus’s interest in going […]

November 1st, 2008, 8:45 pm


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