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27 October 2008


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Leila Abu-Saba

Three weeks ago I was sitting in the shade at the Roman ruins of Tyre, the seaside complex. The security guards were chatting us up and had brought us coffee and bottled water. My companion, an American, had been asking them how it went for them when Israel bombed Tyre in 2006, and they told us of evacuating under fire, and the rows of coffins lined up full of children.

The youngest and most jocular guard said to me: "May I say something, and you don't get upset?" I nodded. "We know the Death (al Mawt) does not come from the American people. The death comes from the guys on top. The guys at the desks. They send us the death, not the American people. We are not angry at the American people."

Just a thought we can all hold on to. Prayers may help, too.


"Rumsfeld made them largely independent of the regular military chain of command."

Does that make them vigilantes?

Rumsfeld is history. Who's driving this train?

Mad Dogs

Reading between the lines over the last 8 years, I just get the impression that there seems to be a "personal" backstory in Junya's animus towards Syria.

This just feels like something other than your typical "policy" defined by the Foreign Service types at Foggy Bottom.

Tin Foil Hat Warning!!!

With zero evidence to support my speculation, perhaps something like a childish imaginary dot connection fixation by Junya that postulates Syrian involvement in the assasination attempt on Junya's father after Gulf War 1.

In any event, if this is merely Foggy Bottom foolishness, they have definitely hit the bottom of the barrel.


The most alarming thing about this post to me is that Colonel Lang, with expertise in both the Arab Middle East and in Defense Intelligence, should be unable to make sense of this attack, or even to describe its root causes.

I don't call into question your expertise, Colonel. I am merely frightened that you are unable to clarify this action more.

In a sense it's like the conspiracy theorists who insist on KNOWING, beyond all shadow of a doubt, who shot JFK or who was responsible for 9/11. To me, they are laughable control freaks who can't stand not knowing, even at the expense of being right.

No conspiracy here, perhaps, apart from the Bush Administration's continuing efforts to burn the entire world to the ground by the time they leave office. I am only dismayed that we may never know just what happened here, just as the earlier bombing of a Syrian installation by Israelis will never be accounted for.

Patrick Lang


The usual chain of command is from SECDEF to the regional COCOM (Petraeus and Odierno working for him)

For these SOF people the chain runs from SECDEF to their own COCOM (SOCOM at McDill AFB) pl

Patrick Lang


This operation makes no geopolitical sense at all. That is my point.

Eventually, someone will tell me what happened. pl


Wow...are the desparate going "rogue" Kind of like the "diva" in McCain's campaign wandering off the reservation? Or so say the former Romney aides now attached to McCain campaign. Intrigue.


This situation seems to one up the stealing of the W keys from the WH computers.


Scary indeed when you can't deduct a reasonable rationale for a very grave act: Attacking a foreign country is an act of war.
And when all you have to go is the military's dull talking points whose only purpose is to defuse tensions and allow the military to do whatever it deems necessary without much accountability, at least to the common people.

Mad Dogs

More food for thought in this post at the Syria Comment blog of Josh Landis:

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


from Haaretz via the friday-lunch-club bog. the syrians were told to close their borders. the jordanians and saudis complied. the syrians were recalcitrant. they paid the price. the israelis laugh at the syrians' inability to repeatedly defend their sovereignty.

It seems all straightforward Bush-Obama doctrine. If there are terrorists there, and the host country cannot or will not act, then we will act.

It seems the Iraki government concurred. I thought Maliki was tight with the Syrians having spent years in exile there. ?????

Of course, all this is great news for McCain- close to election. Yes, the Syrians have a takfiri internationalist Salafist internal problem, b/ yet they still use them as payback. It is the only weapon they have have. the dilemma- how to be transit b/ not to be burnt by the radioactive fighters anathema to their secular state.

At one time they tried to help the U.S. w/ the tribes when Khaddam was VP b/ the U.S. blew their efforts off.


syriacomment.com by Prof Josh Landis has a pretty good analysis of the situation. Infiltration had gone down from 100 per month to 20 across the syrian/irak border. Petraeus wanted to send generals to the sham/dimashq to restart intel sharing. The syrians wanted ambassadorsrelationships restored first. U.S. said no.

things went nowhere. Petraeus bombed out of frustration. that was my take out of reading it. Oh! who got bombed. A family of smugglers- not Al Qa'eda- as on a similar raid sometime ago.


The administration is trying to show its 'strength', targeting a country they know will not respond (after the visits of Pelosi, Kerry, Brzezinski, the Syrians feel sure the Obama administration will move to repair relations and so will do nothing to jeopardize that). See for reference the Israeli strike on a Syrian 'nuclear' facility last year. Cheap points.


I have a better explanation: The real significance of this operation is not the thing itself, though that is not without importance. This is not a first in Syria. It is our acknowledgment of it, rather, and the unimpressive Syrian response that are significant. Having watched the recent evolution of same in Pakistan, it's a fair assumption that a deal has been cut with Syria, and this is not the last such raid we - even better, the Syrians - will acknowledge. We are operating within a comfort zone, so to speak.

The more interesting question is: What did Syria get in return?

One guess: A scrub of some sort on the reactor business.

ADM Owen knows.

Patrick Lang


I prefer to wait until I actually know what happened before "explaining" this otherwise inexplicable act.

High on my list would be some foolish action inspired by Darth Cheney and executed by soffies indifferent to the amount of political damage they did.

Any advantage gained in killing a few takfiris in this is far outweighed by the negative effects. pl


I thought this was one of those election year fiction produced by pentagon photo-op department. "major operation in Anbar province " . But there are pictures/civilians killed, and Syria is not going to be happy about this.

(are the pictures real? looks iffy to me. And the Syrian hasn't aired TV images yet.... hope not. that would look pretty bad)

It's a lovely time to have international incidence on top of global financial crisis.




Wasn't Dick Cheney's daughter principal deputy assistant secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs? I wonder how many people she purged at State for not signing on to the 'freedom' agenda.

Cold War Zoomie

Am I wrong in suspecting that, if this were the case twenty years ago, we would have gone ahead with the mission and then denied it while we "gathered more information to determine exactly what happened," with a very serious and grave expression, followed a few days or so later with an apology for our "mistake?" In other words, even if we had decided to pull this off, we would have at least acted as if we really do care about international boundaries and sovereignty.

From a soldier's point of view, after so many years in Iraq the temptation must be running strong to finish this job ASAP - to do whatever it takes, geopolitics be damned. That's understandable although it may not be the best thing to do.

William R. Cumming

Was the "RAID" entirely US forces? Did Iraqi's participate or approve? If it was unilateral US how does this comport with the notion that we are working with Iraqi government and armed forces? Interesting take on SOFA in Iraq and impact if signed in op-ed page of today's WAPO!

Mat Conn Lee

I don't think this is difficult to explain. We went into Syria because we could. We killed the kids because we could. We may have killed a terrorist or two so that justifies killing the kids.

As far as this being a rogue type operation, I don't believe it. I suggest it was approved at the highest levels. Is it tied into the elelction? Isn't everything!

Clifford Kiracofe

1. Some alleged information on the target from a BBC posting:

"The attack was in the village of Sukariya, which is inhabited almost entirely by the Mashahda tribe.

They are very relaxed, laid back people, not very religious - there's no Mujahideen from this tribe. The guard and the woman who died were very simple people.

They lived in a tent and were being paid to guard building materials such as cement and timber, 24 hours a day. These people will have had nothing to do with the insurgency in Iraq.

Most of the people who live here have families in Iraq. A lot of smuggling goes on: bringing guns and sheep from Iraq to Syria."

2. Mccltachey Report:

"WASHINGTON -- A U.S. raid on a farm in eastern Syria is thought to have killed an Iraqi smuggler who oversaw the infiltration of foreign fighters into Iraq for the al-Qaida in Iraq terrorist group, a U.S. official said Monday.

The smuggler, whom the official identified as Abu Ghadiya, was "one of the most prominent, if not the most prominent, foreign fighter facilitator" operating across the Iraq-Syrian border, said the official, who asked not to be further identified because Sunday's operation was classified....

Abu Ghadiya is the nom de guerre of Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, a Sunni Muslim who was born in the late 1970s in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and was a lieutenant of al-Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed in 2006. He was believed to be living in the Syrian town of Zabadani.

On Feb. 28, the Treasury Department charged that Abu Ghadiya and three members of his network were smuggling "money, weapons, terrorists, and other resources through Syria to al Qaida in Iraq, including to (al Qaida) commanders."

"Abu Ghadiya and his network go to great lengths to facilitate the flow through Syria of money, weapons, and terrorists intent on killing U.S. and Coalition forces and innocent Iraqis," said Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence Stuart Levey.

"Former al Qaida in Iraq leader Abu Musab al Zarqawi appointed Badran as the group's Syrian commander for logistics in 2004," the Treasury said. "After Zarqawi's death, Badran began working for the new AQI leader, Abu Ayyub al Masri. As of late-September 2006, Badran took orders directly from Masri, or through a deputy...."

So is the Treasury Department running raids now?

Dave of Maryland

Any advantage gained in killing a few takfiris in this is far outweighed by the negative effects.

Such as, the Status of Forces agreement has likely been rendered DOA.


I agree with the Darth Cheney suggestion.

Europe has pretty much given up on the American approach to Syria and is entering meaningful negotiations with them. The Syrian Foreign Minister was in London today for some serious talks.

Could have been foot-stamping from Cheney.


How about seeing it as a training exercise?


"Other military officials note that only 12 of the 36 special operations units already in Afghanistan are being fully used. Many lack the supporting infrastructure -- surveillance drones, helicopter transport and intelligence networks -- in part because it is still needed in Iraq."

There certainly may have been a specific target (the smuggler, Abu Ghadiya), but it seems excessive in and of itself... but a scenario that has the WH green-lighting such projects to transfer experience for forces in Iraq to those preparing for the Afghan theater seems more coherent.

"According to a senior Pentagon official, among those advocating a special operations influx [into Afghanistan...] is Army Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, the White House's Iraq and Afghanistan "war czar." A spokesperson for Lute did not respond to requests for comment."

Mad Dogs

Caveat Emptor - From the The Long War Journal blog:

The US military incursion into Syria was aimed at the senior leader of al Qaeda's extensive network that funnels foreign fighters, weapons, and cash from Syria into Iraq, a senior intelligence official told The Long War Journal.

US special operations hunter-killer teams entered Syria in an attempt to capture Abu Ghadiya, a senior al Qaeda leader who has been in charge of the Syrian network since 2005. US intelligence analysts identified Ghadiya as the leader of the Syrian network, The Washington Post reported in July. Ghadiya was identified as a “major target” by the US military in February 2008...

...The US military has officially refused to confirm or deny the raid took place. But several senior intelligence officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject told The Long War Journal that the raid was indeed carried out inside Syria...

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