U. S. Raid Into Syria Confirmed (Updated)

U. S. government sources have confirmed last week’s raid into Syrian territory by American special forces against terrorist havens across the Iraqi border:

A U.S. military official in Washington confirmed that special forces had conducted a raid in Syria that targeted the network of al Qaeda-linked foreign fighters moving through Syria into Iraq.

The Syrian government said four U.S. military helicopters attacked a civilian building under construction shortly before sundown Sunday, killing eight people in the village of Sukkariyeh — about five miles inside the Syrian border.

“We are taking matters into our own hands,” the official told the Associated Press Sunday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the political sensitivity of cross-border raids.

Syria’s foreign minister, Walid al-Moallem, described the raid as an act of “criminal and terrorist aggression.”

The attack is another sign that the U.S. is aggressively launching military raids across the borders of Afghanistan and Iraq to destroy insurgent sanctuaries. In Pakistan, U.S. missile strikes have killed at least two senior al Qaeda operatives this year and ramped up the threat to groups suspected of plotting attacks on Western troops in Afghanistan and terror strikes in the West.

This highlights the problems in fighting groups that cross mostly unsecured national borders at will, something we’re facing in both Iraq and Afghanistan. A major difference between a raid into Syria and one into Pakistan is that the downside risk is lower: our supply line doesn’t pass through Syria and Syria isn’t nuclear-armed. If U. S. raids into Syria de-stabilized the present Syrian government I think we might consider it a good thing.

I understand the reasons for the raid but I still find it troubling. I continue to hold hopelessly to the old-fashioned outdated Westphalian notion: if we have a problem with Syria or Pakistan we should take it to the principals rather than just ignoring their borders and dealing with the situation.


Pat Lang is critical of the operation:

Whatever the cause, the result of ham fisted actions of this kind can be disastrous for the chance of making something better emerge from the situation that Bush/Cheney is leaving for President Obama and his team.

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Dave Schuler
About Dave Schuler
Over the years Dave Schuler has worked as a martial arts instructor, a handyman, a musician, a cook, and a translator. He's owned his own company for the last thirty years and has a post-graduate degree in his field. He comes from a family of politicians, teachers, and vaudeville entertainers. All-in-all a pretty good preparation for blogging. He has contributed to OTB since November 2006 but mostly writes at his own blog, The Glittering Eye, which he started in March 2004.


  1. Bob says:

    Of course the problem is we have repeatedly taken it to the principles and they have chosen to not address it. Though I would admit Pakistan’s hold on the tribal areas have always been tenuous.

    The rules of war allow for attack of one beligerent against another in a neutral 3rd country when the 3rd country cannot secure its borders. This attack also signals to Syria and Iran that Bush will not sit back for last days of administration.

  2. Better yet, we should get the UN to look into it!

  3. just me says:

    How do we know we haven’t taken it to the principals and the principals took a pass?

    I think at some point you just have to do what you need to do to put a stop to whatever it is that is a threat to your security.

  4. anjin-san says:

    I think at some point you just have to do what you need to do to put a stop to whatever it is that is a threat to your security.

    No doubt many nations feel this way. So what do we do when they take an action they deem necessary that we do not like?

  5. just me says:

    No doubt many nations feel this way. So what do we do when they take an action they deem necessary that we do not like?

    We decide whether or not our intervention in what they do is something worth our time, otherwise let them work it out for themselves.

    But it appears that there was and has long been a real problem of people who want to bomb our soldiers and civilians in Iraq crossing the border between Iraq and Syria in order to do their dirty work. I think we have reason to want it stopped. I have a hard time believing that at no point has the state department or the defense department asked Syria to stop it. Syria chose to not stop it, thus we went across the border.

  6. John425 says:

    “…in hot pursuit”. Works here. Why not there?

  7. Randall F. Cheek says:

    Is this the “October Surprise” we have have all been waiting for from the BUSH/McCain team. Wow just eight days from an election and suddenly things are more tense in the Middle East. Guess we should elect John McCain to save us. NOT.

  8. John425 says:

    Dear Randall: It must take a really LARGE amount of “conspiracy paranoia” to weave your October surprise.

  9. mannning says:

    Is there a nation in the Middle East that we have not entered in some large or small force to do harm to some faction? We have operated and are operating in Iraq, Iran, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Egypt, Yemen, Somalia, Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkey, the Ukraine, Oman, the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Georgia, and more…often by air strikes, if not including some special forces as well.

    Some of these incursions or insertions have been with the cooperation of the respective governments, and some have not. We hear about some, such as Syria, because the incumbents want us to at this time. We don’t hear about some because of lack of proof or lack of interest on many player’s parts–governments, media, or what have you?

    It would be totally rediculous for the US government to announce each and every incursion it fosters into any nation for any reason. It would likewise be rediculous for us to allow safe haven across some sandy and remote border for terrorists that are preparing for their own incursions in our direction.

    The principle here being to go for the terrorists and their support wherever found, with, or without, the concurrance of the local government. We have not, so far, taken this to the extreme, since Iraq, and invaded a key supporter–Iran, for instance.

    Pursuit, hot, or not!

  10. tom p says:

    A few things to note: from the WaPo

    “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.”

    “according to Brian Fishman, a lead author of the report… Certainly, “the Syrian government doesn’t deserve a pass on this,” he said. “But there are some things that limit their ability to act out there. The state is not as strong there as it is in other parts of the country.”

    from the WSJ article:

    “Late last month, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Mr. Welch held rare face-to-face meetings with Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem in New York. Both sides said they hoped to follow up the meetings by developing a more regular dialogue focused on Middle East security issues.”

    “Damascus largely froze high-level diplomatic efforts with the U.S. after an American strike inside the country, a move that threatens support for broader peace initiatives in the Middle East.

    Syrian diplomats said that before the raid they had been considering inviting to Damascus the State Department’s point man on the Middle East, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, for talks aimed on furthering Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations, as well as efforts to stabilize Lebanon and Iraq.”

    So, once again it seems long term strategic goals for the Middle-East are sacrificed on the altar of short term tactical gains. It may well be that the trade off is worth it. However, I found the last sentence in the WSJ article particularly disturbing:

    “Still, Sunday’s attack appears to be a signal that the Pentagon is taking an increasingly aggressive stance against countries that appear to be aiding militant groups, whether it’s Syria or Pakistan. This doesn’t mean, however, that this rules out diplomacy occurring at the same time.”

    Since when does the Pentagon dictate US foreign policy?

  11. mannning says:

    The foot bone–Pentagon–is connected to the shin bone,…spine–State,….head bone–NSC, amd the President, eventually. Loose cannons in the military tend to have very short careers unless operating under orders.