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World Council for the Cedars Revolution

Sep 20th
Home arrow News Content arrow Blog arrow Blog Items arrow Analysis arrow Phares on the U.S. Raid into Syria
Phares on the U.S. Raid into Syria PDF Print E-mail
Written by Maj. W. Thomas Smith Jr.   
Monday, 27 October 2008

Dr. Walid Phares
Dr. Walid Phares

The U.S. heliborne raid launched from Iraq into Syrian territory on Sunday – reportedly killing eight – has spawned the expected “we’re the victims, you’re the aggressor” response from the Assad regime. Keep in mind, however, since the beginning of the Iraq War, the remote, porous Syrian-Iraqi border has been one of the hottest stretches of the vast Iraqi frontier in terms of weapons smuggling into Iraq, the infiltration and extraction of foreign terrorist-fighters, you name it.

I was there in Al Anbar Province’s Al Qaim sector – not far from where the Sunday raid was carried out – in the summer of 2007. And I can tell you for a fact, the borders were then not only impossible to adequately police, but the Syrians would sometimes fire automatic weapons from Syria into Iraq and over known American outposts. I’ve personally had Syrian tracer rounds popping over my head: Yet it was viewed as only mildly provocative by coalition forces, so we did not return fire.

Upon learning of yesterday’s raid, I spoke with a few Middle East experts including Dr. Walid Phares, director of the Future of Terrorism Project for the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, for analysis.

According to Phares:

"We have to first look at this in a strategic sense: It is not likely that this operation is part of a vast move or some sort of new campaign launched at this stage by the U.S.-led Multi-National Force—Iraq in order to begin penetrating Syrian territory. For if that were the case, there would be a qualitative shift in strategy that would require a Washington reprogramming of the situation on the Iraqi-Syrian border.

“Will the Pentagon – thus the departing Bush Administration – engage in large-scale offensive operations nine days from the election and a few months from a new administration taking office? This leaves us with two possibilities: Either this was an isolated operation carefully calculated to strike at a hot target with strong assurances of success, as are the cases across the Afghan-Pakistani borders (Meaning also there is no real change on the Syrian-Iraqi border, just an opportunity to eliminate Jihadi targets). Or it also may be a Syrian Mukhabarat [military intelligence] maneuver aimed at triggering a U.S. special operation. All depends on who initiated the information about the target. Who fed the intelligence with what data, and how did MNF-I react to it. We will see.”

Also last week (three days prior to the raid), U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Kelly, commanding general of MNF-West, told reporters: "The Syrian side is, I guess, uncontrolled by their side. … We still have a certain level of foreign fighter movement."

Phares says:

"Damascus can super-control its borders whenever it wants, or keep them open and uncontrolled whenever it wishes. For example, it is almost impossible for anti-Syrian-regime elements to cross the border or for opposition to flee across any Syrian border. But now suddenly those borders are uncontrolled and unmanageable when it comes to Jihadists traveling from Lebanon to Syria and from Syria to Iraq and back? Any geostrategic analyst will tell you that the Syrian regime has a strong almost remote-control of its borders. Whenever it is about the regime's security, it is difficult for bees to cross. When the regime wants groups to cross back-and-forth, the border becomes that open frontier they speak of and hard to control.

“Let's keep in mind that the Anbar Province is perhaps the most strategic piece of land in the region. It is the crossroad linking the Shia areas in Iraq to Syria and the Sunni Triangle to Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Syria's strategic projection is eventually to have indirect control over the area to insure a corridor inside Iraq. Hence I wouldn't be surprised that the Syrian Mukhabarat has deployed its Jihadi mercenaries across the land and the borders.

“My question about this operation though is its projection. Assuming it was successful, is it the first and last, or is it a message for the future? Either way this is a new game in the region.”

— Visit W. Thomas Smith Jr. at uswriter.com.

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