27 October, 2008

October Surprise?

US helicopters have entered Syria from Iraq to launch an attack on the village of Sukariya, killing eight people. US authorities claim the helicopters were attacking dangerous al-Qaida targets, but Syrian authorities have stated that the dead were a local man and his three children, together with a farm guard and his wife, and a fisherman. Syrian analyst Joshua Landis speculates that the attack might have been on smugglers spotted by a satellite and mistaken for al-Qaida agents. As can be imagined, Syrian authorities and people in the area attacked are a bit annoyed by the Americans' actions.

It is being assumed that this attack, the first into Syria by US forces, must have been approved at the highest level in the US administration. The timing is puzzling to some. President Bush's administration is in its last days, and his likely successor favours engagement with Syria, as do the Democrats in Congress and the leaders of most western countries. The raid on Sukariya may be just a parting shot to an unfriendly country by a failed president keen to be remembered for all the wrong reasons. However, you would not have to be totally paranoid to wonder if this escalation is intended to create a bit of international tension that might distract attention from the economic crisis. If voters buy into the idea that John McCain is the man to deal with international issues then a period of tense confrontation with Syria could be just what his campaign needs in the few weeks before the election.

Syrian witness reacts to US raid
Syria hits out at 'terrorist' US
What could lie behind Syria raid?


Paul Moloney said...

I'd not beyond the realms of possibility that the Syrians gave a tacit nod to the operation, making what appears to be a cursory protest; there's certainly no love lost between the Alawite Assads and Islamic fundamentalists, hey cheerfully levelled the Muslim Brotherhood stronghold of Hama back in 1982; even now it's a fairly awful and desolate place (the main river is literally an open-air sewer).


ian said...

I don't really buy that the Syrian regime would approve the Americans taking out people within Syria. The regime has plenty of its own security forces that it can apply against such people.