Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Why attack Syria?

The US military attack on the Syrian border town of Abu Kamal I believe exposes growing divisions among the “coalition of the willing” behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003.

The timing and target of the raid raise many questions.

The Syrian regime, which is dominated by the Alawite branch of Islam, has been reeling recently after a series of bomb attacks widely blamed on Al Qaida and other Sunni Islamist groups.

If Abu Ghadiyah, the main US target, was an Al Qaida leader, as the US claims, then the Syrian regime would have had no scruples in arresting him. The US intelligence services acknowledge that for several years Syria has cracked down on the so called “foreign fighters” passing through its territory into Iraq.

Some commentators say that Syria’s recent moves to ease tensions in the region are the main motivation for the US attack. The Syrian regime has been involved in peace talks with Israel and has formally recognised Lebanese independence.

The US is also worried that a resurgent Russia is preparing to rebuild its ties with Syria. Last month Russia reopened a Syrian port used as a Mediterranean base for warships. The port was closed down following the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Embarassingly for the British government, the US raid came as foreign secretary David Miliband was due to hold a joint press conference with his Syrian counterpart. Miliband “withdrew” from the conference as news of the attack came through.

The fact that the US did not warn its ally of the raid has left the British foreign secretary deeply compromised.

The result, writes Sami Moubayed is that:

"One theory says that the entire ordeal was part of the internal US politics in the final lap of the presidential campaign, aimed at boosting the chances of Republican Senator John McCain by giving him more reason to pursue Bush's "war on terror" - this time with Syria.

"Had the Americans struck at a terrorist stronghold, the Bush team would have been the first to brag about it on all available media. The fact that the traditional US chorus remained silent seems proof that the Americans were not too proud of what they did, and that perhaps human error had come into play."

Another possibility is that this raid could be part of a recognition that, as the US withdraws from the western part of Iraq, the resistance will once again take over.

Whatever the truth, by attacking a Syrian border town the US is sending a message that it is prepared to spread the “war on terror” over borders.

This is a dangerous turn of events.

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