Syria strike hard to justify

The US attack on the Bu Kamal village near the Syrian-Iraqi borders on Sunday was the first of its kind by the US against Syria.

Gulf News

The US attack on the Bu Kamal village near the Syrian-Iraqi borders on Sunday was the first of its kind by the US against Syria.

On October 26, US soldiers stormed into a civilian building under construction during a raid by US military helicopters, 17km inside Syria, killing eight civilians and injuring several others.

Breaking into the borders of a country to crack down on foreign fighters cannot be done this way, and the US should know better.

In the early 1980s, Iraq signed a security pact with Turkey allowing Turkey to hunt members of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) up to a certain depth inside Iraq and giving Iraq the same rights.

Breaking into the borders of any country without a similar agreement is considered a hostile act and a violation of this country's sovereignty, besides being a breach of international laws. This attack raised many questions about its targets and content. First, the US never carried such attacks when the Syrian-Iraqi borders were almost open and Syria was accused of allowing hundreds of militants to infiltrate into Iraq to carry out vandalism operations.

However, the situation has changed lately as these accusations decreased and Syria was no longer the country that allows militants into Iraq. Syria has also taken steps to mend its relations with Lebanon and France, which should bring it closer to the US, not the opposite.

The attack was not accidental and it was a result of a decision taken by a minor officer, because marching into another country is an act of war, and there is no doubt that it was taken by the commander of the US forces in Iraq, if not the commander of the central forces himself.

The attack may be justified from a military point of view, especially that there were enough intelligence information on the presence of one of the major militant smugglers into Iraq, who was killed in the attack as announced by the US Defence Department 24 hours following the raid.

However, the attack is still considered a mistake from a political perspective for many reasons.

It has caused a big problem for the Iraqi government, which on an internal level seemed unaware of the attack and only found out about it through the media, and started justifying the attack and linking it to recent events in an attempt to save face.

On a foreign level, the attack foiled the attempts of the Iraqi government to improve relations with other Arab countries, especially Syria, as it is the closest neighbour to Iraq and hosts over a million Iraqi refugees.

The raid had also negatively affected the US interests by giving the opponents of the proposed Iraqi security agreement a pretext to step up their opposition and lure others to join them.

The American use of Iraqi territories to carry out an aggression against a neighbouring country contradicts with the repeated reassurances of the supporters of the agreement.

The raid also triggers worldwide condemnation and gives Iran a bigger opportunity to interfere in Iraqi affairs.

Furthermore, the US knew all about the Iranian interference in Iraqi issues and the role Iran plays in supporting, training, financing and arming militias, as well as providing them with bombs that caused a lot of damage to US Army vehicles.

Iran also sponsors the militant groups that infiltrate into Iraq after being trained in Iran, to carry out all forms of acts that make the mission of the American forces harder.

Despite the US knowledge of all the details related to these groups, including their training centres, arms stores and the points through which they enter Iraq, it had not carried out any attack against them inside Iranian territories.

The main question that arises here is: Why did the US launch the strike against Syria? The attack coincided with two important issues that occupy the US administration at the moment. The first is the proposed security agreement with Iraq, while the second is the American presidential elections on November 4.

However, it is very difficult to make a positive link between the attack and either of these issues.

It is also hard to believe that the raid will enhance the chances of the Republican candidate in the US presidential elections, John McCain.

The strike was aimed at testing the Syrian reaction, and other developments could follow. Perhaps Syria will have to pay for consolidating its relations with Russia, just like Georgia had to pay for cementing its relations with the US.

However, the question is yet to be answered.

Dr. Mohammad Akef Jamal is an Iraqi writer based in Dubai.