Friday, Mar. 19, 2010

October 2008
Extending the Fight

"You have to clean up the global threat that is in your back yard, and if you won't do that, we are left with no choice but to take these matters into our hands."

—Anonymous senior U.S. official, as quoted in The Washington Post, on why the U.S. military crossed the border from Iraq into Syria to attack a building where it said an al-Qaeda in Iraq operative was located

A little more than a week before the U.S. presidential election, helicopters carrying American special forces cross from Iraq into neighboring Syria. The commandos attack a building near the border, leaving eight people dead. Syria says the dead were civilians, and claims the U.S. "aggression" jeopardizes cooperation between the Syrian and American governments; the U.S. military insists the dead were all militants, including a top al-Qaeda in Iraq leader, and says that the assault was a warning that Syria needs to step up its border security to stop the flow of militants into Iraq. Western media reports that a seemingly spontaneous rally in Damascus, drawing tens of thousands of people protesting the U.S. attack, is actually an event staged by the Syrian government. Around the same time, the Iraqi government takes over control from the U.S. of some 100,000 former insurgents who rose up against al-Qaeda as part of the Sunni Awakening — a move that some worry could backfire, given the longstanding tensions between the Sunni fighters and the Shi'ite-dominated central government.