Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Iraqi Pushback on Syria Strike

Remember how I predicted that some Iraqis would be upset about our strike into Syria, and how it probably wouldn't help stalled negotiations over the Status of Forces Agreement? I was right (don't give me that much credit; it was a no-brainer prediction):

Iraq wants to amend a draft security pact with the United States to ban U.S. forces from striking neighboring countries from Iraqi territory, a government spokesman said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said Iraq also wanted to change the wording covering the possible prosecution of U.S. soldiers in Iraqi courts, a sensitive issue for Washington.

U.S. negotiators began on Wednesday to scrutinize the changes demanded by Iraq to the security pact, which sets the conditions for U.S. troops to operate in the country after their United Nations mandate expires in December.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he was still "hopeful and confident" a security deal could be agreed.

"We're analyzing those amendments, we obviously want to be helpful and constructive without undermining basic principles," Bush said after meeting the leader of Iraq's Kurdistan region, Masoud Barzani, at the White House.

The issue of cross-border attacks flared after Syrian officials said U.S. troops landed by helicopter on Sunday and killed eight civilians in a village. Washington says it targeted a smuggler of foreign fighters into Iraq.

One step forward, two steps back. I hope the "high-value" target and the "message" we sent to Syria were worth it. Of course the Syrians are unhappy about it, and being as the Iraqis have to live with Syria on their border long after we're gone, that probably helps fuel some of the Iraqi irritation.

Here's one interesting angle though; does this strike, combined with the strikes into Pakistan, indicative of a willingness on the part of those in the administration to expand the war in terror outside of the boundaries of countries are troops are presently station in?

The Syrian strike, coupled with a recent U.S. raid inside Pakistan, suggests high level sanction for U.S. military action on behalf of the 'war on terror.' An article in The New Republic cites "three administration sources" who say that the Bush Administration authorized the military to strike "terrorist safe havens outside of Iraq and Afghanistan." In fact, the U.S. has been considering attacks inside other countries since at least 2005, when it aborted a plan to attack Al Qaida leaders in northern Pakistan.

According to the New York Times, the attack in Syria was more broadly reflective of an "administration... operating under an expansive new definition of self-defense. The policy, officials said, provided a rationale for conventional strikes on militant targets in a sovereign nation without its consent — if that nation were unable or unwilling to halt the threat on its own."

What level of intervention are we talking about? Ground attacks across the border into Pakistan (which apparently are not being carried out now thanks to protests by the Pakistani government)? Or does this sanction further operations in Somalia, where suicide bombings today may be indicative of an expansion of jihadist tactics?

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