December 24, 2004


US may strike at Ba'athists in Syria (Janine Zacharia, Dec. 24, 2004, THE JERUSALEM POST)

The US is contemplating incursions into Syrian territory in an attempt to kill or capture Iraqi Ba'athists who, it believes, are directing at least part of the attacks against US targets in Iraq, a senior administration official told The Jerusalem Post.

The official said that fresh sanctions are likely to be implemented, but added that the US needs to be more "aggressive" after Tuesday's deadly attack on a US base in Mosul. The comment suggested that the US believes the attack on the mess tent, in which 22 people were killed, may have been coordinated from inside Syrian territory.

"I think the sanctions are one thing. But I think the other thing [the Syrians] have got to start worrying about is whether we would take cross-border military action in hot pursuit or something like that. In other words, nothing like full-scale military hostilities. But when you're being attacked from safe havens across the border – we've been through this a lot of times before – we're just not going to sit there.

"You get a tragedy [like the attack in Mosul] and it reminds people that it is still a very serious problem. If I were Syria, I'd be worried," the senior administration official said.

Another US official said that sentiment reflects a "growing level of frustration" in Washington at Syria's reluctance to detain Ba'athists and others who are organizing attacks from Syrian territory. The official cautioned, however, that whether to take cross-border military action is still a matter of discussion within the administration and that a military incursion is still "premature."

The senior official said US anger increased substantially after a prolonged incursion into Fallujah last month, which revealed "how much of the insurgency is now being directed through Syria."

Plunging into Syria in early January would distract the terrorists from trying to disrupt Iraqi elections and get U.S. troops out of the way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 24, 2004 10:19 AM

We will make no distinction between terrorists and the nations that harbor them.

Time for a reminder.

Posted by: kevin whited at December 24, 2004 10:35 AM

Syria is no more a real country than Lebanon or Iraq. An American 'incursion' into it might cause Baby Assad to topple and start a multi-sided civil war. We need to determine the extent to which the Assad regime is fostering the terrorists, put forward the evidence and then go for it.

Posted by: Bart at December 24, 2004 6:05 PM

Syria, like Iraq, as the collection of the Vilayets of Aleppo, Damaascus, Homs & Hama has been geographically contiguous for the better part of 500 years, the exceptions were the Egyptian occupation in the 19th century under
Mohammed Ali, and the subsequent French annexation of the Bekaa and Mount Lebanon,to
their Maronite province of Beirut.

Posted by: narciso at December 24, 2004 10:27 PM

Syria currently has the Alawites, who were at the bottom of the Syrian heap for centuries, running the place, garnering the resentment of the majority Sunnis who feel it is their birthright. It also has significant Druze and Christian populations, as well as Beduins.

Posted by: Bart at December 25, 2004 10:50 AM