Jerusalem – Not all the details of last week’s American attack on an isolated building on the Syrian-Iraqi border are sufficiently clear. It was evidently a raid by a small force that arrived in two helicopter gunships with two attack helicopters providing close cover.
Senior Israel defense analyst Yaakov Amidror, wrote notes in the Israeli media indicating the key significance of the operation was that the “American army disregarded Syrian sovereignty, crossed the border and acted within the borders of a sovereign country without having received its permission.”
From this perspective, the operation calls to mind the reports of an attack on a Syrian nuclear installation by the Israeli Air Force (IAF) in Sept. 2007. As then, this week both the U.S. and Israel decided that the damage they would suffer by respecting Syrian sovereignty would be greater than the possible damage from a Syrian response.
Mr. Amidror added that, “for the Israelis, it was fear of nuclear arms in Syrian possession, while for the Americans, it was the realization that the Syria-Iraqi border had become a corridor for terrorists working against the U.S. military” and “both countries realized that in order to stop the process, they must act forcefully and violate Syria’s sovereignty”
According to the reports provided by U.S. intelligence officials, the information in Israel’s possession was much more exact. On the other hand, there is still doubt regarding the quality of the intelligence that the small American attack force possessed.
“It is conceivable that the Americans are starting to realize more strongly the need to invest in isolating Iraq. As the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) learned from experience, it is not enough to fight against terrorism on its bases,” Mr. Amidror said. “One must also keep it from connecting with the outside – the connection that enables it to bring in fresh troops, arms and funds and to go and rest and be free from pressure.”
Another Israeli intelligence expert, journalist Ronen Bergman, offered another assessment, saying “The American commando attack in Syrian territory on the Iraqi border was coordinated in advance with Syrian military intelligence.”
Syrian intelligence, Mr. Bergman said, has been cooperating for a long time with the United States in its war against al-Qaida and its aligned groups, and “Syrian approval for an American attack on Syrian soil was another link in the chain of that cooperation.
“In keeping with the advanced coordination between the CIA and [President Bashar] al-Assad’s intelligence, the American commando unit was flown into Syria on helicopters, executed its mission, which took 10 minutes, and returned the same way.”
According to other information that was provided yesterday to Mr. Bergman by a European source, the American helicopters were identified by the local Syrian air defense troops. When the anti-aircraft forces asked Damascus for approval to open fire, they were firmly told not to do so.
Official Syrian media continues to accuse the U.S. of committing “a war crime against innocent civilians” However, it seems that that attack will not prevent the Syrian foreign minister from conducting previously scheduled meetings in London with senior American officials.
David Bedein can be reached at email@example.com. His Web site is www.IsraelBehindTheNews.com
©The Bulletin 2008