Screwup in Syria

| Mon Nov. 3, 2008 8:57 AM PST

SCREWUP IN SYRIA....The London Times reports that the American raid on Syria last week wasn't an encroachment of Syrian sovereignty after all. According to "sources in Washington," they say, the al-Qaeda commander targeted in the raid, Abu Ghadiya, "was feared by the Syrians as an agent of Islamic fundamentalism who was hostile to the secular regime in Damascus." So they gave the go-ahead for the U.S operation. But things didn't go as planned:

In the time-honoured tradition of covert US operations in the Middle East, this one seems to have gone spectacularly wrong. The Syrians, who had agreed to turn a blind eye to a supposedly quiet "snatch and grab" raid, could not keep the lid on a firefight in which so many people had died.

The operation should have been fast and bloodless. According to the sources, Syrian intelligence tipped off the Americans about Abu Ghadiya's whereabouts. US electronic intelligence then tracked his exact location, possibly by tracing his satellite telephone, and the helicopters were directed to him. They were supposed to kidnap him and take him to Iraq for questioning.

....It is not clear what went wrong, but it is believed that the helicopters were spotted by the militants on their final approach and a gun battle broke out. That is supported by an account from a local tribal leader, who said a rocket-propelled grenade had been launched from the compound at the helicopter. The firefight blew the cover on a supposedly covert operation.

As usual with these things, you can decide for yourself whether this report is believable. But it wouldn't surprise me if it turned out to be at least partially true.

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