Thursday, October 30, 2008

More on the US Raid

The LA Times brings us more details, corroborating the posts put up earlier, on the raid on Al-Qaeda members in Syria.
...Abu Ghadiyah, the chief of a Syrian smuggling network who was killed in the controversial operation Sunday, was "one of the most prominent, if not the most prominent, facilitators of foreign fighters going into Iraq for Al Qaeda," a senior U.S. official said...

...Two U.S. helicopters flew about five miles into Syria, he said, with one landing at a farm while the second provided cover. A villager told the Associated Press he saw at least two men taken into custody by U.S. forces and whisked away by helicopter. He spoke on condition of anonymity, saying he feared for his life.

U.S. officials did not say how many people died in the raid.

Abu Ghadiyah, an Iraqi native believed to be in his late 20s, has for several years been a key figure in the flow of foreign fighters and weapons into Iraq, American officials said.

"He comes from a family of smugglers," said the senior U.S. official. "He seems to have turned the family business toward the movement of terrorists, explosives, weapons, etc., into Iraq."...

...U.S. counter-terrorism experts described Abu Ghadiyah, who is from Anbar province in western Iraq, as the head of a successful terrorist financial network supporting Iraq's Sunni Arab-led insurgency and a close associate of Al Qaeda in Iraq leaders.

"He's the classic example of a terrorist facilitator and financier," said Matthew Levitt, who from 2005 to early 2007 helped oversee a U.S. government crackdown on Abu Ghadiyah's financial network while deputy assistant secretary for intelligence and analysis at the Treasury Department.

However, Abu Ghadiyah's death is unlikely to decimate the network because of its strong funding streams and because other members, including a brother, have been active, said Levitt, now with the Institute for Near East Policy, a Washington-based think tank.

The Treasury Department had previously imposed financial sanctions on Abu Ghadiyah and family members, saying they facilitated and controlled the flow of money, weapons, terrorists and other resources through Syria to Iraq.

The effectiveness of such financial enforcement actions has been questioned. The actions target militants and those providing financial or material support, freezing any known assets under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting U.S. firms and individuals from doing business with them.

U.S. officials said Abu Ghadiyah, a nickname for Badran Turki Hishan Mazidih, was appointed by former Al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi to be the group's Syrian commander for logistics in 2004. After Zarqawi's death in 2006, Abu Ghadiyah began working for the new leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Ayyub Masri, according to U.S. officials.

Abu Ghadiyah provided and arranged false passports, weapons, guides, safe houses and allowances to foreign terrorists preparing to enter Iraq, Treasury officials said.

U.S. officials maintain that Syria has long functioned as a hub for terrorist financing in Iraq, coordinating the movement of recruits and money between cells in Europe and Ansar al Islam training camps in northern Iraq.

In Baghdad, the Shiite Muslim-led Iraqi government said it wanted good ties with Syria but that Damascus needed to do more to stop fighters from slipping across its borders.

Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh described the region targeted by the Americans as the "scene for many terrorist activities of the last few months," including the killing of 13 policemen in an Iraqi border village in Anbar province.
Meanwhile, Tony Badran catches one of the regime's media manipulators red-handed [again] and illustrates another case of hackism at its worst. Also check this editorial from the Washington Post:
..."Criminal and terrorist aggression," charged Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem. "The law of the jungle," bemoaned spokesman Jihad Makdissi at the Syrian Embassy in London. This from a regime whose most notable activities of the past few years have been the serial assassination of senior Lebanese politicians, including former prime minister Rafik Hariri; the continuous and illegal supplying of weapons to the Hezbollah militia for use against Israel and Lebanon's democratic government; the harboring in Damascus of senior leaders of Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups; and -- most relevant -- the sheltering of an al-Qaeda network that dispatches 90 percent of the foreign fighters who wage war against U.S. troops and the Iraqi government.

The logic of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad seems to be that his regime can sponsor murders, arms trafficking, infiltrations and suicide bombings in neighboring countries while expecting to be shielded from any retaliation in kind by the diplomatic scruples of democracies. For most of this decade that has been lamentably true: U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials have over and over again pointed to the infiltration of al-Qaeda militants through the Damascus airport and the land border with Iraq, and Syria's refusal to curtail it, without taking direct action. Yet in the past year Israel has intervened in Syria several times to defend its vital interests, including bombing a secret nuclear reactor. If Sunday's raid, which targeted a senior al-Qaeda operative, serves only to put Mr. Assad on notice that the United States, too, is no longer prepared to respect the sovereignty of a criminal regime, it will have been worthwhile.
For its part, the autocratic regime in Damascus said,"it was largely freezing high-level diplomatic engagement with the Bush administration for its remaining three months in office." The Wall Street Journal reports:
Syrian diplomats said that before the raid they had been considering inviting to Damascus the State Department's point man on the Middle East, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch, for talks aimed on furthering Israeli-Syrian peace negotiations, as well as efforts to stabilize Lebanon and Iraq.

"Obviously, we're not going to be inviting Welch to Syria now," said Ahmed Salkini, spokesman for the Syrian Embassy in Washington. "Any sovereign country that is attacked unprovoked has the right to respond."

More likely than not, the Syrian diplomat's estimation of a consideration surrounding the invitation of Welch - and the administration's subsequent acceptance of the invitation - is something of an exaggeration.

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