Bill Roggio has a must-read account of the recent cross-border attack, which apparently targeted a high-level al-Qaeda figure who directed the flow of arms, cash, and fighters from Syria into Iraq. The operation indicates not just a change in U.S. policy toward Syria, but also that U.S. intelligence on the Syrian role in the insurgency is better than it has been in the past:
The US military learned a great deal about al Qaeda’s network inside Syria after a key operative was killed in September of 2007. US forces killed Muthanna, the regional commander of al Qaeda’s network in the Sinjar region.
During the operation, US forces found numerous documents and electronic files that detailed “the larger al-Qaeda effort to organize, coordinate, and transport foreign terrorists into Iraq and other places,” Major General Kevin Bergner, the former spokesman for Multinational Forces Iraq, said in October 2007. …
Other documents found in Muthanna’s possession included a “pledge of a martyr,” which is signed by foreign fighters inside Syria, and an expense report. The pledge said the suicide bomber must provide a photograph and surrender their passport. It also stated the recruit must enroll in a “security course” in Syria. The expense report was tallied in US dollars, Syrian lira, and Iraqi dinars, and included items such as clothing, food, fuel, mobile phone cards, weapons, salaries, “sheep purchased,” furniture, spare parts for vehicles, and other items.
The Combating Terrorism Center at West Point later conducted a detailed study of the “Sinjar Records,” which was published in July 2008. The study showed that al Qaeda had an extensive network in Syria and the Syrian government has allowed their activities to continue.
The task of understanding Barack Obama’s stance on Syria and al Qaeda becomes yet more difficult. He says that defeating al Qaeda will be a top foreign policy priority. Yet Dennis Ross, an adviser to his campaign, said just a few days ago that he would like to see the opening of diplomatic talks with Syria, a conviction shared by Obama’s other foreign policy advisers, in order to “probe and test” Syria’s intentions.
Those intentions have been probed and tested for decades, and every time we discover that Syria intends to continue supporting terrorists. Our diplomatic consternation never seems to make a difference. What might actually affect Syria’s atrocious behavior is if the regime was forced to pay a price for it — such as by having its sovereignty violated and the terrorists it harbors killed by U.S. commandos.
Now we get to the truly puzzling part: Obama says that the United States should strike at al Qaeda in Pakistan without the consent of the Pakistani government. So, he favors attacking al Qaeda in Pakistan, but presumably not in Syria, even though al Qaeda thrives in Syria not because of lawlessness (as in Pakistan) but because the group enjoys the hospitality of the Syrian government. Maybe if the Pakistani government began openly collaborating with al Qaeda, Obama would withdraw his support for military strikes.
If Obama was consistent, he would applaud the Syrian operation. His silence on the matter indicates otherwise. You’d think there were a few curious journalists out there who might wish to get him on the record about all of this…