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Syria-Iraq: Bloody Border, Messy Politics

Syria has played a dangerous game in Iraq with few consequences — until Sunday's U.S. special operation forces raid.

Michael Yon


October 27, 2008 - 8:45 am
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I’ve been right up to that desolate border on a number of occasions. The terrorists just come across that border to murder and otherwise intimidate Iraqi villagers in Nineveh to achieve their nefarious ends. Some of the truck bombs in Nineveh and Mosul proper have been massive, and during one attack that I have previously written about, perhaps four to five hundred Yezidis were murdered within minutes. The Yezidis are very friendly toward Americans and have treated me like an honored guest. When they were attacked, it felt like a punch into my own stomach, and so I wrote “Stake Through Their Hearts” after hundreds were murdered.

The insurgency in Mosul is the last big thorn left in Iraq’s paw. That we struck targets in Syria does not surprise me and I am not appalled. I am appalled that Syria allows these groups to use its territory as a base and conduit to destabilize Iraq. A Syrian government that allows these groups to penetrate Iraq’s borders and murder Iraqis and Americans doesn’t have much moral standing to complain about an incursion into its territory.

Still, now comes the political posturing. The Iraqi government has condemned the action and is claiming that they didn’t authorize the U.S. attack. Of course Syria is doing the same. That’s okay. This is one way we give the new Iraqi government cover to do what has to be done. We can take the blame; they have to coexist with their neighbors. So we are a convenient public bad guy for both sides. But there is little doubt that Iraqis are taking some comfort that the “bad guy” is not respecting a border that is violated repeatedly by Syria. Syria has played a dangerous game, with few consequences until yesterday. If Syria wants its border to be respected, it will have to respect the border with Iraq.

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Michael Yon, author of Moment of Truth in Iraq: How a New 'Greatest Generation' of American Soldiers Is Turning Defeat and Disaster into Victory and Hope, spent more time embedded with U.S. and British combat troops in Iraq than any other correspondent. Michael Yon has changed his focus to Afghanistan.
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