Following its surprise cross-border raid into Syria on Sunday, the United States has responded to a chorus of global consternation by revealing that the target of the attack had been a senior member of al-Qaida in charge of smuggling insurgents into Iraq.
Still, criticism of the unilateral attack has been intense. In Paris, the office of French President Nicolas Sarkozy released a statement Monday expressing "serious concern" and calling for "the strict respect of the territorial integrity of states." Javiar Solana, the EU's top foreign policy official, said that he was "worried" and hoped matters would quickly return to normal. The foreign ministries of China and Russia both joined the chorus, focusing their criticism on US violation of Syrian territory.
A senior US counterterror official told the Associated Press on Monday that the mission had targeted and killed Abu Ghadiyah, also known as Badran Turki Hishan al-Mazidih, a member of al-Qaida who coordinated the smuggling of insurgents via Syria into Iraq.
According to the official, the decision to launch the attack came after US intelligence sources received reports that Abu Ghadiyah was planning to launch an imminent attack in Iraq. Similar reports from last spring -- which were not acted upon -- preceded an attack in Iraq directly across the border from the site of Sunday's assault. The spring incident, which resulted in the deaths of 11 Iraqi policemen, is believed to have been personally led by Abu Ghadiyah.
"The trip wire was knowing an attack was imminent," the official told the AP, "and also being able to pinpoint his location."
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem responded Monday to this act of "criminal and terrorist aggression" by threatening retaliation if his country's borders were violated again and vowing that "we would defend our territories." At the same time, al-Moallem used the event to underline his country's exasperation with US President George W. Bush and how it was looking forward to the post-Bush era. "This administration is ignorant," al-Moallem told reporters in London on Monday, according to Reuters. "I will not waste my time with this administration."
The raid has also put the Iraqi government in an awkward position. In response, a government spokesman told reporters Tuesday that his government "rejects US aircraft bombarding posts inside Syria."
In Germany, responses to the attack have been fairly muted. Neither Chancellor Angela Merkel nor Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier have released statements on the incident. Some German commentators take a look on Tuesday.
Left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:
"Whether the US action was a snafu or not, the question still remains: Why now? Nobody would deny that there has been a problem for years with jihadis streaming into Syria from all over the Arab world so that they can be smuggled into Iraq. But the fact is that, in the summer, it was the Americans themselves who announced to their relief that infiltrations in 2008 had already gone down by 50 percent. And the Syrians are becoming increasingly more aware of how the demons they have awoken have been turning back against them. Last month's al-Qaida attack in Damascus, in particular, reinforced that lesson. By now, even the Syrians have become more interested in tightening up their border with Iraq. So why the current escalation? Is this the Bush administration's way of waving goodbye to Syria?"
"The fact that we are just days away from the US presidential election makes the action at least somewhat curious. Launching an operation like this is not left for some local commander to decide. Rather, it must have been approved at the highest level. To launch an attack on Syrian territory is also a shot across the bow of the Europeans who have been laboring for months both to strengthen ties with Syrian politicians and to encourage them to follow more constructive policies."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"As tasteless as it may sound given the deaths of eight people, the US attack on Syrian territory was a political warning...."
"The question now is: How will the Syrians react? For President Assad, the American action has to be rather humbling in that his country's sovereign territory has been breached by the US military and, in the process, not only alleged terrorists were killed, but also innocent civilians. The fact is that Syria's 1980s army can't provide a military response the US operation. As things stand, Assad can only swallow his pride and increase efforts to keep underground fighters away from his borders. But he could also do the opposite and ratchet up the Iraq war to a new level. If that were to happen, the American will have brought about the exact opposite of what they had meant to accomplish."
-- Josh Ward, 3:00 p.m. CET