July 15, 2003

Syria Watch A pretty gloomy

Syria Watch

A pretty gloomy Dexter Filikins dispatch from the Syrian-Iraq border. Villagers showing videos of an alleged U.S. G.I. beheaded in Iraq, calls for jihad, hatred of America running amok.

But aside from unfortunate apparent violations of Syrian airspace I suspect Syrian grievances in this border area are more often typically centered on the fact that individuals can't smuggle across the Syrian-Iraqi frontier as easily as they used to. Such revenue typically provides a significant portion of income for villagers in border areas in the region.

Like many journalists (remember Nick Kristof admitting he was off to find someone brutally tortured by Saddam who still hated the Americans?) I think Filkins focused on the most aggrieved individuals (those with relatives killed by U.S. forces) in his piece and thus paints a picture materially worse than the reality.

Speaking of Nick Kristof, his op-ed today has some Syria related material as well:

"Intelligence isn't just being dumbed down, but is also being manipulated and it's continuing. Experts say the recent firefight on the Syrian-Iraq border involved not Saddam Hussein or a family member, as we were led to believe, but just some Iraqi petroleum smugglers. Moreover, Patrick Lang, a former senior D.I.A. official, says that many in the government believe that incursion was an effort by ideologues to disrupt cooperation between the U.S. and Syria."

"Many in the government." Who exactly? Folks at State's INR or NEA bureaus? Or elsewhere? We aren't told.

"Ideologues"? Code for Doug Feith and Paul Wolfowitz? Straussians writ large? Who exactly? Left unsaid.

What's clear is some individuals in the Beltway are leaking to Nick Kristof and they probably believe we are being too aggressive with the Syrians and need to cool it regarding firefights near (or just over?) the border and with regard to potential violations of Syrian airspace.

But from such concerns to charge that there is a purposeful "effort" by some in the government to disrupt U.S.-Syrian cooperation is quite a leap. And it's pretty much just hanging there with no corroboration whatsoever in our most prestigious paper's opinion pages. I'll be poking around on Pat Lang's statement shortly to find out, if possible, if there is any substance there.

UDPATE: Langley to John Bolton-- chill out dude--or something like that. TPM's got more on this too.

Posted by Gregory at July 15, 2003 07:48 AM
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