Syria response to US will be ‘painful’

ostovar200811031206102961.jpgDamascus has warned that it will carry out ‘painful’ measures if the US fails to explain its recent cross-border raid into Syria.

On October 26, American helicopters took to the skies of Iraq, crossed the border into Syria and killed eight people, four of whom were children. Syria closed a Damascus-based American school and a US cultural center in response to the attack.

Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem, however, said on Sunday that Damascus has only implemented ‘introductory’ measures and warned that Syria could escalate its response in the future.

“Syria may resort to more painful measures if the United States does not give an official explanation for the attack,” al-Muallem said in an interview with the Lebanese ANB satellite station.

While Washington has refused to formally comment on its reason for the attack, US officials speaking on condition of anonymity have alleged that the target was Badran Turki al-Mazidih, a top al-Qaeda figure in Iraq.

Syrians grieve over the death of the civilians killed in the US cross-border raid.

Following the incident, Damascus summoned envoys from the US and Iraq in protest at the US attack on its civilians, demanding that Iraq prevent US-led forces from using its airspace to mount cross-border raids on Syria.

Syria also threatened to end border security cooperation with the United States and Iraq in response to the ‘American aggression’ and has reduced the presence of its forces in border areas.

Following the Syrian move, Iraq sent police reinforcements to the Syrian border to secure the area.

The recent developments are expected to hamper Washington’s push for the finalization of a security agreement with Baghdad to legalize its presence in oil-rich Iraq.

The US raid has fueled speculation that the controversial US-proposed Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) may allow the White House to turn Iraq into a launch pad for incursions into neighboring states.

October saw hundreds of thousands of Iraqis take to the streets in protest at the US-sought security deal.

Under the US-sought agreement, American military and civilian planes will be able to use Iraqi airspace without Baghdad’s oversight.

Strongly opposed by Iraqi political and religious leaders, the deal will also allow the United States to attack any country it believes ‘represents a security threat to Iraq’.

Although the White House has been pushing hard for the finalization of the pact, there is the possibility of Baghdad refraining from signing the agreement because of nationwide opposition to the deal.

MSH/AA

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