What Syria's Ambassador Says About the U.S. Military Raid

Claims attack killed civilians, not senior Al Qaeda in Iraq operative.

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On Wednesday, Syria's ambassador to the United States, Imad Moustapha, fired back against the reported U.S. commando raid into Syria on Sunday that is said to have left eight dead, calling it a "criminal, terrorist attack." He said the attack has derailed what had been delicate diplomatic moves to improve relations between Washington and Damascus.

U.S. officials, speaking on background, have said that American special forces killed a senior Al Qaeda in Iraq operative in a cross-border raid intended to disrupt a network of foreign fighters moving through Syria to fight in Iraq.

However, in an interview, Moustapha disputed that account and called the raid a "coldblooded, terrorist, criminal attack for no reason whatsoever." He said the eight killed were all civilians and not connected with AQI.

"We are still analyzing what has happened and evaluating the motive behind it. There are many theories," Moustapha said, adding, "What pushed this administration to do this...at the very end of its days?"

Moustapha then cited what he regards as some possible explanations: "Is this administration trying to jeopardize any possibility of improvement in relations between Syria and any new U.S. administration, because all the signs were pointing in that direction?"

He added, "Or is it trying to pressurize the Iraqi government so that the Iraqi government will have to agree to an imposed security agreement without any negotiations?" And Moustapha offered one other theory: "Or is it actually trying to serve the domestic electoral campaign right now in the United States, saying, 'Look at the situation . . . Iraq is still a very dangerous place. We need to be in Iraq because the neighboring countries of Iraq are still a threat and a danger, and we need to attack them."

Moustapha sought to separate the moves of the Bush administration from American public opinion.

"We need to make a distinction between the last desperate deeds of an administration that is in its twilight and the United States of America."

He also said that recent high-level diplomatic contacts between Syria and the U.S. in New York—which he earlier called a "tentative opening"—could not move into a more general improvement in relations at this point. "I don't think the context will allow this," he said.

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