With Syrian officials demanding a formal apology for last Sunday’s attack and US officials painting it as a “warning” to the Syrian government to do more about policing its borders, it would come as quite a surprise to learn that the two governments may have communicated about the attack in advance. Yet, according to the Sunday Times, this appears to be the case.
According to the report, Syrian radar detected the invading helicopters but senior officials turned down a request to intercept, saying “the American operation was expected.” Apparently, the operation was intended to be a “snatch and grab” raid aimed at capturing wanted militant Abu Ghadiya.
But it seems the militants detected the helicopters’ approach and a fire-fight broke out, leaving several people dead. The Syrian government, prepared for a reported kidnapping but not the bloodbath that ensued, then felt the need to publicly castigate the US for an attack they had secretly signed off on.
In the wake of the attack, the United States faced public condemnation from across the region. It also raised tensions between the Iraqi government and Syria, and led Iraq to seek an amendment to its Status of Forces Agreement with the US to explicitly ban US forces from using Iraqi territory to attack its neighbors.
Of course, all of this is unconfirmed at this point, and none of the sources are named. Still, it provides an internally consistent alternative explanation for the attack – if a rather convoluted one.