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Syria .. What about Your Sovereignty? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Among the reactions in Damascus to the recent U.S. raid on the village of Sukkariyeh in the Abu Kamal region along its border with Iraq, were the images broadcast by a Syrian television channel that showed Syrian troops dismantling their positions on the Iraqi border for redeployment along its border with Lebanon.

Damascus has denied this news despite that fact that a Syrian-affiliated news site published a report supporting this, based on eye-witness accounts of troops withdrawing from the region. Therefore the television channel broadcast can only be taken seriously.

The withdrawal of Syrian troops is a condemnation of Damascus, and a breach in the concept of sovereignty.

The withdrawal of Syrian troops from the Iraqi border has a significance which cannot be ignored; firstly that the relative calm with regards to the security situation in Iraq and the recent decline in suicide attacks is proof that the Syrians have control of the border which had previously been a crossing point for the terrorists, without sufficient observers, as the Americans and Iraqis claim.

When Syria began patrolling its border with Iraq recently, terrorist operations decreased significantly, so know this border no longer being under complete Syrian control will mean a return of terrorists using it as an open highway between Syria and Iraq which would draw condemnation down onto Syria. Especially following the reaction of Syria’s foreign minister Walid al Muallem’s to the Iraqi government’s position on the raid when he said that nobody with a single drop of Arab blood would justify the US raid, an obvious jab at the Iraqis.

The reduction in the number of Syrian troops stationed along the border with Iraq, or simply removing them all, will draw condemnation to the Syrians, and will exasperate the crisis both internally and externally. Of course Damascus has the right to be angry and to defend itself, but there is a big difference between self-defense and committing a grave mistake, especially since Washington is in the middle of critical elections and it is not in Syria’s best interest to widen its estrangement in its relationship with Washington with regards to the next four years. This is especially true since Damascus, at its highest levels, is always talking about renewing its relationship with Washington.

The other issue is one which affects Syria internally, Damascus must worry about the safety and security of its borders from possible infiltration by terrorists, or drug traffickers smuggling drugs from Iraq into Syria. The question here then is how can Syria be worried about its borders with Lebanon, but not its boarders with Iraq?

There is also a key issue which cannot be ignored; one of the key political provisions of a country is its regional security, which is part of its sovereignty and falls under its protection, the protection of one’s borders is a political right even to the point of using force.

So how can Syria decide to ignore their borders allowing terrorists to use them as a gateway between Syria and Iraq, thus putting their national security at risk, not to mention abandoning an inherent sovereign right, which lies at the heart of any government, and an integral part of the contract between the government and its leader to maintain and protect the nation.

Some expressed surprise when I previously said that Syria is in trouble both internally and externally following the US raid, but what would they say today about the news of Syrian troops being withdrawn from the Iraqi border, and its denial of the story… Is Damascus facing an even bigger dilemma now?

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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