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Syrian strike not evidence of new doctrine: a -

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Syrian strike not evidence of new doctrine: analyst

The World Today - Tuesday, 28 October , 2008 12:34:00

ELEANOR HALL: Syria is calling it an act of criminal and terrorist aggression, but the United
States is still refusing to comment on an alleged raid on Sunday into Syrian territory.

The Syrians say the air raid killed eight unarmed civilians, including several children.

Some observers say the timing of the alleged US action in the final days the Bush administration is
no coincidence.

And parallels are being drawn between the alleged Syrian strike and recent US raids into Pakistan.

But Anthony Bubalo, the Director for West Asia at the Lowy Institute, is cautious about reading too
much into the Syrian incident.

He's been speaking to Barbara Miller:

ANTHONY BUBALO: It's not completely insignificant in the sense that for the US to take this action
inside Syrian borders is not an action that they would you know do every day or take very lightly.

At the same time, I don't think it's going to necessarily blow up into anything major. They Syrians
of course have issued a strong statement but you have to look at the ability of the Syrians to take
any action beyond issuing strong statements and you have to say that it's very limited.

BARBARA MILLER: Why would the US if they have done so, take this action?

ANTHONY BUBALO: A lot will depend on what the specific target was. It might have been that that was
a very high valued target. Very high value insurgent target and for that reason they decided it was
worth the risk of crossing the border into Syria and carrying out this strike.

On the other hand now in recent months we've seen a decline in the flow of insurgents into Iraq
across the Syrian border and maybe it was on the increase again and the US wanted to send a message
to insurgents and in fact to the Syrian Government that it wouldn't tolerate any increase in that
kind of activity.

BARBARA MILLER: What do you make of the suggestion by some analysts that this in the final days of
the Bush administration is a clear sign that they're letting other countries know that if they
don't clamp down on terrorists operating within their border regions then the US will take on that
job for them?

ANTHONY BUBALO: I don't think this is something that represents a dramatic change you know in the
final months of the Bush administration. I think for some time now the Bush administration has been
expressing its concern particularly to Pakistan about what's happening across the border. In that
case in Afghanistan.

I think the US Administration has also consistently been expressing their concerns to the Syrians
for some time now and that may have resulted in that decline in insurgent flows from Syria to Iraq
that we did see you know over the last few months.

So I wouldn't want to interpret this as a major new change in direction that simply the execution
of current policy, I would this expect this to be an isolated incident and for the issue to be
managed in the overall context of the Syria and US relations.

BARBARA MILLER: The Syrians have as you said responded with fairly forceful language. Do you think
that's all they will do?

ANTHONY BUBALO: Well there's not much more that they can do. When Israel struck at a suspected
Syrian nuclear facility, Syria in fact used similar language. They said they reserved the right to
take some kind of action in response and they never have and I would expect that to be the case
here as well.

BARBARA MILLER: Is all this then a bit of a storm in a teacup?

ANTHONY BUBALO: You know it's always dangerous to predict incidents in the Middle East being kind
of storms in teacups. Teacups have a tendency to become suddenly very large. But you know my
expectation is that this will be managed in the context f Syrian/US relations.

There will be a lot of rhetoric, particularly from the Syrians but not much more than that.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Anthony Bubalo from the Lowy Institute speaking there to Barbara Miller.