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US raid in Syria led by CIA

Damascus denounces the breach of its border by American forces as 'terrorist aggression' while the attack increases Iranian fears about the consequences of an Iraqi-US security pact. The US raid is the latest in a series of violations of Syria's sovereignty. As the financial crisis spins further out of control, emerging markets are under threat and the global food crisis is worsening.

"A CIA-led raid on a compound in eastern Syria killed an al Qa'eda in Iraq commander who oversaw the smuggling into Iraq of foreign fighters whose attacks claimed thousands of Iraqi and American lives, three US officials said Monday. "The body of Badran Turki Hishan al Mazidih, an Iraqi national who used the norm de guerre Abu Ghadiya, was flown out of Syria on a US helicopter at the end of the operation Sunday by CIA paramilitary officers and special forces, one US official said. " 'It was a successful operation,' a second US official told McClatchy. 'The bottom line: This was a significant blow to the foreign fighter pipeline between Syria and Iraq.' A senior US military officer said the raid was launched after human and technical intelligence confirmed that al Mazidih was present at the compound close to Syria's border with Iraq. 'The situation finally presented itself,' he said." The Associated Press reported: "Some Iraqi officials warned that the US military raid into Syria could be used by opponents of a security pact under negotiation with the United States. " 'Now neighbouring countries have a good reason to be concerned about the continued US presence in Iraq,' prominent Kurdish politician Mahmoud Othman told the Associated Press. "Abbawi said he did not believe the Syrian raid would affect the security negotiations but acknowledged that 'some will use the incident for the argument against the agreement'." The Sunday Times reported: "Senior Iraqi politicians have warned that a crucial deal between Baghdad and Washington governing the presence of American troops in the country is doomed to failure after eight months of talks. " 'The Sofa [Status of Forces Agreement] is dead in the water,' said one Iraqi politician close to the talks. "He added that Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, believed that signing it would be 'political suicide'. "The collapse of the deal would severely undermine American policy. An agreement is needed to put America's presence on a legal basis after the United Nations mandate for its 154,000 troops in Iraq expires on December 31." The Times said: "Britain and Syria cancelled a planned joint press conference of their foreign ministers in London today as the fallout continued over an American military raid into Syrian territory that left eight civilians dead. "The attack threatens to overshadow what was a long-planned visit to London by Walid Muallem, the Syrian Foreign Minister, aimed at repairing the two countries' rocky relationship under the leadership of Tony Blair. "Damascus has been incensed by the attack, which Washington has yet to comment on. David Miliband had hoped to capitalise on Syria's desire for stronger ties with the West to persuade it towards a more active role in the search for Middle Eastern peace. But talks today will inevitably be dominated by Syrian protest over the American military action." In Asia Times, Kaveh Afrasiabi wrote: "Tehran feels increasingly threatened by the United States-Iraq security agreement that will allow 50 US military bases throughout Iraq, including several in areas close to the Iran-Iraq border. " 'The Status of Forces agreement permits the construction of large US forward bases near not only Iran but also Syria and as a result is a cause of serious worry by both Tehran and Damascus,' said a prominent Tehran University political science professor. "In light of the incursion on Sunday by US forces inside Syrian territory, ostensibly to pursue al Qa'eda terrorists, there is suddenly concern on the part of many analysts in Tehran that the security agreement between Baghdad and Washington is not simply an internal matter for Iraqis to decide, but rather a regional issue that calls for direct input by Iraq's neighbours." In The Guardian, Simon Tisdall wrote: "The US attack is but the latest in a series of unanswered affronts to Syria. In September last year Israeli bombers destroyed a supposed nuclear facility. There have been several violent deaths of senior regime figures, such as the army General Mohammed Suleiman, and of Syria's proteges, such as Hizbollah's Imad Mughniyeh. And there have been 'hot pursuit' US cross-border attacks before, notably in 2005 when a border guard was killed. " 'The common denominator of all these operations is that nobody takes the Syrians seriously any more, given the repeated violations of their sovereignty. It is doubtful the domestic security situation there has ever been this unstable,' said Amos Harel of the Israeli newspaper, Ha'aretz. Even so, he suggested, the Americans would not have taken so provocative a step unless they were convinced they had a high-value jihadi leader in their sights."

"As shock waves from the credit crisis began to spread around the world last month, China scrambled to protect itself. Among the most extreme measures it took was to impose new export taxes to keep critical supplies such as grains and fertiliser from leaving the country," The Washington Post reported. "About 5,700 miles away, in Nairobi, farmer Stephen Muchiri is suffering the consequences. "It's planting season now, but he can afford to sow amaranth's and haricot beans on only half of the 10 acres he owns because the cost of the fertiliser he needs has shot up nearly $50 a bag in a matter of weeks. Muchiri said nearly everyone he knows is cutting back on planting, which means even less food for a continent where the supply has already been weakened by drought, political unrest and rising prices. "While the world's attention has been focused on rescuing investment banks and stock markets from collapse, the global food crisis has worsened, a casualty of the growing financial tumult." In The New York Times, Paul Krugman wrote: "The really shocking thing [about the way the financial crisis is spinning ever further out of control] is the way the crisis is spreading to emerging markets ? countries like Russia, Korea and Brazil. "These countries were at the core of the last global financial crisis, in the late 1990s (which seemed like a big deal at the time, but was a day at the beach compared with what we're going through now). They responded to that experience by building up huge war chests of dollars and euros, which were supposed to protect them in the event of any future emergency. And not long ago everyone was talking about 'decoupling', the supposed ability of emerging market economies to keep growing even if the United States fell into recession. 'Decoupling is no myth,' The Economist assured its readers back in March. 'Indeed, it may yet save the world economy.' "That was then. Now the emerging markets are in big trouble. In fact, says Stephen Jen, the chief currency economist at Morgan Stanley, the 'hard landing' in emerging markets may become the 'second epicentre' of the global crisis." RFE/RL said: "The International Monetary Fund (IMF) says it will loan Ukraine more than $16 billion to help it cope with the global economic crisis. "The loan approval is the latest sign the IMF will try to play a fireman's role in rescuing emerging economies that are too weak to survive on their own... "The IMF loan to Ukraine is the latest sign that the international lending agency is assuming a key role in the global economic crisis as a rescue service for economies too hard-hit to cope on their own. "The agency last week agreed to lend Iceland $2 billion as its banking system came close to collapse. That marked the first time the IMF had made a loan to a Western country in three decades. "More loans to more countries are likely to follow." The Sunday Times said in a feature on the New York University economics professor, Nouriel Roubini, that: "it was a meeting of the IMF in September 2006 that earned him his nickname Dr Doom. "Roubini told an audience of fellow economists that a generational crisis was coming. A once-in-a-lifetime housing bust would lay waste to the US economy as oil prices soared, consumers stopped shopping and the country went into a deep recession. "The collapse of the mortgage market would trigger a global meltdown, as trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unravelled. The shock waves would destroy banks and other big financial institutions such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, America's largest home loan lenders. " 'I think perhaps we will need a stiff drink after that,' the moderator said. Members of the audience laughed. "Economics is not called the dismal science for nothing. While the public might be impressed by Nostradamus-like predictions, economists want figures and equations. Anirvan Banerji, economist with the New York-based Economic Cycle Research Institute, summed up the feeling of many of those at the IMF meeting when he delivered his response to Roubini's talk. Banerji questioned Roubini's assumptions, said they were not based on mathematical models and dismissed his hunches as those of a Cassandra. At first, indeed, it seemed Roubini was wrong. Meltdown did not happen. Even by the end of 2007, the financial and economic outlook was grim but not disastrous. "Then, in February 2008, Roubini posted an entry on his blog headlined: 'The rising risk of a systemic financial meltdown: the twelve steps to financial disaster'. "It detailed how the housing market collapse would lead to huge losses for the financial system, particularly in the vehicles used to securitise loans. It warned that 'a national bank' might go bust, and that, as trouble deepened, investment banks and hedge funds might collapse. "Even Roubini was taken aback at how quickly this scenario unfolded."

pwoodward@thenational.ae

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