Iraq Nervous About U.S. Raid of Syria

The deadly U.S. raid into Syria may complicate efforts to win approval for a new U.S.-Iraqi security deal by drawing attention to the reality that many Iraqis detest -- that they can't control everything American forces might do.

Syrian officials say U.S. troops and helicopters launched the raid Sunday inside Syrian territory close to the Iraqi border, killing eight people.

The U.S. command in Baghdad would not comment, but a U.S. military official said American special forces targeted the network that smuggles fighters and weapons into Iraq. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the raid was classified.

In a sign of how sensitive such attacks can be for Iraq's government, Syria summoned the top Iraqi diplomat in Damascus and demanded that Iraq "shoulder its responsibilities" and prevent the use of Iraqi territory "for aggression against Syria."

Today, Iraqi government spokesman Ali Dabbagh's office issued a statement to ABC News, saying that the "Iraqi government rejects the U.S. airstrike inside Syrian territory as part of the policy of the Iraqi government and the permanent constitution, which does not allow that Iraq's territory be a base for an attack on neighboring countries. The government has begun an investigation into the incident, calling the U.S. forces not to repeat such work."

Dabbagh added that the Iraqi government is anxious to establish better relations with the Syrian government and called on the Syrian government for increased cooperation and coordination to achieve the interests of the two countries.

Syrian anger over the raid strikes at the heart of Iraqi criticism about the U.S.-Iraqi security agreement -- that Iraqis cannot take control of their own country as long as big U.S. military forces remain on their soil.

The raid could also encourage Syria and Iran to step up pressure on Iraqi lawmakers to reject the deal. Parliament must approve the measure before the U.N. mandate expires Dec. 31, and Iraqi Shiite lawmakers have expressed doubts the existing version would pass.

"It will be used against the agreement and will give the Iranians reason to increase their interference here against the agreement," Kurdish lawmaker Mahmoud Othman predicted.

"Now neighboring countries have a good reason to be concerned about the continued U.S. presence in Iraq," he said.

Another lawmaker -- this one a prominent Shiite who has not taken a public stand on the deal -- said the raid would hurt the security agreement's chances of approval because it sends "a message that Iraq is not in control of its own affairs." He spoke on condition of anonymity because the issues are sensitive.

The proposed deal would allow American troops to stay in Iraq through 2011 to help build up Iraq's own forces and fight the remaining al Qaeda militants and Shiite extremists.

But critics inside Iraq believe the agreement would tie Iraq to U.S. political and military policies in the region. That could harm Iraq's efforts to build good relations with neighbors, like Syria and Iran -- who aren't on good terms with Washington.

U.S. officials insist the agreement respects Iraqi sovereignty.

But critics maintain there is no way that Iraq will be anything but a junior partner. That's not an image Iraqis relish, even though many privately hope U.S. troops will stay here until Iraq's own security forces can maintain order.

On the other hand, the security agreement could help curb U.S. actions, such as the Sunday raid. The draft agreement rules out the use of Iraqi territory as a base for U.S. aggression against other countries. Iraq insisted on such language to assure Iran that it would not assist any U.S. attack against Iran's nuclear facilities.

Also, the agreement would require the United States to coordinate military operations with a joint U.S.-Iraqi commission, giving Iraq the chance to raise objections before U.S. raids.

Regardless, opponents of the deal are likely to see the U.S. raid on Syria as reinforcing their view that Iraq would be powerless to prevent the United States from military action. For many Iraqis, the feeling that they run their own country means more than the deal's fine print.

Complicating the situation is the complexity of Iraq's relations with Syria. When Saddam Hussein was in power, the two countries were ruled by rival wings of the Baath party.

Many former Hussein loyalists fled to Syria after the U.S.-led invasion of 2003, and U.S. officials believe the country serves as a base for Sunni extremists to smuggle weapons and fighters to Iraq.

But relations between Iraq and Syria have improved somewhat, and earlier this month the Syrians sent an ambassador to Baghdad for the first time since the 1980s.

"We're trying to contain the fallout from the incident," a senior Iraqi foreign ministry official, Labid Abbawi, told the Associated Press. "It is regrettable and we are sorry it happened."

ABC News' Faisal Sidiq and the Associated Press contributed to the reporting of this story.

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