I just lost a long transcription of an NPR story by Tom Gjelten on a conference on the role of Special Operations in Iraq. Rather than rewrite the whole thing, I'll just quickly summarize the two points, but I urge you to listen to the five minute report from Friday. The basic thrust, though, is that in a post-9/11 world, the U.S. wants to do be able to do publicly what it previously could only get away with through covert or clandestine means.
Most notably, Gjelten quotes a Pentagon official as promoting an interpretation of international law whereby the U.S. has the right to go into any country and snatch up terrorist targets, if that sovereign country is not acting responsibly.
Secondly, he quotes Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (remember, the evangelical and intolerant extremist, to use William Arkin's characterization), as saying that the U.S. is already running a Phoenix-like program in Iraq. Boykin said "We doing what the Phoenix program was designed to do, without all of the secrecy." (This, I think, is the "Salvador option" in action.) That admission came right after a top counterterrorism guy at State (John Dinger) said it would be "very risky" to institute such a program, and could "create a worldwide blowback of bad publicity."