Air Strike in Syria - The Opening Move?
Proliferation of strategic weapons will not be tolerated, no matter what the price.
If, as international media reports say, Israel was indeed behind last week's air strikes in Syria, it can be assumed that the attack was the opening move in a longer-term strategy to contain quickly-developing threats emerging from Syria, as well as the broader Iran-Hezbollah axis.
The ball is now in the court of Syrian president Bashar Assad and his allies in Beirut and Tehran. If they attempt further weapons transfers to Hezbollah, more air strikes can be expected - a development that will result in a wider conflict.
Iran is also releasing threats of serious retaliation against Israel, a threat which, if realized, could easily lead to a regional escalation. Days before the airstrikes, Iran warned that it would view any attack on Syria as an attack on itself.
For months, Israel has said that it would not allow strategic, advanced Syrian weapons - be they game-changing missiles or chemical weapons - to fall into the hands of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda-affiliated elements.
As Gatestone Institute readers learned a week before the strike, Israel has no intention of relying on defense only to deal with a transfer of such weapons to the wrong hands.
Israel has remained mum over the strike, and little reliable information has surfaced over what targets were struck, but reports citing Western intelligence officials said a convoy carrying advanced SA-17 Syrian anti-aircraft missiles were the target.
The SA-17 system in Hezbollah's possession would limit the IAF's ability to carry out vital sorties over Lebanon, whether for reconnaissance, or to attack Hezbollah targets in a future conflict.
Within days of the air strikes, Syrian state media said the target was a military research center near Damascus that carried out work aimed at "raising the level of resistance and self-defence."
It is entirely possible that both a "research center" and an arms convoy were struck.
Syria's vague description of the center fits well with a weapons proliferation organization known as the Scientific Studies and Research Center (better known by its French acronym, CERS).
CERS is a Syrian state organization responsible for developing biological and chemical weapons, missiles, and transferring weapons to Hezbollah and Hamas.
In the past, Israel's former head of the National Security Council's Counter-Terrorism Bureau, Brig.-Gen. (res.) Nitzan Nuriel called on the international community to warn Syria that CERS "will be demolished" if it continues arming terrorist organizations.
According to open source intelligence reports, CERS developed ricin-based chemical weapons. The center was designated as an illegal weapons proliferator by former President George Bush and the US Treasury.
On Saturday, Syrian state TV released footage showing wreckage from the air strikes.
The images appear to have inadvertently verified reports of an arms convoy being the target, as they showed large military trucks that were destroyed in the attack – vehicles that resemble trucks designed to transport anti-aircraft systems.
Since the attack, Iran has led the way in issuing threats to respond. Senior Iranian defense and regime officials have said that the attack will "have consequences for Tel Aviv," and that a Syrian counterattack will "send Israel into a coma."
Assad limited himself to condemning Israel as a destabilizer of Syria, and a vague statement saying that Damascus can "confront current threats and aggression against it."
All parties concerned are aware of the fact that the Assad regime is fighting for its life, and will seek to avoid opening a second front against Israel. Any direct attack on Israel by Syria endangers Assad's immediate survivability.
On the other hand, Iran's threats cannot be ignored, and the possibility of retribution was factored in before taking the decision to launch the air strikes.
Iran and Hezbollah could activate terrorist cells abroad to attack overseas Israeli interests. Alternatively, terrorists acting on their behalf could fire missiles at Israel from Syrian or Lebanese territory.
It would be safe to assume that the IDF is on its highest alert for such developments.
Despite the escalated tensions, Jerusalem is projecting a business-as-usual message. Defense Minister Ehud Barak travelled to Germany for an international security conference two days after the air strikes, and IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, landed in Washington on Sunday for talks with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey.
Whatever happens next in the region, last Wednesday's air strikes mark a watershed in the gradual breakdown of the Syrian state, and send an unmistakable signal: That strategic weapons proliferation will not be tolerated, whatever the price.
Reader comments on this item
|Syrian situation [166 words]||Thomas Wells||Feb 5, 2013 16:27|
|Israel cannot afford to stand idly by. [56 words]||Batya Casper||Feb 4, 2013 19:43|
|Israel alone [248 words]||Ethan P.||Feb 4, 2013 09:05|
Comment on this item
by Khaled Abu Toameh
To understand what drives a young Palestinian to carry out such a deadly attack, one needs to look at the statements of Palestinian Authority leaders during the past few weeks.
The anti-Israel campaign of incitement reached its peak with Abbas's speech at the UN a few weeks ago, when he accused Israel of waging a "war of genocide" in the Gaza Strip. Abbas made no reference to Hamas's crimes against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Whatever his motives, it is clear that the man who carried out the most recent attack, was influenced by the messages that Abbas and the Palestinian Authority leadership have been sending their people.
by Richard Kemp
Would General Allen -- or any other general today -- recommend contracting out his country's defenses if it were his country at stake? Of course not.
The Iranian regime remains dedicated to undermining and ultimately destroying the State of Israel. The Islamic State also has Israel in its sights and would certainly use the West Bank as a point from which to attack, if it were open to them.
There can be no two-state solution and no sovereign Palestinian Arab state west of the Jordan, however desirable those things might be. The stark military reality is that Israel cannot withdraw its forces from the West Bank.
Fatah leaders ally themselves with the terrorists of Hamas, and, like Hamas, they continue to reject the every existence of the State of Israel.
If Western leaders actually want to help, they should use all diplomatic and economic means to make it clear to the Palestinians that they will never achieve an independent and sovereign state while they remain set on the destruction of the State of Israel.
by Louis René Beres
The Palestine Liberation Organization [PLO], forerunner of today's Palestinian Authority, was founded in 1964, three years before Israel came into the unintended control of the West Bank and Gaza. What therefore was the PLO planning to "liberate"?
Why does no one expect the Palestinians to cease all deliberate and random violence against Israeli civilians before being considered for admission to statehood?
On June 30, 1922, a joint resolution of both Houses of Congress of the United States endorsed a "Mandate for Palestine," confirming the right of Jews to settle anywhere they chose between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. This is the core American legacy of support for a Jewish State that President Obama now somehow fails to recall.
A sovereign state of Palestine, as identified by the Arabs -- a Muslim land occupied by "Palestinian" Arabs -- has never existed; not before 1948, and not before 1967. From the start, it was, and continues to be, the Arab states -- not Israel -- that became the core impediment to Palestinian sovereignty.
by Timon Dias
It looks as if this new law is meant to serve as a severe roadblock to parties that would like to dismantle the EU in a democratic and peaceful way from within.
A rather dull semantic trick pro-EU figures usually apply, is calling their opponents "anti-Europe."
by Alan M. Dershowitz