Monday, February 04, 2013

Attack on Syria

The IAF carried out a significant aerial raid on Syria last week.  The question is, what was the target or targets? At first it was reported that it was a convoy of arms heading into Lebanon, possibly containing missiles and/or chemical weapons for Hizbollah.  The Syrians announced that the IAF hit a military research facility near Damascus. Pictures were shown of a demolished building, but there are now a lot of those in Syria.  Then the Syrians announced that the major part of the facility was underground and undamaged.  But, it appears that there were several targets that the IAF actually hit.
As usual the Israeli Government refused to comment on these reports.  Also, the UNIFIL observers in Lebanon reported that that they had not seen any IAF activity over Syria.  So we are still in the dark as to what really happened.  Of course, that did not stop many Arab states criticizing Israel and Iran and Syria threatened revenge for an attack that is hard to know if it happened.  But, suppose we accept that it did, I see it as prefectly legitimate.  Syria is in a state of war, and the fact that missiles and possibly chemical weapons could fall into the hands of either al Qaeda terrorists who are active in the Syrian opposition or of Hizbollah is definitely a causus belli for Israel.  The Syrian government can no longer control what is happening in its own territory and it could also send weapons into Lebanon that could be used by Hizbollah against Israel.   To wait and see if this might happen would be irresponsible in the extreme. 
In the Syrian opposition there are a plethora of Sunni groups that include extreme Islamists, who after the fall of Pres. Assad (and he is certainly on his way out) might decide to try to mount a serious attack against Israel.  It is currently in Israel's interest that Assad be replaced because he is an ally of Iran and allows Hizbollah and Hamas to be supplied with arms and missiles through his territory.  But, after he is overthrown noone knows what will happen. It is likely to be a replay of Egypt after Mubarak or Libya after Qaddafi, only worse, because there are many organized groups of extreme Islamists fighting on the anti-Assad side.  They are Sunni extremists and will want to form a portion of the new Caliphate in Syria.  But, not only will there be internal moderate opposition, there will also be sectarian violence.  So for Israel, the best outcome is that they fight each other for years, just as the Iranians and the Iraqis did for 8 years in an earlier version of the Sunni-Shia clash. 
Meanwhile Israel must protect its interests and see that none of the heavy weapons, missiles and chemical weapons fall into the wrong hands, either Islamists or Hizbollah.  Making sure that this does not happen is a difficult task, but Israel has excellent intelligence, both from drones and human sources.  The US has apparently given its approval for such defensive actions. So you can expect further discrete Israeli attacks to forestall future dangers. 


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