Perhaps you didn’t hear about Israel’s alleged air strike on a Syrian military installation last week, but the incident has significant global ramifications about which you should be aware.
In Israel, it’s always reported that incidents like these are “allegedly” carried out by Israel because in most cases, Israel neither officially confirms nor denies any responsibility. This is part of a culture where all military items go through a censor, so making statements affirming that Israel did something like this is typically not allowed. Ambiguity also allows Israel’s enemies the wiggle room that, though they may know full well that something might have Israeli fingerprints all over it, barring public confirmation lets them weigh whether any response is wise, making bombastic public declarations, taking action, or even acknowledging that their defenses have been breached. Sometimes it’s just best that things are left unsaid, assuming Israel is involved, as the effect is clear all the same.
Often, because Israeli sources are not allowed to publicize that Israel did something like this, details are leaked to a foreign source which reports it without the oversight of Israeli military censors. Then, Israeli media quote the same information attributed to “foreign sources” which sufficiently bypass who can report on Israeli military activities, what sources are quoted, etc.
The strike on the Syrian missile and chemical weapons facility is important for a multitude of reasons. It’s also worth noting that it took place ten years to the week when Israel carried out a successful attack on a Syrian nuclear facility that was being built by N. Korea.
Assuming Israel carried out this attack, it underscores that Israel has red lines and sticks to them. This is an important message to our enemies and allies alike making it clear that we will take action as needed, even if there may be possible divergent or conflicting objectives.
It’s been reported that the reason for the air strike now is because Israel was concerned that Syria was asked, or prepared, to transfer the now bombed facility to Hezbollah. That’s obviously a red line as Hezbollah basically controls Lebanon and it would transfer weapons there, where they have over 100,000 rockets pointed at Israel. Attaching WMD to a long range Iranian rocket is a grave threat. Previously its been reported that Israel has attacked convoys of weapons being sent to Hezbollah from Syria. If true in this case, Israel prevented delivery of both sophisticated missiles and WMD.
The air strike also keeps all players in Syria in check, reminding them that they are being watched carefully, and they can fight one another all they want, but when it comes to threatening Israel that’s not going to fly. This includes all the current players from the Assad regime and its military to the Sunni backed rebels, ISIS, and most significantly Iran which seeks to widen its influence and control a land bridge from Tehran to the Mediterranean.
This air attack also sends a clear message to both the US and Russia. Israel of course is not looking to oppose or overtly conflict with either, but is making it clear that the ceasefire agreement they worked up between them and which empowers Iran is unacceptable. The message is simple: Israel will act where and when it needs to.
Prime Minister Netanyahu met Russian President Putin recently and made it clear that Israel would act in Syria as needed, “We will act when necessary according to our red lines. In the past, we have done this without asking permission, but we have provided an update on what our policy is.”
What’s not (yet) known is if or whether Israel and Russia worked out a modus vivendi so that Israel can operate unimpeded. Did Israel coordinate directly with Russia as the dominant force in Syria? Did it get a green light and Russia looked the other way? Or did Israel completely surpass sophisticated Russian land and air defense systems with a capacity even greater than the Russians or Syrians using this hardware?
Operationally it underscores Israeli’s dominance over Syria and Lebanon which is not such a big feat even with Russian support. Lebanon is teeming with and controlled by Hezbollah terrorists, a growing military force that’s now more war tested, but also spread thin. I have to believe that if and when needed, Israel can and will strike again if red lines are about to be crossed. Once, a senior Israeli defense official told me that our intelligence is so good, we know what kind of humus they are dipping their pita into. Indeed, Israeli intelligence is something to be in awe of, never ceasing to amaze the depth and breadth of its reach. Though we don’t hear about it often, very little like this goes by without Israeli intelligence involved.
The air strike also sends a clear message to Iran which is also watching events in N. Korea to see how the world responds and what they think they might be able to get away with. Even as a deterrent, an attack like this makes the Iranians have to think twice, or redouble their efforts for secrecy, which may ultimately play into Israel’s hands.
Perhaps this will also prop up US resolve that no mission is too great and that if Israel can undertake such an operation, not only can the US (in N. Korea, Iran, Yemen, Afghanistan, or anywhere), but maybe it should rethink its plans to do so.
This week, Prime Minister Netanyahu will fly to Argentina, the first time a sitting Israeli prime minister is making a visit there, and the first time since a famous direct flight more than 50 years ago that embodied Israel’s can do attitude, that in the interest of Israeli security Israel can and will reach even as far as the other side of the world. In 1960 infamous Nazi leader Adolf Eichmann was kidnapped and brought to justice in Israel. That’s the last time there was a direct flight between the two countries. This visit also sends a clear message to Iran which perpetrated two terror attacks in Argentina against Jewish institutions in 1992 and 1994 respectively; whether in Syria, Iran or Argentina, we know who you are and we can get you.
The air strike in Syria this week is a loud shot with many implications in an ongoing war that Israel cannot and will not lose.