Here's Soccer Dad's Middle East Media Sampler for Sunday, May 5.
Legal Insurrection (and many others) has previously reported on two Israeli strikes: one against Hezbollah and one against Syria.
What's going on?
Classic thing about the strike on Damascus is how it will
be spun by Assad. He'll argue it's "PROOF" he's facing a
— Phillip Smyth (@PhillipSmyth) May 5, 2013
Almost every free Syrian on my timeline is cheering for #Israel air raids on Assad targets. Anybody else getting a different vibe? #Syria
After the first attack Israel was insistent that it had not entered Syrian airspace. Whatever considerations were in play then, were, apparently, no longer operational by Sunday.
— Hussain AbdulHussain (@hahussain) May 5, 2013
The Washington Post reports Syrian report: Israel bombs outskirts of Damascus for second time in recent days:
The official Syrian Arab News Agency said that a scientific research
facility had been struck by an Israeli missile, and a banner displayed
on state television said the attack was intended to relieve pressure on
rebel forces in the embattled eastern suburbs. The banner was
accompanied by martial music and footage of Syrian soldiers marching,
descending from helicopters and firing rockets, indicating that Syria
may not shrug off the assault, as it has with some Israeli strikes in
The New York Times reports Israel Targeted Iranian Missiles In Syria Attack:
“The Israeli aggression comes at a time when our armed forces are
scoring victories against terrorism and al-Qaeda gangs,” state
A subsequent video suggested further strikes were taking place in the same location, although the number was unclear.
If true, it would be the second Israeli airstrike in Syria in two days and the third this year.
Israel has apparently been silent officially except to talk about the strikes in the most general terms.
The airstrike that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria overnight on
Thursday was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface
missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah,
American officials said Saturday. That strike was aimed at disrupting
the arms pipeline that runs from Iran via Syria to Hezbollah, the
militant Lebanese organization, and it highlighted the mounting stakes
for Hezbollah and Israel as Syria becomes more chaotic.
Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the
Syrian civil war, now in its third year. But as fighting in Syria
escalates, they also have a powerful interest in expediting the delivery
of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on
power and Syria ceases to be an effective channel for funneling weapons
Everything I'm seeing from Israeli outlets citing foreign
sources. A common line, but also an indication officials are staying
— Avi Mayer (@avimayer) May 5, 2013
I have confidence in the State of Israel's power; I am
confident of the Israel Defense Forces; I believe in you, the citizens
Back in February, Tony Badran reported on the contours of a secret war that Israel was carrying out against Iran.
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) April 8, 2013
At a conference in Jerusalem on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu made clear that Israel would not allow “chemical and
strategic” weapons from Syria to reach Hezbollah. Netanyahu’s concern
over strategic weapons in the hands of Israel's enemies is well-founded.
Since the 2006 war, Iran has aggressively moved to bolster the
capabilities of Hezbollah in Lebanon, as well as those of its allies in
Gaza. This effort has centered primarily, though by no means
exclusively, around supplying Tehran’s assets with long-range rockets
and ballistic missiles. The deployment of these weapons in Lebanon and
Gaza would enable Iran, through Hezbollah, Hamas, and Palestinian
Islamic Jihad, to strike at any city in Israel, not to mention its
infrastructure and sensitive facilities, including offshore gas
Simon Shapira argues that there's more going on here than a growing threat to Israel. Rather it reflects Iran’s Plans to Take Over Syria. (This article was published May 2, before the Israeli strikes.):
According to Hezbollah lore, senior Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah
leaders made a decision following the 2006 war to focus on developing
their missile and long-range rocket capabilities. They also decided to
implement these measures in Gaza. As Qassem Qassir chronicled in a story
last year, Hezbollah’s military commander, Imad Mughniyeh was at the
heart of this effort, in partnership with Syrian and Palestinian
military officials. Behind it all, of course, stood Iran.
Once this strategy became apparent to Israeli intelligence, it began
targeting this Iranian network of strategic weapons transfers, assembly
and distribution centers, and the top people running the operation. The
spate of assassinated Iranian, Syrian, Hezbollah, and Hamas commanders
since 2008 were directly involved in the Iranian network supplying
strategic weapons to Tehran's assets in the Levant.
It appears that Hizbullah’s ongoing involvement in Syria, and the extent
of this involvement, formed the main issue on the agenda during
Nasrallah’s visit to Tehran. The more time passes, the more Iran appears
to regard Syria as a lynchpin of its Middle Eastern policy, in general,
and of leading the jihad and the Islamic resistance to Israel, in
particular. Hizbullah’s inclusion in the armed struggle in Syria is
intended first and foremost to serve the Iranian strategy, which has
been setting new goals apart from military assistance to the Syrian
regime. Iran already seems to be looking beyond the regime’s
survivability and preparing for a reality where it will have to operate
in Syria even if Assad falls. Even before recent events in Syria,
observers in the Arab world have been warning for years about growing
evidence of “Iranian expansionism.”5
The Tower has a similar take.
An important expression of Syria’s centrality in Iranian strategy was
voiced by Mehdi Taaib, who heads Khamenei’s think tank. He recently
stated that “Syria is the 35th district of Iran and it has greater
strategic importance for Iran than Khuzestan [an Arab-populated district
inside Iran]. By preserving Syria we will be able to get back
Khuzestan, but if we lose Syria we will not even be able to keep
Tehran.”6 Significantly, Taaib was drawing a comparison between Syria
and a district that is under full Iranian sovereignty. What was also
clear from his remarks was that Iran cannot afford to lose Syria.
U.S. and Israel's national security interests do not
align on Syria. Expect more "unilateral" action when it comes to first
As noted Iranian missiles have been the targets of the Israeli attacks.
Also of concern to Israel are chemical weapons. Apparently Syrian
chemical weapons are of concern too. Elie Lake reports:
— Michael Ross (@mrossletters) May 5, 2013
The judgment comes from top U.S. military commanders and is supported by
recent intelligence community assessments, according to three U.S.
officials who work closely on Syrian intelligence matters. At the heart
of the concern is that the Syrian military has transferred more and more
of its stock of sarin and mustard gas from storage sites to trucks
where they are being moved around the country. While U.S. intelligence
agencies first saw reports that Syria was moving the weapons last year,
the process has accelerated since December, according to these
officials. Also worrisome, said two of the officials, is intelligence
from late last year that says the Syrian Scientific Research Center—an
entity responsible for Syria’s chemical-weapons stockpile—has begun to
train irregular militias loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in
how to use the chemical munitions.
It appears more and more that Syria has crossed President Obama's red
lines without an American response. After the first Israeli strikes, the
New York Times reported in Off-the-Cuff Obama Line Put U.S. in Bind on Syria:
The assessment that Syria is moving large amounts of its chemical
weapons around the country on trucks means that if Obama wanted to send
in U.S. soldiers to secure Syria’s stockpiles, his top generals and
intelligence analysts doubt such a mission would have much success,
according to the three officials. “We’ve lost track of lots of this
stuff,” one U.S. official told The Daily Beast. “We just don’t know
where a lot of it is.”
The large-scale movement of weapons, if it is in fact occurring, would
violate one of Obama’s earliest declared red lines concerning Syria.
Last August he said, “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but
also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is, we start
seeing a whole bunch of weapons moving around or being utilized.”
The evolution of the “red line” and the nine months that followed
underscore the improvisational nature of Mr. Obama’s approach to one of
the most vexing crises in the world, all the more striking for a
president who relishes precision. Palpably reluctant to become entangled
in another war in the Middle East, and well aware that most Americans
oppose military action, the president has deliberately not explained
what his “red line” actually is or how it would change his calculus.
Still President Obama supported Israel's right to defend itself. The Tower notes:
“I’m not convinced it was thought through,” said Barry Pavel, a former
defense policy adviser to Mr. Obama who is now at the Atlantic Council.
“I’m worried about the broader damage to U.S. credibility if we make a
statement and then come back with lawyerly language to get around it.”
While Mr. Pavel favors a more active response to the killings in Syria,
others worry that Mr. Obama may have trapped himself into going too far.
Zbigniew Brzezinski, a national security adviser under President Jimmy
Carter, told Bloomberg Television that military involvement in Syria
would risk “a large-scale disaster for the United States.”
President Barack Obama today reiterated support for actions that Israel is taking to maintain its long-established red line
against the transfer of Syrian advanced weapons to terrorist groups.
His statements were in reference to reports that Israel on Friday struck a Syrian missile shipment. They come amid reports that Jerusalem on Sunday conducted additional strikes against Syrian military infrastructure.
By the way, there's still a civil war going on in Syria.
The Sunday strikes reportedly targeted Iranian weapons bound for the Iran-backed, Lebanese-based terror group Hezbollah. An American official
told the New York Times that the weapons were Iranian-made
surface-to-surface Fateh-110 missiles. Fateh-110′s are mobile, highly
accurate, solid-fuel missiles that have sufficient range to strike deep
into Israel from southern Lebanon, including into Tel Aviv.
The Israelis have long maintained that Jerusalem would act to prevent
either the transfer of advanced weapons to allies of the embattled
Bashar al-Assad regime or the seizure of those weapons by opposition
groups seeking the regime’s overthrow.
Without commenting on the credibility of reports linking Israel to
Friday’s strikes, Obama emphasized that such strikes are justified.
Elsewhere in #Syria: 77 reportedly killed in Baniyas, a day after 72 died in al-Bayda. bbc.in/15glmyu
— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) May 5, 2013
In other Syria news, the Syrian Network for Human Rights
puts the toll of the Ras Al-Nabaa killings at 160. Among 291 deaths
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) May 5, 2013
Labels: Bashar al-Assad, chemical weapons, Fateh 110, Free Syrian Army, Golan Heights, Hezbullah, IAF, Iran, Syria, Syrian uprising