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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Israel warns Syria on Hezbullah

Long-time readers know that I always warn you to take anything written by the Times of London's Uzi Mahnaimi with a grain of salt. This is because he tends to be sensationalist and because he has a clear political agenda. If Mahnaimi were correct, Israel would have attacked Iran's nuclear facilities three years ago, and Tzipi Livni was once a death defying Mossad agent.

Having said that, this story is plausible:
Israel has delivered a secret warning to Syrian President Bashar Assad that it will respond to missile attacks from Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese-based Islamist group, by launching immediate retaliation against Syria itself.

In a message, sent earlier this month, Israel made it clear that it now regards Hezbollah as a division of the Syrian army and that reprisals against Syria will be fast and devastating.

It follows the discovery by Israeli intelligence that Syria has recently supplied long-range ballistic missiles and advanced anti-aircraft systems to Hezbollah.

“We’ll return Syria to the Stone Age by crippling its power stations, ports, fuel storage and every bit of strategic infrastructure if Hezbollah dare to launch ballistic missiles against us,” said an Israeli minister, who who was speaking off-the-record, last week.

The warning, which was conveyed to Damascus by a third party, was sent to reinforce an earlier signal by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister. “If a war breaks out the Assad dynasty will lose its power and will cease to reign in Syria,” he said earlier this year.

The Israeli decision to hold Syria directly responsible for Hezbollah’s actions is believed to be the result of intelligence assessments that Beirut has lost control of the Shi’ite organisation, which has become an increasingly powerful force in Lebanon.
I believe Israel made that threat, and I'd bet that the go-between was John Kerry, who visited Damascus three weeks ago. Note this:
Although US officials contacted by The National could not completely confirm that such technology had been transferred to Hizbollah by Syria, one official privy to intelligence briefings confirmed a story previously reported in the Israeli press that in the weeks before Senator John Kerry’s visit to Damascus on April 1, Israel almost bombed what it claimed was a convoy of advanced weaponry headed from Syrian military bases to Hizbollah along the shared border with Lebanon.

“I can’t promise you that planes were actually in the air, but it was close, very close,” said the official. “The White House had to talk them down from the attack and promised that Kerry would use strong language” with the Syrian president, Bashar Assad.
You won't get much stronger language than what Mahnaimi cited.

But the real question is whether Israel would follow through with that threat.

Four years ago, the Bush administration gave Israel clearance to strike Syria. Our 'leadership' didn't do it. From that point on, Israel's value as a strategic asset in the eyes of the Bush administration dropped. Have we learned our lesson?


At 11:31 PM, Blogger NormanF said...

Good question. If Israel was given a "green light" would it finish the job or would dither around aimlessly? And Olmert's colossal mismanagement of the Second Lebanon War damaged Israel's credibility in American eyes and harmed Israel's deterrent power. If you don't seek to win, don't even think about starting a war.

That's especially true with Iran. Either Israel is going to go all to destroy Iran or just skip it altogether. A war is not an occasion for showing half-heartedness and irresolution about your cause. The Syrians will believe what Israel says when Israel actually delivers the message.


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