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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Under 1701, Israel has the right to bomb Syrian scud shipments

Elliott Abrams was the deputy national-security adviser handling Middle Eastern affairs in the George W. Bush administration. Writing at National Review, he explains that under UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which brought the Second Lebanon War to an end, Israel was specifically given the right to bomb Syrian arms shipments to Hezbullah, including that shipment of long-range scud missiles a few weeks ago.
If the text seems clear, and even repetitive, to us now, it was less so at the time. As the resolution was being drafted and debated, the government of Israel approached the U.S. government to ask for a critical clarification. Suppose Syria violates the resolution, the Israelis asked? Do you agree with us that Israel will have the right to bomb any truck caravan carrying missiles or rockets from Syria into Lebanon for Hezbollah? And the answer was as clear as the question: Yes. With that now understood, Israel said it would go along with Resolution 1701 and begin to withdraw from Lebanon.

Without access to the most recent Israeli and U.S. intelligence, we do not know whether Syria has indeed shipped SCUDs — capable of reaching Tel Aviv and all of Israel’s cities — to Hezbollah. Nor do we know whether other news stories are accurate in claiming that Israel asked U.S. permission to bomb such a supply caravan, and was told no. It seems unlikely; in such circumstances it would be very unusual for Israel to ask permission, any more than it asked permission to bomb the North Korean–supplied nuclear reactor Syria was constructing.

But such stories harm U.S.-Israel relations, and reduce deterrence against Syria. It would be far better for both Israel and the United States to make it clear now: The supply of SCUDs to Hezbollah is a violation of Resolution 1701, and Israel has the right to act to prevent it, both under 1701 and as an exercise of the right of self-defense. It should also be made clear that if Israel strikes, it will have U.S. support, and we will veto any Security Council resolution criticizing Israel for doing so.
I disagree with that middle paragraph. Unless the US vetoed a strike, I cannot think of any reason in the world why Israel would not have hit the trucks carrying those scud missiles. Israel has no interest and nothing to gain from the Obama administration's irrational desire to 'engage' Syria. Either Netanyahu got cold feet on his own or the US vetoed a strike. Given this administration's pacifism, the second alternative seems far more likely.


At 2:40 AM, Blogger NormanF said...

Carl - agreed. The US wants to woo Syria and doesn't want to be embarrassed by anything Israel might do to sabotage it, so that in all probability, is why the strike didn't take place.


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