Israel Raids on Syria could play into Assad’s and Iran’s hands©

Two raids by Israeli Airforce on targets inside Syria within 48 hours of each other throw many questions in the air. Will it let the two-year-old Syrian civil-war spill over border and become a region war as we have seen before when the Israelis get involved? Will it prove Syria’s dictator Bashar Assad’s claim that the rebellion started by protests in 1011 was a wider Israel, American plot to weaken what the Iranians call ‘the regional resistance to Israel and American aggression’? Or will it hasten Assad’s downfall? or will it suck Israel into a wider conflict if, as expected, Iran instructs its allies, Hezbollah in Lebanon to launch attack on Israel as they did in 2006; or perhaps a Hamas in Gaza to launch more rocket attacks on southern Israel forcing the Jewish state to take action in Gaza which would claim civilian lives and trigger waves of protests in Muslim countries?

What is confusing is that while Israelis don’t see the collapse of Assad regime is beneficial to the Jewish state, the two raids came at time when the Syrian regime made considerable military gains on the ground, pushed the rebels back from main highways and reopened the supply rout to its garrisons in the Northern parts. Israeli intelligence sources adamant that targets were arms distant to Lebanese Shia group Hezbollah, which they could use against Israel. Whether by deduction or by observation it wasn’t and still is not in Israel’s interest to see the Assad regime collapses to be replaced by an unknown alternative,  which is very likely to be hostile to Israel.  Israeli intelligence operators and officials, off the record, say so. The pro-Alqaeda hardline Islamists (wanting total destruction of the Jewish state) are becoming the strongest  among Syian’s position group. If in power they won’t hesitate to turn the arsenal left by the regime against Israel.

Rarely do the Israelis act foolishly ( although when they do the fallout is long lived like when, against the advice of his own security chiefs in 1997 Prime Minister  Bi Bi  Netanyahu ordered the assassination of Hamas leader Khalid Mishaal in Jordan  which backfired badly), so hopefully  Mr Netanyahu is getting a good counsel this  time. According to intelligence sources, the first raid  targeted a military convoy distant to army Hizebollah in Lebanon ( cast as terrorist organisation by the US State Department), which must have included missiles similar to those launched by Hezbollah in 2006 against Israeli civilians .   Some unconfirmed reports, but plausible, suggest the Iranians were pressurising Assad to send more of his arsenal of rockets to Hezbollah. Israeli military analysts went on record ( BBC Radio4 Today programme Monday 6 May) to say Assad himself was the last man in Syria who wants to send his missiles to Hezbollah but pressure from Iran (whose support is crucial to his regime survival). gave no choice but to comply, hence the Israelis had to act swiftly

The second attack Saturday night into early hours of Sunday morning  which the Syrians say targeted a military research facilities, I is thought to be a storage of missiles supplied by Iran. Others suggest  the site  might have also contained either chemical weapons or some equipment tat would enable the missiles to modify the head to carry chemical payload.

predictably, Arab and Muslim commentators are using media at their disposal to turn public opinion against Israel. We heard the predictable noise from Arab nationalists, and Iran urging Arab nations to confront Israel, while Arab League Secretary General Nabil el-Arabi prepare to as UN Security Council for a meeting to condemn Israel. Israel will almost certain use the legal argument of article 51 of the UN charter  ( the right to self defence)  to justify the preemeptive strike as protecting her civilians against imminent danger had the missiles reached Hizbollah .

Assad is likely to score high political points among Arab and Muslim populace, and the ever (irrationally) hostile to Israel  Arab and Muslim press commentators.  There will be pressure on the pro-western conservative Arab Gul governments from their people  since they covertly support Assad’s opponents by supplying arms to rebels.

The next 48 hours are crucial. If, as Assad and his Iranian backers hope, there is a wider popular move in support of Assad  and calling for action against Israel, this  would  lead Iran tp press Hizbollah  to launch an attack against Israel hoping Israel would retaliate. Arab and Muslim public opinion might, Iran hopes,  pressurise  governments like the the Qatari to temporary halt supply of Arms to Assad’s enemies.  Or more likely to push Hamas in Gaza to  to launch rocket attacks on Israel,  as part of the same calculation . In either case  it won’t help end the tragedy in Syria nor will it help civilians in Israel, Gaza or Lebanon.

———————————————————————————————————–©Copyrights Adel Darwish 2013  not to be reproduced in part or whole without permission