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Blowback from Israeli Attack on Syria

SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles of the type Israel attacked in Syria

Any thought that Syria would remain silent about Israel’s attack on a weapons convoy making its way through Syrian territory toward Lebanon was dashed today as not just Syria, but Iran, Russia and Hezbollah all condemned the strike in quite harsh terms:

The Iranian deputy foreign minister warned Thursday that Israel’s strike would lead to “grave consequences for Tel Aviv,” while the Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement saying that the strike “blatantly violates the United Nations Charter and is unacceptable and unjustified, whatever its motives.”

It’s one thing to attack a country in the midst of a civil war with little ability to defend its borders, but quite another to rile two other nations which present quite a different military posture: Russia and Iran.

Iran warned Israel both the day before the Syria attack and today that such an eventuality would bring a sure Iranian response.  This put Israel on notice that it could no longer wield its power in the region without thought of consequences.  From here on, there are consequences and they should be calculated in advance.  Israeli intelligence and military officers are used to having complete freedom of action in their theater of operations.  But the rules of the game are rapidly changing both with the results of the Arab Spring and the continuing deterioration of Israel’s status both in the region and internationally.

Russia has a very complicated relationship with Israel.  On the one hand, it’s an ally of some of Israel’s most implacable adversaries like Iran and Syria; but on the other hand it has an exceedingly close relationship with Avigdor Lieberman and has been rumored to collaborate with Israel clandestinely in various ventures.  Indeed, national security advisor, Yaakov Amidror visited Russia the day before the attack.  I’m not sure whether he was reaming Putin a new asshole for allowing these weapons to be transferred to Hezbollah; or whether he took an entirely different approach.  The question is whether whatever commonalities the two countries share could be torn asunder by Israel changing the rules of the game through this violation of Syrian sovereignty.

Of course, Israel will argue the anti-aircraft missiles in the hands of Hezbollah would’ve changed the rules of the game for Israel and rendered its air power vulnerable to attack by Hezbollah from sophisticated Russian weaponry.  But again what Israel is failing to recognize is that it will be increasingly hemmed in by such limitations.  Enemies who are relatively weak and powerless don’t stay that way forever.  Just because you’ve enjoyed command of air, sea and land for decades doesn’t mean it will remain so.  Things change.  Balances of power change.  The day of unquestioned Israeli supremacy is rapidly drawing to a close.  The question will be whether Israel can make its peace with this development of whether, like Samson, it will shake the pillars of the temple that is the Middle East and bring them down taking itself and all its enemies with it.  Any country with 200 nuclear weapons has the power to do this.

Miraculously, in an entire NY Times article on this subject, Jodi Rudoren couldn’t seem to find a single Israel analyst who exercised any sense of caution or warning of the repercussions from Israel’s attack.  Those she did interview were only concerned with weighing a cost-benefit analysis that justified Israel’s action in the name of keeping weapons out of the hands of its sworn enemy, Hezbollah.  Rudoren couldn’t identify anyone who weighed the costs of Israel’s escalating a civil war involving a single country into a regional showdown among Syria and its allies Iran and Russia.

censored screenshot walla

Screenshot of censored Walla report on Israeli navy interception

Though we know the convoy attacked was carrying Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, we don’t know where these munitions originated.  Given Iran’s strident denunciation of the attack, I believe it’s entirely possible the path the weapons took was not from Russia to Syria, but from Russia to Iran to Syria.  The involvement of Iran in this incident ratchets up the combustibility factor by a factor of ten at least.  Israel and Iran already have enough fuel between them to ignite a regional war.  Do they need more?

One wonders why the Obama administration didn’t think this through more clearly when IDF intelligence chief, Brig. Gen. Aviv Kochavi visited Washington just before the attack, presumably seeking a green light.  I strongly doubt Israel would have attacked unless Kochavi was told the administration had no objections.  Did we not consider that Bashar al-Assad would exploit this attack for his own political benefit?  What better opportunity could we offer him than to present himself to his own people and the rest of the Arab world as a victim bullied in his own house by the Israeli Goliath.  Did we need to do this?

In a possibly related matter, an Israeli source confirms that the Israeli navy intercepted a vessel in the Red Sea carrying weapons.  Four Arab crewman aboard the boat were arrested.  The IDF slapped a gag order on the incident and it cannot be reported in Israel.

The far-right news portal, WND, reported that the ship was flying under a Qatari flag and that it was bound for Lebanon carrying anti-aircraft missiles.  If this is true (and given WND’s track record, that’s a BIG if) the weapons aboard were not destined for Hezbollah, since it has its own weapons supplier and Sunni Qatar isn’t known to support Shiia Hezbollah.  More likely the weapons were headed (again, if this story is true) from Qatar to the Syrian rebels.  This raises the question (which I can’t answer): why would Israel intercept a shipment of arms bound for Syria?  It seems doubtful Israel would try to aid Bashar al-Assad in any way since he’s clearly on his way out.

Walla reported this story (Hebrew) before it was taken down by the censor, saying the weapons were destined for Hezbollah.  If this is the case, then perhaps the Lebanese militia is seeking new arms suppliers in case its Syrian benefactor, Bashar Assad, falls.  But again, I find this theory unlikely since Qatar is known as a major arms supplier for the Sunni Syrian rebels, but has no known affiliation with Hezbollah.

If we concede WND may’ve gotten the story partially right and partially wrong (again a very real possibility), Israel may’ve stopped the ship because it suspected the weapons were from Iran and intended for Hamas.  Israel has intercepted such vessels in the past and I’ve reported on this here.  It also might’ve intercepted the Qatari vessel suspecting that the Emir of Qatar, who just pledged $450-million in support of rebuilding Gaza’s infrastructure, might be branching out into supplying Hamas with weapons as well.  Of all the possibilities outlined above, this and the Syrian rebel scenario are the most likely.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • someone February 1, 2013, 4:56 AM

    Every ship carries a flag of a state.
    It doesn’t mean the ship belongs to the state, or that it carries supply from that state.
    For example, the Karine A had a flag of Tunga, the Francop – Antigua and Victoria – Liberia.
    Bottom line: it’s very possible that this was another Iranian supply to Hezbollah.
    You can stop taunting the IDF on twitter now.

    • Richard Silverstein February 1, 2013, 2:33 PM

      In this case the ship was Qatari & carrying the Qatari flag and Qatar is not know as a country allowing flags of convenience as Liberia & others do. Not to mention that Israeli intelligence would’ve likely known this ship was leaving Qatar & been tracking it. If they didn’t know what they should’ve known about it then maybe they’re not the vaunted intelligence service they’re made out to be.

  • shachalnur February 1, 2013, 5:52 PM

    Keep the option open israel is “helping” Assad.
    Silvan Shalom had a freudian slip(in Hebrew) a few days ago,stating”Chemical weapons got into the hands of “Opposition”.
    that excludes hezbollah.
    Quantum leap;
    Israel is being thrown under the bus by their former”friends”.
    Israel has served it’s purpose for the puppetmasters,and will be sacrificed.
    US/EUROPE/NATO are pushing Israel into a war ,she doesn’t want.
    The NATO “rebels” might be planning a chemical false flag on Israel,that would set the region on fire.
    Israel is doing everything to stop this war from exploding,including pre-empting “rebels” if nessesary.
    Iran ,Syria,Lebanon,Russia and Israel don’t want war now,US/Europe do.

  • dickerson3870 February 2, 2013, 3:00 AM

    RE: “Of course, Israel will argue the anti-aircraft missiles in the hands of Hezbollah would’ve changed the rules of the game for Israel and rendered its air power vulnerable to attack by Hezbollah from sophisticated Russian weaponry.” ~ R.S.

    FOR A DIFFERENT TAKE, SEE – “Israeli Attack: Desperate Bid to Save Failed Syrian Campaign”, by Tony Cartalucci, Land Destroyer, 1/31/13

    [EXCERPTS] . . . The Israeli “suspicions” of “weapon transfers” of course, remain unconfirmed, because the purpose of the attack was not to prevent the transfer of “chemical weapons” to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but to provoke a wider conflict aimed not at Israel’s defense, but at salvaging the West’s floundering proxy terrorist forces inside Syria attempting to subvert and overthrow the Syrian nation. . .
    . . . It must be remembered that as far back as 2007, it was admitted by US, Saudi and Lebanese officials that the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia were intentionally arming, funding, and organizing these “global jihadists” with direct ties to Al Qaeda for the explicit purpose of overthrowing the governments of Syria and Iran. . .
    . . . Indeed, Israel’s explanation as to why it struck neighboring Syria is tenuous at best considering its long, documented relationship with actually funding and arming the very “global jihaidists” it fears weapons may fall into the hands of. . .
    . . . In reality, the pressure placed on Syria’s borders by both Israel and its partner, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Turkey in the north, is part of a documented plan to relieve pressure on the Western, Israeli, Saudi-Qatari armed and funded militants operating inside Syria.
    The above mentioned, Fortune 500-funded (page 19), US foreign-policy think-tank, Brookings Institution – which has blueprinted designs for regime change in Libya as well as both Syria and Iran – stated this specifically in their report titled, “Assessing Options for Regime Change.”
    Brookings describes how Israeli efforts in the south of Syria, combined with Turkey’s aligning of vast amounts of weapons and troops along its border to the north, could help effect violent regime change in Syria . . .
    . . . Of course, airstrikes inside Syria . . . indicate perhaps a level of desperation in the West who appear to have elected their chief villain, Israel, to incrementally “intervene” just as they had planned in regards to attacking Iran – also documented by Brookings in a report titled, “Which Path to Persia?” . . .
    . . . Israel’s role is to play the “bad guy.” As a regional beachhead for Western corporate-financier interests, it provides a “foot in the door” to any of the West’s many desired conflicts. By bombing Syria, it hopes to provoke a wider conflict – an intervention the West has desired and planned for since it tipped off Syria’s violent conflict in 2011. . .
    For Syria and its allies – the goal now must be to deter further Israeli aggression and avoid wider conflict at all costs. If NATO’s proxy terrorist forces are as weak as they appear – incapable of tactical or strategic gains, and tapering off into desperate terrorist attacks, it is only a matter of time before NATO’s campaign grinds to a halt. As mentioned before, such a failure on NATO’s part will be the beginning of the end for it, and the Western interests that have been using it as a tool to achieve geopolitical hegemony.
    Israel should be expected to commit to increasingly desperate acts to provoke Syria and Iran – as its leadership represent directly corporate-financier interests abroad, not the Israeli people, or their best interests (including peace and even survival). For the people of Israel, they must realize that their leadership indeed does not represent them or their best interests and is able, willing, and even eager to spend their lives and fortunes in the service of foreign, corporate-financier interests and global hegemony.

    ENTIRE COMMENTARY – http://landdestroyer.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/israeli-attack-desperate-bid-to-save.html#more

    • dickerson3870 February 2, 2013, 3:31 AM

      P.S. ALSO RE: “Of course, Israel will argue the anti-aircraft missiles in the hands of Hezbollah would’ve changed the rules of the game for Israel and rendered its air power vulnerable to attack by Hezbollah from sophisticated Russian weaponry.” ~ R.S.

      FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES, 1/31/13:

      . . . But if weapons were targeted, analysts said, it is not even clear that they belonged to Hezbollah. Arab and Israeli analysts said another possibility was that Syria was simply aiming to move some weapons to Lebanon for safekeeping. While there are risks for Hezbollah that accepting them could draw an Israeli attack, said Emile Hokayem, a Bahrain-based analyst at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, there is also an upside: “If Assad goes down, they have the arms.”
      Elias Hanna, a retired Lebanese general and professor at the American University of Beirut, said that SA-17s made little sense for Hezbollah because they require large launching systems that use radar and would be easy targets for Israel. Syria, he said, needs SA-17s in case of international intervention in its civil war.
      Those suggestions comported with the account of a Syrian officer who said in a recent interview that the heavily guarded military area around the Jamraya research facility was used as a weapons transfer station to southern Lebanon and Syria’s coastal government stronghold of Tartous for safekeeping, in convoys of tractor-trailer trucks.

      SOURCE – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/01/world/middleeast/syrias-confirmation-of-airstrike-may-undercut-israels-strategy-of-silence.html?hp

      • Michael February 2, 2013, 4:46 AM

        The first text claims Israel is “funding and arming the very “global jihaidists” it fears”. Any good examples? Or we go on with the blood libel?

        Regarding Hezbollah use of SA-17 – I’m afraid Elias Hanna Is bluntly wrong. His claim also applies to, say, C-802 missiles but hey! Hezbollah (or Iranian troops) did fire several such missiles at the 2006 war, almost sinking INS Hanit. Specifically, such large missiles can be concealed and used as part of an ambush:
        (unfortunatly, no English translation…)

    • Richard Silverstein February 3, 2013, 12:43 AM

      This is WAY too conspiratorial & byzantine for me to follow. Reality is complicated enough without adding extra layers of it as Cartalluci does.

  • Fred Plester February 2, 2013, 7:16 AM

    Gag order makes it a bit difficult to tell if they might have released the vessel upon checking the delivery address.

    Certainly Qatar wants the rebels to be able to defend urban areas they capture, or every success will turn, somewhat literally, to ashes.

    But Qatar also wants Lebanon to be able to assert sovereignty over her own land.
    This means that Syria, Hezbollah and Israel are all equally unwelcome. I cannot see Qatar equipping Hezbollah, but I can see them equipping the Lebanese Army and generally trying to make the Lebanese state top dog in Lebanon. Qatar might do all sorts of things which Israel doesn’t like, but it’s probably got American, British and French approval for whatever it is up to. Israel and Syria have effectively imposed a non-state solution on Lebanon since the eighties, ironically, Iran is the only other country with anything to gain from this. The rest of the world wants Lebanon back as a cohesive and economically productive state.

    As for the argument over whether the Israeli air-raid struck a road convoy carrying SA17 missiles, or a research centre, the most probable explanation is that both things happened at more or less the same time: if you were going to lay on defence suppression and fighter escorts for one strike package to penetrate Syrian defences, you’d want to strike anything else that seemed urgent at the same time and send a second package through the same window of opportunity.

  • shachalnur February 2, 2013, 9:09 AM

    There we go.
    Debkafila;Turkey’s foreign minister Davotuglu,suggested that there’s collaboration between israel and Assad.
    the attack was to help Assad.
    sorry,that’s what the Turkish FM said.
    Becuase of the absence of real info all options have to be kept open.
    Israel attacking the NATO-“rebels” is not that unlogical if you keep in mind the huge changes in alliances going on.
    the game has changed.

  • shachalnur February 2, 2013, 10:48 AM

    Essential intelligence network,blogspot.mx.”Israel’s placebo defense policy”
    Much closer to the truth than MSM.

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