Syria, which it attacked last Thursday dropping munitions either on a military installation or a “deserted area” depending on whom you believe? Or Iran? When I noted the latter possibility yesterday, I did so with only the vaguest notion that there could be something to this hunch. But other journalists better informed than I have followed in these footsteps as Josh Landis notes at SyriaComment today.
He links to a Time article that posits a possible dry run for an attack on Iranian nuclear installations:
…The mission was of sufficient importance to endanger air crews and risk a serious escalation of tensions with Damascus. Mohammed Raad, a senior Hizballah official, suggested that the overflight was an attempt to “identify an aggressive aerial passage” for an air strike against Iran. Analysts long have pondered the potential flight routes Israeli bombers would take in the event of a decision to target Iran’s nuclear sites. Given the limitations of aircraft range, one option would be to…follow the Turkish-Syrian border eastward to Iraqi Kurdistan, and then on to Iran.
The article also suggests an equally plausible scenario involving Iran:
In August, Syria reportedly received from Russia the first batch of 50 Pantsyr S1E short-range air defense systems, part of an alleged sale worth almost $1 billion. The deal is said to have been financed by Iran, which reportedly will receive from Syria some of the Pantsyr units and deploy them to protect its nuclear facilities. The recently developed Pantsyr, which its Russian manufacturers claim is immune to jamming, includes surface-to-air missiles and 30mm Gatling guns, providing complete defensive coverage for a range of 11 to 12 miles and 6 miles in altitude. Pantsyr batteries could pose a serious challenge to either an Israeli or a U.S. air strike on Iran. So were the Israeli aircraft playing a perilous game of chicken to assess the capabilities of the Pantsyr system in response to their countermeasures? Some in Syria believe so.
“There seems to be a consensus here that the Israelis were testing Syrian air defense systems,” Andrew Tabler, Damascus-based editor of Syria Today, told TIME.
Perhaps I’m being alarmist–one rarely goes wrong in anticipating the worst in relations between Mideast nations–but I have a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach about this. I just don’t see Ehud Olmert or the IDF high command tinkering with new toys or seeking to tweak Bashir Assad as the reason for this incident. If I’m right it doesn’t bode well for the future because it will either involve hostilities with Syrian or Iran. Just what the Mideast and the rest of the world need right now. Another war.
U.S. State Department silence is practically deafening. I’d like to know if the U.S. is prepared for Israel to drag us into conflict with either of those countries? Of course this is rhetorical since I believe it’s likely the Bushites would be willing to do so. But is the Congress and are the rest of us willing to go along? That’s the question.