As I said during the Azmi Bishara case a few months back, things just keep getting curiouser and curiouser regarding Israel’s attack on Syria last Thursday. After hearing Syria claim Israel fired missiles into the ground and Israel look like the cat that swallowed the canary while it stayed mum about the entire affair–Josh Landis notes that CNN is confirming that Israel actually did attack a Syrian military installation–possibly a missile factory or a shipment of missiles. Christiane Amanpour, who reports the story, goes on to make the astounding claim that IDF ground forces may have even been involved:
But the sources told CNN the military operation, which happened Wednesday into Thursday, may have also involved Israeli ground forces who directed the airstrike, which “left a big hole in the desert” in Syria.
Man, if that’s true this is going to be one holy mess. It’s bad enough to bomb another country. But to land ground troops there as well? Of course, the Syrians deny this but given the lies or misinformation they’ve been spreading one wonders what they know about what’s happening right under their own noses on their own territory.
The Bush Administration of course is mighty pleased with Israel flexing its muscles against one of the Axis of Evil wannabe powers. In fact, the Bushites seem to elevating Syria to North Korea status with this NY Times quotation:
One Bush administration official said Israel had recently carried out reconnaissance flights over Syria, taking pictures of possible nuclear installations that Israeli officials believed might have been supplied with material from North Korea.
That’s right. The fact that North Korea gave or sold Syria god knows what nuclear detritus has been elevated to a “nuclear installation.” As if Syria has now become an Arab nuclear power. This nonsense has John Bolton (or maybe Dick Cheney) written all over it. Remember he’s the guy who said the Syrians and Cubans were preparing biological and chemical weapons with only a bit more evidence than Mel Gibson had when he told that Malibu cop that Jews ran the world.
The Times quotes a Bush Administration source saying:
He said it was unclear whether the Israeli strike had produced any evidence that might validate that belief.
One of those lovely government-speak phrases that often float from the lips of untrustworthy Israeli and U.S. sources who wish to insinuate that something might exist which likely doesn’t. If there were any such “evidence” both countries would be touting it in the news media as proof of North Korean-Syrian nuclear perfidy.
Don’t you just love this Times explanation of why they granted their source anonymity:
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were discussing a military action by another government.
Ah, yes we do respect Israel’s sovereignty in this matter and wouldn’t deign to do anything to step on their toes. But Syria’s sovereignty? Well, now that’s another matter entirely. Besides, this guy’s lyin’ through his teeth. Why would attaching his name to what he said be seen as impinging on Israel’s attack against Syria?
Condi Rice must be going absolutely apoplectic right about now. A week or so ago she’s touting a nuclear accord with North Korea. Then here comes Johnny Bolton and Dick Cheney pulling the rug right out from under her. She thought she was a good bureaucratic infighter. The neocons respond in true Jay Geils Band-fashion: “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet, baby.” They’re out to make her look like an utter fool. And what does this say about the Bush Administration? It seems like a Roman gladiatorial ring with the neocons battling to the death against the moderates. I’d say in this sort of internal chaos some of the worst damage can happen in a presidential administration. Just watch out regarding Iran. This bodes ill.
Josh thinks there still something “off” about the CNN story. And I agree. I still think that this is an opening salvo in the coming war against Iran. This is an Cheneyesque shout out to the mullahs letting them know what’s in store. I think we’re seeing the initial outline of a coordinated U.S.-Israeli military strategy that will further develop down the line. This attack tells us to expect military action against Iran; and to expect that it will either be done solely by Israel but with deep U.S. support. Or that it will be done by the U.S. and Israel with each taking a portion of the military operation.
Josh does us the service of quoting in full a pitch-perfect column in the Jerusalem Post, of all places, by Larry Derfner castigating the Israeli media for the docile approach to this important story:
For once, Israelis seem to believe that Syria is telling the truth – that Israeli jets invaded Syria’s airspace last Thursday…
The reason Israelis believe the Syrian story is because if it wasn’t true, Israel would deny it. Why would Israel deny it? Because countries aren’t supposed to fly their jets into another country’s airspace without permission. It’s considered an invasion. An act of aggression. It gives the invaded country a causus belli – a justification to strike back.
In short, it’s wrong. It’s the sort of thing that starts wars, and countries are supposed to try to avoid wars, not start them.
So Israeli leaders have nothing to say about the Syrian reports. This is the diplomatic equivalent of a wink. Everyone understands.
What’s hard to understand, though, is how the Israeli media can be so docile, so obedient, in the face of such a reckless Israeli act. I was watching Channel 2 Thursday night, and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, or rather not hearing.
None of the journalists, who clearly assumed that this incident had really taken place, thought it worth mentioning that Israel had just risked starting a war with Syria. None of them challenged Israeli officials on the wisdom of this. All they talked about was what Syria might do now, whether Syria would go to war. That Israel had just provoked Syria, had just escalated the conflict, was the elephant in the newsroom that they pretended not to see.
This has been the tenor of the coverage ever since…hardly a hint about the incredible risk Israel took, about the morality of tossing a lighted match in a dry forest as this country’s leaders just did.
It’s almost surrealistic. It’s like there’s a conspiracy of silence. The people who are supposed to ask questions act as if they’ve been lobotomized. I feel a little bit like I’m living in a police state.
Here Derfner castigates Israel’s leaders for the hypocrisy of their actions:
Since Thursday, spokesmen for this country have been trying to calm everyone down, assuring everyone that Israel doesn’t want war.
What a joke. If Israel wanted to calm things down with Syria, why did it fly its jets into Syrian airspace at a time like this? If Israel doesn’t want war, why did it risk war?
Derfner here raises an important comparison to Israel’s behavior during the Lebanon war:
IT TURNS OUT that nothing has changed since last summer’s war in Lebanon. With rare exceptions, the Israeli media didn’t ask any questions then, and they aren’t asking any questions now. Same with the public. In fact, the situation seems to have gotten worse. Last summer’s war was started, after all, by Hizbullah, so even Meretz, even I supported it at first. The failure by the media and the public came later, when they didn’t ask what purpose Israel had in continuing the fighting indefinitely. Now we’ve got a situation where the country has gone mum after its leaders behaved recklessly not in self-defense, as in Lebanon, but in aggression.
I’d agree with Derfner. Though I would say that everything about the Lebanon war mirrors this action. The Israeli response was reckless, ill-prepared and ill-focused. It was the military equivalent of chest-thumping, rather than a well-executed, surgically-precise operation. The Syrian incursion promises to be more of the same. Though Israel hasn’t gone on the rampage as it did in Lebanon, it wouldn’t take much to start a bloodbath between Israel and Syria which might drag other powers into the maelstrom.
Finally, this common sense from Derfner is what is sorely lacking both in Israel and the White House right about now. Alas, there’s little hope that anyone with any say in the matter is listening or even cares what such a sensible analyst has to say, and that’s the tragedy of the situation:
We’ve set up a strict double standard for ourselves and the Arabs. We believe Israel is entitled to breach Syrian airspace, or Lebanese airspace, because – well, because they’re bad and we’re good. But if they breach ours? If Syrian jets dared fly over Israeli territory, everybody knows what would happen – we’d shoot them down without a moment’s hesitation. And afterward we’d complain to the whole world, we’d say, “You see? The Arabs are trying to kill us all, just like the Nazis.” Yet if, on the other hand, Israeli jets fly over Syria – and get away with it? Wink, wink. The little country with the big heart has done it again. Damn, we’re good.
Despite what some readers think, I’m not one of those people who blame Israel for all of the Middle East’s troubles, who think the Arabs would leave Israel alone if we’d only leave them alone. That’s a ridiculous idea. But it’s no less ridiculous to claim that Israel wants peace with its whole being and it’s only the Arabs who are preventing it. I think Thursday’s incident showed otherwise.
For once, Israelis are shutting their mouths and not leeking everything to the press. I wonder how long that will last, So far, so good. It’s a moment to enjoy.
Richard Silverstein says
Before the bombs fly…
Yours is a nonsensically smug response. You think Syria won’t exact revenge? You think this won’t involve the deaths of Israelis? Go ahead be smug. But when the other shoe drops–and it will–you’ll have me reminding you that for every action there is an equal & opposite reaction–basic laws of physics & ME politics.
Until then, let me enjoy the moment.
That should say “leaking”
Leila A. says
I’m sorry, what’s so different about this particular bombing? Israel has been bombing Lebanon with impunity for forty years. Is it that Lebanon just doesn’t count? Or Israel has been doing it to Lebanon for so long that everybody is just accustomed to the violations and thinks they are normal?
Make no mistake, I agree that it’s outrageous to bomb another country with no provocation. I just wonder why you think this is something new…
Strange man, strange
All is fine and dandy Lanis is the source of truth, very fine. But you write : The fact that North Korea gave or sold Syria god knows what nuclear detritus….. Man, would you live in a house with nuclear detritus ? What is PRNC doing selling this stuff? What is Syria going to do with such junk? Can you get me a Kg. of this just to spead in my yard? talking about responsibility, madness and the like.
Well I see at the bottom of the post that somebody (was it Drefner in the Jerusalem Post?) reminds us of Israeli incursions over Lebanon. It certainly has been going on for most of my life (I’m 45) and at the cost of many human casualties. Like tens of thousands.
Ira Glunts says
Josh thinks there still something “off” about the CNN story. And I agree. I still think that this is an opening salvo in the coming war against Iran. This is an Cheneyesque shout out to the mullahs letting them know what’s in store.
According to Ynet, FOX says Bush has had it with diplomatic efforts to stop Iran’s nuclear program. This is the headliner on both the English and Hebrew versions of Ynet at 5:33 PM est. The Hebrew version has a nice little side bar on the alleged Israeli attack on Syria plus the information they are talking about attacking in 8 to 10 months.
I agree that this incident is serious business as well as reckless and clearly militarily aggressive. I wonder if some of this isn’t partly psychological–in a puffed-up chest watch us strut kind of way–on Israel’s part, though. A way of saying ‘fuck you, we’re more powerful than you piss-ants and we can do whatever we want. After all, we’ve got the greatest power in the world at our back, ready to do our beck and call’. I’m not sure, but some Israeli actions strike me this way. I perceive this feeling of smugness like we’re superior and special and you rag-heads can stuff it, we’ll rough you up a bit, drop a few bombs, if we feel like it. A lot of Israeli actions seem as if they’re welling up from some kind of deep psychosis and hatred toward the rest of the world (or at least their immediate neighbors). Talk about being a good neighbor!
P.S.–You can sadly say the same for a lot of U.S. action in the world today, and on a much bigger scale (Iraq!), as well. It’s painful to have to say this about one’s own country.
Richard Silverstein says
Leila: I hope this doesn’t sound cynical but the diff. is that Lebanon cannot start a regional war in a response to such Israeli aggression while Syria can. Syria is a much more dangerous adversary for Israel than Lebanon.
To be clear, I am not defending any of Israel’s actions against Lebanon.
Richard Silverstein says
Neither one of these countries are paragons of virtue. But you can’t say that the U.S. & Israel haven’t tried to drive Syria into such desperate straits that it would do dirty deals w. N. Korea. If both nations tried harder to reach an accomodation w. Syria rather than driving it into the arms of the likes of Iran & N. Korea, then perhaps this wouldn’t have happened.
One does not know what happened there so all the psychological observations are interesting and no more. As for IDF planes flying over Lebanon. From about 1947-8 to about 1967 the Lebanon Israel border did not see any war like action, unlike the rest of the Arab Israeli borders. Consequently the IDF did not fly over Lebanon. By about that time some body decided that Lebanon should be the tip of the Arab sword in the fight to Liberate Palestine, the rest is well known. Israeli war planes are not flying over Egypt and Jordan, though the Egyptian army is the best armed and well trained Arab army. But civilian planes do. The best way to prevent Israeli war planes from flying over Lebanon is either to get into the 1947-1967 situation or the Egyptian Jordenian situation. Presently it is Lebanon that have declared that it will not sign any peace treaty with Israel, will not conduct any direct talks with Israel and will support and aid war efforts from its soil against Israel, as long as this is done, against the wishes of the international community as expressed by the UN security council, Israeli planes will fly over Lebanon and if and when Israel is attacked from Lebanon will respond accordingly. Most nations that have diplomatic relations with Arab Muslim countries and Israel have accepted this situation which can be easily solved by Lebanon signing some papers, not even a peace treaty.
The excuse that if Israel and or the USA would not have done this or that Syria would not have messed with radioactive materials is lame. As every body knows messing with such materials is everybody and the whole world business. To some rummor mongers this can realy be the reason why Syria which is complaining about some thing does not show a thing, as they say “were is the body?”. Why not bring the agents of the media ? what are you complaining about any how?. The only material facts, as of now, are from Turkey and these tanks could have come from every where. Also this kind of excuse is over used by some Israeli and some Jews “because you or he or she or them or they have done this and this to us we are allowed to do any thing to them”. To some people, even on this blog, this is a great no no no argument and is not acceptd at all. Not all things that happen in the ME are generated by actions of the USA and Israel.
John Yorke says
Yes, Richard, I would agree with you that this incident may indeed represent a step too far in these cat-and-mouse games played out between Israel and her neighbours.
What this promotes is an awareness of uncertainty, a shifting in the uneasy balance between potential combatants. That is never a good state of mind for any of them to be in, even at the best of times. The whole situation really needs some long-term stability, a means of knowing for sure that the other side is not contemplating some new or sudden adventure beyond that which passes for normal traffic.
Stabilisation, as you know, is rarely the norm in the sphere of Middle East Middle relations; always too much going on, too many people trying to upset the apple-cart for that to happen.
What’s needed is a constant braking effort applied to proceedings there, a mandatory scaling-down of the possibilities for incalculable harm being done to and by all concerned.
Well, my take on that you already know: http://yorketowers.blogspot.com . You may think a chance conversation in a Nuremberg restaurant one evening nearly twenty years ago hardly constitutes a viable alternative to this conflict; the odds are so overwhelmingly against it.
But overwhelming odds can be overcome; sometimes with the minimum of effort.
Let me tell you something about ‘odds.’ This all actually happened to me over the weekend.
Last Friday, driving home from work, I was in conversation with my manager. The week had not gone well. The machine I was working on had been ‘down’ for five or six days; a veritable eternity from the customer’s point of view. Basically we were discussing what was planned for the following Monday. This involved exchanging the very last two parts that hadn’t already been changed. He then reminded me, quite forcefully, to complete and send back to personnel a form I had omitted to deal with some months previously. To me this form was the equivalent of company junk mail; a yearly confirmation of my personal details held in its computers; a matter of surely trifling importance.
I spent most of Saturday morning looking for this document. Where was it? Had I thrown it out with the trash? Was it lurking in some dark hole, never to be seen again? Eventually, after some hours, I found it, having trawled through masses of other equally redundant paperwork. I duly signed and dated it, put it in an envelope, addressed the envelope and then went to look for a stamp. On passing my table, now piled high with paperwork of every description, I noticed a small brown envelope lying on the top. I examined it and found inside, to my great surprise, a legacy from my aunt Julia dating back some thirty years. It appeared to be her entire life-savings. I now surmise it must have been floating about the house for the best part of twenty years.
Suddenly the company document went on the back-burner while I sought out the website of the bank referred to in the legacy. I then contacted the bank. I was advised to send all documentation to their head office where a free tracing facility would track down the accounts in question. These accounts stretched back well over half a century. Having made photostats my aunt’s nomination, I placed these in another envelope and wrote upon it the address the bank had given me.
I now had two letters to post and was about to do so when I noticed something very strange. Both envelopes had the same postcode. Their destination was, as indeed I later determined, a single office building somewhere in or near Glasgow, Scotland.
The ‘odds’ against discovering a 30 year old legacy after 20 years are heavy enough but that, coupled with having two sets of such diverse documents terminating in the very same building, one of countless thousands throughout the UK, might well suggest something other than mere random chance. Fate? Destiny? Aunt Julia? Who knows?
Even the unlikeliest set of circumstances can sometimes generate the best of all possible outcomes.
Additional: One of the parts I’d ordered for that broken machine solved its problems on the Monday. This week has seen such an improvement over last. Yesterday was also my birthday. I really don’t think I could have asked for a much better present than the one I received.
First of all let me wish you a Shana Tova Tikatevu and to all your Muslim readers a Ramadan Mubarak. This incident, which now given all the various statements from every corner apparently did take place, has led to more speculation than the Preakness. It could have been directed at Syrian installations, it could have been meant as a warning to Syria, it could have targeted trans-shipments of Hezbollah arms through Syria, or it could have been an electronic foray intended to start mapping Syria’s air defenses as a prelude to an attack on Iran, etc etc. In any case it is a prelude to nothing good, thats for sure. Larry Derfner’s lament regarding the silent Israeli media provides perhaps the most insghtful aspect of this entire incident to my mind. I notice in the media, on many weblogs, in the internet forums, in conversations, that too many Israelis and Israel’s (Jewish) supporters have been driven into a dark psychological corner from the events of the past years. Hamas in Gaza, Hezbollah and the failed war in 2006, rising Shia extremism across the ME, failure in Iraq, Iran’s rising influence and atomic program, lack of progress on a settlement with the Palestinians have all contributed to make too many feel that the moment of ‘existential survival’ is about to arrive once again for the state of Israel. Hopelessness breeds desperation and blinds to other possibilities. There is almost no doubt that another war is on the horizon and Israel marches towards it like lemmings to a cliff instead of working hard and in creative ways to change the dynamics that are in her power to change (a daring wide ranging peace settlement with the Palestinians and diplomatic relations with Sunni Arab countries). This is a frightening and dangerous moment and the lack of visionary and courageous leaders does not bode well. Let’s pray and advocate for peace but I fear the worst.
Peace, shalom and salaam.
Great post Lenny. Couldn’t have said it any better than that.
Happy Birthday John. Don’t spend it all in one place. And never confuse coincidence with fate.
John Yorke says
Thanks you for your good wishes, Bart.
As far as coincidence and fate are concerned I look at it this way.
If the money buy the groceries for the rest of the year, it’s coincidence.
If it allows me to retire next month and do some of the things I’ve always wanted to do in life, then it’s fate.
But have also you noticed the symbolism? We have here two communications, both fixed on a common goal yet each incapable of realising maximum potential without the other. Richard’s blog and my own, perhaps? Between us we might indeed be able to resolve this problem that has dogged mankind for quite long enough. It’s sometimes a strange combination of factors that determines what we can achieve, what it is possible to attain.
Like Aunt Julia’s legacy, the answer may have always been there, unnoticed and unclaimed.
In any event, maybe it’s not just my birthday this month. I’d like to think something else has been born as well..