Israel discovered the downside of relying on Arab allies in its attacks on its enemies. The NY Times just exposed the failure of Israel’s July 5th attack on a Syrian government weapons arsenal. After the assault on the facility in Latakia, reporters said the target had been Russian-made Yakhonts anti-ship missiles. Most observers assumed the attack had been successful since it had destroyed the warehouse in which the weapons were believed to be stored.
The Times has just revealed via U.S. intelligence sources that government forces moved the targeted missiles before Israel bombed the location. The story says that “some” of the missiles were saved. My hunch is that all of them were saved.
The Times report does not reveal that Assad learned of the attack beforehand and spoiled Israel’s plan. Thanks to my well-placed Israeli source I’ve learned the secret. I was the only media outlet to report earlier that Israel collaborated with the Free Syrian Army in this attack. The latter launched a diversionary assault that was intended to draw government forces away from the depot. This plan also allowed Israel to put out the story that the FSA was responsible for the attack and so divert attention from the IAF as the author of the operation. But in planning it, Israel revealed key details to rebel commanders, one of whom was a spy for the government. This individual revealed the plan and Assad was able to move the Yakhonts from the warehouse.
This represents yet another defeat for Israeli intelligence. It put together an extremely ambitious plan that involved collaboration with forces it had previously not worked closely with in this context: Israeli planes took off from a Turkish air base and the FSA joined in the attack. As any engineer will tell you, the more elements there are to a plan, the more chance that one of them will fail.
This development also reveals how unreliable the rebel forces are. They cannot be trusted to maintain the secrets of their allies. They are riddled with moles and spies. Though I detest Assad, I have to say that he has pulled the rug out from under the IDF and the FSA in this operation.
Israel will of course have other opportunities to attack these missiles. Presumably, however Israel learned they were housed in Latakia, it may get another opportunity to learn their next location. But in the cat and mouse game that is the Syrian civil war, Assad has a victory, Israel a defeat. But if you’re rooting for the Blue and White, don’t despair. It’s a long game. There will be other chances, just as there will be other chances for Hezbollah and Assad to find chinks in Israel’s armor.