Israeli media are reporting (Hebrew and now in English) an attack on Syria’s missile infrastructure in the port city of Latakia. It is Syria’s main port where it receives all weapons that arrive by sea. Russia, one of Bashar al-Assad’s main military patrons sends much of his missile systems via Latakia, which explains why this is at least Israel’s third attack. The first attack, first reported here last July as Israeli in origin, was supposed to have wiped out the Russian Yakhont anti-ship missile system. However, Israel had coordinated the attack with the FSA, and an informer planted by the regime warned Assad of the it. Most of the weapons components were removed before the Israeli air force attacked. Thus, an Israeli triumph turned to ashes.
We still do not know what Israel’s target was. My Israeli source will only confirm reports attributed to the rebels that Israel was responsible for the attack. He’s contacted a military-intelligence official who told him jokingly, the latter wouldn’t say anything further about the attack since:
“Anyway, the Americans will leak it in a day or two.
If you get your news solely from Haaretz (and you wouldn’t if you’re reading this), you’ll read this bit of nonsense from Amos Harel:
…There are serious doubts as to whether Israel in fact carried out the attack.
He supports this claim by arguing that if the report was true the U.S. would’ve leaked the information by now. What he neglects is that the U.S. usually waits a day or two before doing so. Since the attack just happened, the U.S. isn’t likely to respond immediately. Not to mention that it’s slightly distracted by two sets of Geneva peace talks: the Iran nuclear negotiations and Syria talks.
UPDATE: Kol Yisrael (Israel State radio) reports:
A member of the Syrian opposition says warehouses containing Russian missiles were attacked in Latakia tonight. In a conversation with our reporter, Eran Singer, the man claimed the targets suffered a direct hit and, in his words, Israeli planes had attacked them.
This FoxNews report confirms the story. The Telegraph quotes former IDF intelligence chief, Amos Yadlin saying that if the target was the S-300 missiles, then such an attack would be in keeping with declared Israeli policy:
“Israel has declared four weapons system as a red line: advanced air defences, advanced and accurate ballistic missiles, surface-to-sea advanced missiles like Yakhont, and chemical weapons.”
“In each case where Israel has intelligence that these are moving from Syria to Lebanon, or arriving to Syria from Iran or Russia, it seems – if the sources are right – that Israel is acting upon this,” he told the Telegraph.
Returning to the goal of the mission, these same rebels are saying that the goal was to neutralize SA-300 missile launchers. At this point, this is mere speculation. But it certainly would be what Israeli intelligence would want you to think. There is dispute among experts about whether Assad has one of Russia’s most advanced weapons system; and if he does, whether it’s operable.
The timing of this attack is curious: world powers are now meeting in Geneva to find a way to resolve the Syrian civil war. The U.S. is working hard to broker a deal between the regime and opposition. Israel opposes Assad and has thrown in its lot both with the rebels and their Gulf allies, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. This is due to Assad’s alliance with Israel’s sworn enemy, Iran.
Given that Assad has made progress on the battlefield and the resistance has become bogged down in internecine strife between Al Qaeda affiliated forces and less radical Islamists, it’s curious Israel would inject itself into the mix. Unless of course it was saying it didn’t give a crap about international talks and wanted to settle matters its own way on its own terms and in its own time. That would be characteristic of Israel. Not to mention that Israel’s leadership is royally pissed at the Obama administration for putting them in thumbscrews over Israel-Palestine negotiations. So poking John Kerry in the eye in the midst of the Geneva talks would be something that would delight Bibi Netanyahu.
I want to put two journalists on notice about their own previous reporting on Israeli attacks on Assad’s regime. First, Barbara Starr of CNN was the first MSM reporter who published anything about the last Latakia assault. She had U.S. intelligence sources for her story. But she of course neglected to credit my prior reporting.
Ehud Yaari, a sometimes Israeli TV journalist, had the effrontery to go on Israeli TV and call my earlier Latakia report a lie. I should note that Yaari, who earlier in his career worked for the IDF’s Israeli Civil Administration in the West Bank, and who might have some security or intelligence related background, is currently a Fellow at the inaptly-named Washington Institute for Near East Peace. WINEP is a think tank formerly affiliated with Aipac, but which retains all of its pro-Israel ideological associations with that group. Yaari is quoted regularly by unsuspecting NY Times reporters (today by David Kirkpatrick) who believe his analysis to be independent and trustworthy. His opinions are no more trustworthy than Tamir Pardo’s or Bibi Netanyahu’s. I wrote to Yaari asking him to prove I was lying and that if he couldn’t he should retract his lie about me. He never bothered to reply. If he says it again it will be him who’s the liar, and doubly so.
Should you dismiss my query above about Yaari’s possible connection to Israeli intelligence sources, you’ll recall that a then obscure Israeli intelligence official, Yoram Cohen, who most recently had served as number 2 at the Shabak and was facing a forced retirement, once served as an analyst for WINEP. Then, Sara Netanyahu balked at Yuval Diskin’s chosen successor, Yitzhak Ilan, who was guaranteed the job, and Yoram Cohen’s career was revived from the dead.
WINEP features this photo of Yaari which inspires this multiple choice quiz:
Who is this man?
a) Hollywood film mogul
b) a Mossad agent
c) a mafiosi
d) the Lafer International [aka Hasbara] Fellow in International Relations at WINEP
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.