Thursday, September 13, 2007

Israel playing war games?

Speculation is continuing over whether or not Israel carried out an airstrike inside Syria last week. The Jerusalem Post quotes a Kuwaiti newspaper report, which claims Israel targeted Iranian missile batteries, and that Syrian President Bashar Assad is under pressure to hit back. CNN says the strikes may have been aimed at weapons supplies destined for Hezbollah, and quotes Israeli sources as saying the attacks "left a big hole in the desert".

If it’s confirmed that Israel did carry out an airstrike, it’ll be criticised for launching an unprovoked attack. But Syria’s support for Hezbollah in last year’s war, and its continued arming of that and other terrorist groups, are acts of aggression, and Israel has every right to retaliate; and anyway, in the eyes of much of international opinion, Israel is damned if it does and damned if it doesn’t.

It might be that Israel is playing a clever game here, by launching an attack knowing that Syria wouldn’t want to acknowledge that Israeli aircraft had penetrated its air defences and taken out important, and supposedly secret military installations. If Syria is too embarrassed to respond, or too fearful, Israel may well carry out further hit-and-run raids.

And if Assad does bow to pressure to hit back, Syria’s attacks are likely to be as conspicuous, indiscriminate and ineffective as some analysts are saying Israel’s was discrete, precise and successful. And Israel would then have the perfect justification for launching overt and large-scale attacks on Syria, striking its air force and air defences, and going after Hezbollah’s training camps and supply lines.

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