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Syria ups the ante, Israel responds

A few days ago I mentioned a story, which first broke in the Arab press and was then verified by Israeli intelligence, that Syria was providing the terrorist group Hezbollah with SCUD missiles.  Obviously there’s only one use for a SCUD and it isn’t defensive.

Syria, as you probably remember, has a huge stockpile of chemical weapons – weapons easily delivered by SCUD.  Hezbollah, financed by Iran, is buying the missiles from Syria and is moving them into south Lebanon.  The 15,000 man UN force there to keep such rearming from happening are apparently useless.  Of course SCUD missiles fired from southern Lebanon can range all of Israel and present a very real threat to the nation.  Syria is also providing advanced anti-aircraft systems to protect the SCUDs and their launchers.

Israel has made it clear that it holds Syria directly responsible for this situation and that any attack by Hezbollah with Syrian weapons will be considered to be an attack by Syria itself.  And, of course, it will be met by Israeli attacks on Syria proper:

“We’ll return Syria to the Stone Age by crippling its power stations, ports, fuel storage and every bit of strategic infrastructure if Hezbollah dare to launch ballistic missiles against us,” said an Israeli minister, who who was speaking off-the-record, last week.

The warning, which was conveyed to Damascus by a third party, was sent to reinforce an earlier signal by Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister. “If a war breaks out the Assad dynasty will lose its power and will cease to reign in Syria,” he said earlier this year.

In reality the “Assad dynasty” is much less powerful now than Assad’s father ruled.  Syrian President Bashar Assad isn’t the leader his father was and it is feared more radical elements within Syria are pushing for a confrontation with Israel.  It appears they hoped to do that by proxy, but Israel has put them on notice that option is closed.  In the meantime the article notes that Beirut , whose control was tenuous at best, seems to have totally lost control of Hezbollah now.

It is hard to imagine this sort of a capability not being used by extremists such as those in Hezbollah if they actually posses it.  And this situation points out very well why places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Syria are dangerous to the stability of the world – state sponsors of terrorism can and do provide these extremist groups with the means to arm and train themselves, and – in the case of Syria – access to powerful weapons which have a WMD capability.

“This is the first time that an internationally known terror organisation has been equipped with ballistic missiles,” said the minister.

Israel’s promise to attack Syria should Hezbollah fire SCUDs into Israel is the appropriate way to handle this sort of a situation and is a threat the US should firmly support.

“We are obviously increasingly concerned about the sophisticated weaponry that is allegedly being transferred,” said Robert Gibbs, the White House spokesman.

And, as Israelis have in the past, I wouldn’t put it past them if they did a little preemptive SCUD hunting in southern Lebanon if their intel turns some up. It would serve to protect their cities as well as verifying the existence of the missiles in southern Lebanon.   Obviously the UN isn’t up to the job of ensuring they’re kept out.

~McQ

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24 Responses to Syria ups the ante, Israel responds

  • Israel’s response is rational — Syria knows from experience that it can’t control what Hezbollah does, so Israel needs to send a message that Syria endangers itself with such actions.   Hezbollah’s game is uncertain.  While it’s easy to see them as radical extremists who hate Israel, they are also rational criminals who make out good treating Hezbollah as a kind of Lebanese mafia (sort of like what the PLO morphed into).    The leaders learned in 2006 that while they stood down Israel, it came with a cost — and they know their capacity to maintain their power is dependent on outside sources.   I doubt very much that Syria would risk giving Hezbollah chemical weapons, and Israel’s warning is an effort to make that even less likely.
    Both Iran and Syria are politically weak, but could do real damage if there were to be a conflict.  What the West and Israel have to do is find a way to exploit that weakness without creating a conflict that could threaten both Israel’s existence and the oil supplies the world economy depend upon.

    • I can’t believe it, but what Scott wrote is coherent and reasonable.  So the new medication is working out for you Scott?  It is good to hear.  Hang in there, buddy.  You’ll be O.K.

      • Don’t be fooled. If Israel actually attacked Syria after a rocket attack by Hezbollah, Erb would be screaming about how ineffective it is for one country to attack another country for the actions of a non-state actor. It’d be illegitimate, illegal, etc.

        • I don’t scream.   Israel would need to respond based on the nature of the attack.   A chemical weapons attack would almost certainly implicate Syria even beyond the SCUD, and Israel would be justified in a counter attack.  If one SCUD is fired which does little damage, I think a response is warranted, and the US should support Israel on that.  The reason is that the biggest threat to security these days is not inter-state war, but rather non-state actors.  If non-state actors can be proxies for states with no one held accountable, that would be a dangerous precedent.

          • ” If one SCUD is fired which does little damage”
            One SCUD that blows up an open field is STILL an attack on Israel.    Making it clear to the Syrians that they don’t care if it’s carrying ping pong balls as a payload instead of biochem is appropriate, US backing be dammed.  Proportional response with these animals is what convinces them that every 4 years or so they or their proxies can try it again.    The Israeli’s shouldn’t have to walk away from every one of these damned fights saying “better luck next time”.

          • It’s a precedent that has already been set.

          • If its a chemical attack, does Israel get to nuke Syria, even if its a single chemical attack causing only hundreds of casualties?
            If its a chemical attack, does Obama go back on his no nukes dealio?

  • But Obama is President and he means well.  How could anything go wrong. 

  • Perhaps I’m a little extreme, but I would take a leaf from President Kennedy’s book and make it known to Damascus that “it shall be the policy of this nation to regard any NBC missile launched from Lebanon against any nation in the Middle East as an attack by Syria on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon Syria.”
    I would also make it known to Damascus that, as we have no capability to determine whether a SCUD is armed with an NBC warhead or only a garden variety HE warhead, we will react to any SCUD launch as though it were armed with an NBC warhead and launch an immediate retaliation from ballistic missile and cruise missle submarines in the Mediteranean Sea, and that we reserve the right to use nuclear weapons.

    Additionally, I would get permission from the Israeli government to deploy Patriot batteries, fighter-interceptors, AEGIS cruisers and destroyers, and support units (such as a mech infantry division or two) to Israel to assist in their defense. 

    Finally, I would have a chat with Jordan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia to (ahem) point out to them that it’s in their best interests to get the Syrians to change their mind about this insane plan.

    But that’s me.  I’m sure that Imeme will respond by offering negotiations without preconditions, badgering Netanyahu, getting in a few rounds of gold, and seeing if the Syrians are interested in the US brokering a trade agreement with Germany for high-capacity ovens.

    • Israel already has (or had) PATRIOT batteries along with their own operational Arrow ATMs.

      • The Israeli Air Defense Network consists of the following:
        The network employs four primary weapons systems:
        *  FIM-92 Stinger – a man portable infrared homing surface-to-air missile, mostly employed against helicopters
        *  MIN-23 Hawk – a medium range radar guided surface-to-air missile and longest serving system, it is also the network’s most victorious. The current model is an “improved” version featuring Raytheon’s PIP3#
        *  MIM-104 Patriot, a High-to-Medium Air Defense (HIMAD) medium tactical air defense platform which has demonstrated the capability to down ballistic weapons
        *  Arrow Missile, an Israeli developed theater missile defense  (TMD) system meant to stop ballistic missiles in the stratosphere.
        But even the capability to “knock down” an incoming SCUD does not necessarily provide complete defense – remember during Gulf War I, the single major US casualty event involved a SCUD that was “shot down” and impacted a US barracks facility.

      • I know.  Sending our own Patriot batteries sends a pretty clear signal that we are firmly on their side.

  • If you’re purely interested in profits, put your money on oil, that baby’s gonna skyrocket after the shooting starts (and there will be shooting sad to say. I just hope the right side survives)

    • That’s how Israel should fund its wars…bet on oil before it goes on the offensive.
      I guess you can’t do that morally, but it would be a heckuva  way to save on taxes.

  • Can’t help but be impressed at how Obama trying to put handcuffs on Israel while he plays up to terror states is producing optimum conditions for a Mideast war.

    The other factor is his abdication of the U.S. role as guarantor of strategic peace.

    The only thing he is guaranteeing now is that when the situation gets bad, he’ll do something to make it worse.

    That seems to be the plan all around the table, both domestically and in foreign affairs, and don’t forget national security.

    And best of all, none of this is really going to be helped by elections in November. He’s accelerating the damage, so that November comes too late and 2012 might as well be the next century.

    It’s not a case of incompetence. That’s the wrong way to view it. He’s perfectly competent to do what he’s doing. It’s easy to intentionally destroy the American role in the world, its economic power, and its national security. See the past 15 months for just how easy it is.

    • Israel can handle herself. Let’s not worry too much. Its better that Israel is not so reliant on the USA anyways.

  • “Obviously there’s only one use for a SCUD and it isn’t defensive.”
    That may be obvious, but it isn’t true. There are at least two uses for a SCUD and one of them is defensive.
    The non-defensive use of a SCUD is as a general area attack weapon — they aren’t accurate enough to target specific buildings, etc. In conventional warfare, they’re really only useful in mass firings. In terror warfare, one is enough since the goal is to randomly kill some people and scare everyone else.
    The defensive use of the SCUD is as a deterrent — “if you screw with me, I’ll hit … well, something … with this rocket.” Sort of mini-MAD.

  • I hope Hezbollah fires a couple of  SCUDs into Israel.   I would love to see Israel end the Syrian dictatorship of Assad.  Obama may be trying to undermine Israel, but that does not mean Israel couldn’t smash the crap out its neighbors by itself.  I once read/heard that militarily, Israel could dominate the entire middle east in a matter of weeks.  Could one of you more military minded gentlemen speak to Israel’s capacity to cripple Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia?  Gracias!

    • Ending Assad’s dictatorship through military means holds numerous dangers for Israel — that’s why they haven’t done it.   So rather than hope Hezbollah opens the door for military action, I think a better strategy is to try to use Assad’s domestic weakness against him, something Israel is already doing.
      Israel could severely damage the Mideast and probably topple some governments, but it could not dominate the region.  Look at the trouble the US had trying to control Iraq — think about Israelis trying to control the whole region.   The rise of terror groups, the geographic and demographic weakness of Israel, and the danger to the world economy (and thus US support of Israel) due to breaks in oil supplies could create an existential threat to Israel.   Moreover, if Israel was seen as the aggressor, the world would be siding with the Arabs.
      Ultimately, the only solution is a secure Israel alongside a viable Palestinian state.   Without both, the region is unstable, and a war could devastate all sides.

    • Tim,

      First of all Hezbullah shooting a SCUD into Israel could mean the end of Hezbullah in Lebanon.  Remember the PLO back in the ’80s being rolled up into Beirut and only the intervention of the US and the UN creating an escape route to North Africa saved the PLO.  Israel learned a very important lesson that day – next time there will be no escape.

      Second, the law of unintended consequences is something you never want to mess with.  A simple missile shoot could very well escalate into a much broader conflict.  Example: Hezbullah shoots off a couple of SCUDS into Tel Aviv.  Unluckily the SCUDs hit a population center and the result is hundreds of casualties.  Israel responds by launching a massive ground assault on Hez positions in Lebanon.  Hamas, sensing an opportunity, starts shooting off missiles from the West Bank and sending suicide squads into Israel.  Iran, in an attempt to provide support for their proxies in the region, sweet talks Syria into backing Hez and Syria counter-attacks by invading Lebanon from the North.  Other nations line up and full scale war ensues.  Are we in any position to support?  To end the conflict?

      Be careful what you wish for, you just might get it!

  • If any of these developments displeased Barry Hussein (de-facto leader of the 57-state nation) Obambi, then he would be speaking forcefully against them. Given the deafening silence, all is going according to plan.
    Is ANYONE still wondering which nation this Man-Child honors above all?