Israel’s Mysterious Raid into Syria

Israel attacked a target in Syria, allegedly out of concern that some antiaircraft missiles might be shifted to Hezbollah in Lebanon. But the mysterious raid raises troubling questions about the possible region-wide spread of the Syrian civil war, writes ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar.

By Paul R. Pillar

Israeli warplanes inflicted some kind of damage on the outskirts of Damascus on Wednesday, but there were different versions as to exactly what. The Syrian government says it was a scientific research facility that was attacked. American sources say the target was a convoy carrying antiaircraft weapons into Lebanon for use by the militia of Hezbollah. Israel isn’t saying anything.

Speculation about the actual target and about Israeli purposes doesn’t have to end there. This is the Middle East, after all, where no analysis about someone’s motives is complete without going further than this in the way of conspiratorial and convoluted explanations. As an editorial in Lebanon’s Daily Starpoints out, shipments of something like the antiaircraft weapons into Lebanon are hardly new. Thus the “immediate question” is, “Why now?”

Surely, one might think, the Israelis must have considered the effects their strike would have on the course of the current civil war in Syria. By moving closer to realizing the oft-expressed fears about this war spreading across international borders, maybe Israel was hoping to spur Western governments into a more active intervention in Syria on behalf of the rebels.

Or perhaps the motive was the opposite; Israel may have more to fear from a new Syrian regime dominated by some of those same rebel elements than it does from the devil-they-know Bashar Assad. An Israeli airstrike in Syrian territory may have been just the sort of thing to give at least a temporary boost to Assad, as suggested by how the Syrian regime played up the attack, whether or not its version of the target was accurate.

The less convoluted explanations are more plausible. The strike is part of a well-established pattern of Israel using its military might to beat down anything and anybody that could possibly challenge it, and of paying little regard in the process to larger consequences, to its neighbors, its friends, and even its own long-term interests. It is part of the pattern of seeking absolute security for Israel even if it means absolute insecurity for others. Beating down others in ways that facilitate more Israeli beating down in the future is part of the pattern.

That lends credibility to the version of this week’s airstrike that has as the target advanced antiaircraft weapons bound for Lebanon. The more such weapons are kept out of Lebanon, the more easily Israel can continue to violate Lebanese airspace with impunity.

Even though Israelis may not consider larger consequences, such consequences nonetheless happen. The Daily Star points to a couple of them:

“One of these losers is the Syrian people, who are decidedly unenthusiastic about seeing Israel enter into the uprising against the regime of President Bashar Assad in any way, shape or form. The other losers would be neighboring states such as Lebanon, if it is swept up into the violence because of the possible, and not yet proven, role of Hezbollah in the affair.”

And for the United States, there also is the consequence, given the nature of the U.S.-Israeli relationship, it incurs from any Israeli action, of being closely associated with that action. Or as the Lebanese editorialists ask, “If the Israelis are actually responsible for Wednesday’s incident, is it likely that they took the step with the knowledge of their chief ally, the United States?”

Paul R. Pillar, in his 28 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, rose to be one of the agency’s top analysts. He is now a visiting professor at Georgetown University for security studies. (This article first appeared as a blog post at The National Interest’s Web site. Reprinted with author’s permission.)

11 comments for “Israel’s Mysterious Raid into Syria

  1. Frances in California
    February 1, 2013 at 20:07

    So, this is NOT just like bombing Cambodia?

  2. exomike
    February 1, 2013 at 15:44

    Ah, the cry of the Hasbara Bird which is a close relative of the KooKoo bird. I’m for the one state solution. Move all the Israelis to the middle of Texas, let the Palestinians have their country back and then let Texas succeed from the Union.

    • Frances in California
      February 1, 2013 at 20:06

      thank you, exomike; I needed your wit just now – as do we all.

    • key_bird
      February 1, 2013 at 22:15

      Ah ha, Then Kinky Friedman is sure to be elected Governor errrr President of Texas !

  3. rosemerry
    February 1, 2013 at 14:32

    Hamas and Hezbollah are constantly vilified by Israel (and by the copiers of Israel) for fighting back, in their own land, against israeli aggression. Neither is permitted to have any weapons (like the Netanyahu version of a demilitarised Palestinian state). Any mention of weapons getting near any of Israel’s enemies is considered a terrible crime, presumably because dear little helpless undefended peaceful Israel does not deserve any response to its well-justified attacks on children, women and babies, plus teenagers and even men.
    Reading Robert Parry’s post on the “US” Senators’ haranguing of Chuck Hagel over his past refusal to pander to Israel, added to this, makes me very depressed about how this ludicrous unfair situation can be solved.

  4. Vesuvius
    February 1, 2013 at 06:09

    Thank you, mr Pillar! Having followed this site for some time now, I have found your comments, and some of the other writers here at Consortiumnews, to be most ackurate and worth reading in enigmatic matters such as the Middle East.

    The comment above, depicting mr. Pillar as an “anti-Semite”, is just too silly; it’s probably some Mossad automatic wordmachine speaking.

  5. N.Dalton
    February 1, 2013 at 01:51

    The author of this comment is obviously some DumbFuck-Idiot who does know shit –
    because > an anti-Semite used to be a person who disliked Jews.
    In Reality > it is a person who Jews dislike !

    • gregorylkruse
      February 1, 2013 at 15:12

      Good one!

  6. F. G. Sanford
    February 1, 2013 at 01:36

    I promised myself I would never do this: look into my crystal ball and ask political questions. But just this once, I decided, I had to know. What inspired me? Well, I read a BBC comment that shocked me. It said that after the Israeli attack on Syria, a sovereign nation, The United States admonished Syria for its role in the attack. Wait a minute…Syria? Excuse me? Syria is the country that got bombed, not the one that did the bombing. Isn’t that ‘war of aggression’, given the absence of an immediate threat? Even the doctrine of ‘preemptive war’ counts as a war crime. Then, I saw something about Article 49 of the Geneva Conventions, which explained that transferring populations into territory appropriated by aggressive war is…something rang a bell. Something about some old guy named Karl Haushofer and that…uh…lebensraum stuff was apparently abhorrent to the civilized world once upon a time. My head was spinning, but I decided, just this once, I had to do it. I asked my crystal ball what was really happening. She answered after a long, disdainful pause (she’s like that sometimes):

    …silly boy…there will never be…a two state solution…it’s all a charade…to get to the war…the regional war…to displace populations…the unwanted ones…it’s a game of pretend…and it must come soon…before the Empire…and the walls…come down…and there’s nowhere to hide…don’t be fooled…there can’t be peace…it would end the charade…they’d get it all back…so they’ll need to die…or move on…the Russians won’t help…they learned…they’ll sit back and laugh with the inscrutable foe…and wait for the fall…

    Wait! Wait! Tell me more!

    …silly boy, the Empire can’t protect them forever…they know it too…time is running out…the solution…must…………..

    Please! Tell me the solution!

    …silly boy, buy some gold………….before the Empire collapses, now go to sleep…sweet dreams!

    • gregorylkruse
      February 1, 2013 at 15:08

      That’s odd. My crystal ball has been saying pretty much the same thing.

    • incontinent reader
      February 3, 2013 at 09:55

      I would like to meet Crystal. She’s hot!

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