[Re-posted from earlier today]
The above video shows an Israeli airstrike in Damascus on Saturday night, reportedly targeting regime munitions bound for Hezbollah. It comes on the heels of another attack late last week, on missiles stored at Damascus airport. Assad’s regime now declares it will retaliate, and the IDF says this won’t be the end of the strikes:
Officials [in Israel] are concerned that as the Syrian state devolves into chaos, sophisticated weapons not previously available to Hizballah will make their way across the border to Lebanon, altering the military equation between Israel and the well-armed Shi‘ite militia sponsored by Iran and aided by the Syrian government.
We are told this was not an act of war. Why? Er, because Israel did it and therefore it is not an act of war. It may have killed close to 100 Syrian army soldiers, among many others; it may have been the biggest single explosion in Syria’s capital city throughout the entire conflict; it may have required entering another country’s airspace and bombing its capital city; but this is not a war. Moreover, this not-war is embraced by the US. Because Israel did it:
In a series of high-level meetings between U.S. and Israeli officials over the last year, the Israelis explained in detail the conditions that would lead them to attack targets inside Syria. Israel’s “red lines,” articulated in private and public, include the shipment from Iran of advanced anti-aircraft weapons, advanced missiles, and chemical or unconventional weapons to the Lebanese militia and political party Hezbollah, according to public reports and U.S. officials. … President Obama signaled Sunday that the U.S. had no objections to the strikes.
Which begs the obvious question:
Imagine a foreign military bombing Washington. Would we not regard that as an act of war? At what point are we going to admit that, in our view, all the rules of international law apply to every party but the US and its allies? Blake Hounshell considers the impact of the air strikes on all parties:
[W]ow, this is awkward for the Syrian opposition. The regime will seek to exploit the raids to tie the rebels to the Zionist entity, after spending two years painting them as an undifferentiated mass of “terrorist gangs.” (Syrian television is already testing out this line, according to Reuters: “The new Israeli attack is an attempt to raise the morale of the terrorist groups which have been reeling from strikes by our noble army.”)
But the propaganda can cut both ways. The rebels can point to the Israeli attacks as yet more evidence that Assad’s army is for attacking Syrians, not defending the country. It’s not clear to me which argument will carry the day.
The strikes also promise to hypercharge the debate over Syria in the United States. Advocates of intervention will ask: If Syrian air defenses are so tough, as U.S. officials have been saying, why was Israel able to breach them so easily? Of course, a no-fly zone is a much more difficult and risky endeavor than a one-off raid, but you can expect that important distinction to get blurred.
It was, in fact, amazing to see how Israel’s complication of an already metastasizing conflict did not prompt concerns in the US about the war expanding – but immediately gave us commentary that this proves how easy war against Syria can be – and so why are we waiting? Yes, a decade after “Mission Accomplished” we are asking why not go to war in a Middle Eastern Muslim country racked by a splintering insurgency? Here’s why: