If Israel Strikes Syria Again, All Bets Are Off
With every passing week, we see more and more evidence that Syria’s civil war is both seeping out of the country’s borders and, like a flame sucking in oxygen, is pulling regional powers in at the same time.
To Syria’s south, Jordan - which has just finished holding elections - faces a near unprecedented influx of Syrian refugees. To the east in Iraq, tens of thousands of Sunni demonstrators - many of whom identify with the largely Sunni uprising next door, and cheered on by an Al Qaida-linked group - blocked a major road in western Iraq in protest against the Shia-dominated government. To the north, today’s bombing at the US embassy in Ankara has been blamed on a banned Left-wing group, the DHKP-C, but most early lists of suspects included Jabhat-al-Nusra, Al Qaida’s Syrian front, while relations between Turkey and Syria are their lowest ebb.
The most volatile of all issues, however, may be Israel’s intervention into the Syrian crisis this week. It appears that Israeli jets bombed not just a convoy of Russian-supplied SA-17 anti-aircraft batteries, located at a military base northwest of Damascus, but other targets also, including a biological weapons research centre.
It remains unclear whether the missiles were stationary or were being moved, but in the preceding days the Israeli cabinet had been meeting feverishly and shouting, to anyone who would listen, that chemical weapons were not the only thing that they were worried about. Since the base was less than five miles from Syria’s border with Lebanon, Israel might have been concerned that the missiles would be transferred to Hezbollah, challenging Israel’s hitherto absolute air superiority over the militant group.
There remain a few puzzling aspects to this story.