Israel’s Mysterious Raid into Syria
2013-02-01 0:00

By Paul R. Pillar | ConsortiumNews

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.

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.


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