Walking the Red Line
It seems that red lines are all the rage now. Obama, Putin, Netanyahu and even Cameron and Hollande – all engaged in a surreal dot-to-dot game of drawing red lines. If not for the circumstances, this picture could almost be comical. But there is no humoristic element in bombing Syrian targets, let me assure you. Indeed, Israel is now walking a very fine red line of its own.
Israel never admitted to bombing a weapons convoy on its way from Syria to Hezbollah in January, but this weekend’s foray was confirmed by Israeli officials, and interestingly enough, American officials as well. The fact that American officials bothered to formally confirm the bombing means that a) it was a coordinated move by the two countries, and b) the attack was meant to convey a message to other belligerent forces in the area, i.e. Iran.
That the attack was a calculated risk there is no doubt. Israeli decision makers deliberated with their American counterparts over the various ramifications, and came to the conclusion that, as in previous cases, Assad would not retaliate due to his overall weakened situation. And it seems that for now, Assad will make do with blaming Israel for supporting the rebels, or as the Syrian state T.V so eloquently phrased it: “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” (Al-Jazeera, “Israel renews strikes inside Syria”).
But other than Assad, there are other forces to be taken into consideration. Iran, and by extension, Hezbollah, cannot be thrilled by this result. The destroyed long range surface-to-surface missiles were Iranian, and were intended to reach the Lebanese Shiite organization. It is not totally far-fetched to expect some kind of retaliatory act by Hezbollah, with Iranian backing, in the near-future. We should keep in mind that the organization is under a huge amount of pressure in Lebanon for aiding the Syrian regime, and a retaliation of some sorts against Israel would also help prove its sights are still aimed in the right direction.
The various jihadists currently operating in Syria against Assad’s regime are also likely to find the Israeli attack somewhat disturbing. Not enough to divert their attention from toppling Assad, yet their overall agenda is far from Zionist, and such a show of force runs the risk of igniting dormant fires.
To sum things up, there is no such thing as an implication-free military strike. Israel has stated in the past that it will not stand by as what it defines as “game-changing” weapons reach Hezbollah hands. It has proven now, as in the past, that it has the capability to prevent this from happening. Yet Israel should and cannot expect that the opposing forces will stand by idly. So, hope for the best and expect (and prepare) for the worst.