Recent reports about Israel's strike on a Syrian ‘military research center’ in Jamraya, near Damascus, suggest that Israel may have in fact killed a large number of Iran's Revolutionary Guardsmen
protecting the facility.
If true, not only was Israel unafraid of destroying Syrian military infrastructure, and thus ready to face all potential consequences, the Israeli government in all probability knew that the attack would kill Iranian troops. Israel's action was undoubtedly designed in part to directly test Iran’s willingness to respond.
The air strike also demonstrated Israel's unflinching resolve in the face of Iran's unceasing vitriol. The unfortunate reality for Israel is that Iran long ago declared war against it. Iran behaves as if a state of war exists when its leaders make statements calling for the destruction of Israel, all while it arms its terrorist proxy militia, Hezbollah, in Lebanon to Israel's north.
Facing such enemies, Israel does not have the luxury of assessing its national security situation in the same pensive, morally equivocating way that many Western and European critics of Israel frequently argue on the pages of major newspapers.
No, quite the opposite, earlier this week when Israeli intelligence agents established that there were targets that absolutely had to be destroyed inside Syria -- in this case either a weapons convoy in the border region and/or a weapons lab in Jamraya -- the Israeli government acted immediately to remove these threats.
It is worth noting reports that Israel gave the United States advance warning of its strike on Syrian soil. This notification highlights the likelihood that the attack was so important, time-sensitive and crucial to the security of Israel and to the stability of the region, the Israeli government was forced to act, partly on behalf of the West.
Launching air strikes against an avowed enemy, Syria, while that enemy is in the midst of a bloody civil war is no small measure. In fact, it's akin to kicking the hornet's nest after it has already fallen from the tree and the hornets are buzzing around angrily.
Amid all of the speculation and conflicting reports about which target was actually attacked in Syria (or Lebanon), it is increasingly evident that the actual truth about military matters in the Middle East will never be revealed to the global public.
Stopping to think about the two competing claims for a moment reveals myriad conflicting end games for both Israel and Syria.
If Western reports are true that a weapons convoy carrying advanced SA-17 missiles
headed to Hezbollah was indeed destroyed by Israel, the message to Iran, Syria and Russia is that the West will not tolerate a conflation of regional tensions by drawing in Israel's arch terrorist enemy, Hezbollah. The United States made this much clear in its direct warning to Syria, and implicitly also to Russia.
But if Syrian reports are true -- that there was no weapons convoy attacked, but rather that a military research center was targeted
-- then Israel was legally in contravention of the UN Charter and thus the UN Security Council should act to punish Israel. This serves to theoretically kindle sympathy for Syria from the rest of the world.
The problem is that Assad has zero global credibility today; his Russian 'support' is a product of Russian geostrategic self-interest as it seeks to preserve its sole Mediterranean naval port at Tartus
Moreover what is perplexing is that the Syrian government was forthright about detailing exactly which type of military target Israel hit, plainly calling by its name. The Syrian statement effectively vindicated long held Western and Israeli concerns about Syria's chemical weapons capabilities and simultaneously acknowledged Israel’s reason for attacking the facility.
Such intentional state-sanctioned misdirection is not a new paradigm. Propaganda and disinformation are hard currency in the region, as efforts to confuse and mislead a nation's enemies can create immeasurable dividends in the long-term chess game that is the Middle Eastern conflict.
Israel's next pre-emptive attack is better prepared when it has been successfully obscured by the fog of war surrounding its previous mission. The ultimate truth is known only to an elite circle of leaders on both sides, and those unfortunate souls on the receiving end at ground level. As the region roils, maybe it is better this way.
Robert D. Onley is the Director of Policy & Development at YouthCan for International Dialogue