debkafile Exclusive: Israel lifts military censorship on Sept. 6 Israeli air force attack Tuesday, 24 hours after Assad’s partial admission

Monday, Oct. 1, Syrian president Bashar Assad claimed to the BBC that Israel had struck an empty military installation under construction on Sept. 6 and that for Syria to retaliate militarily would be playing by “Israel’s rules.”
debkafile‘s intelligence sources report the Israeli military thereupon lifted its month-long ban on its publication Tuesday, without clearing any further information on the attack in the hope of closing the books on the affair.
The reasoning behind this decision was that if Israel refrained from knocking down Assad’s version of the incident and let it stand as an Israeli intelligence goof shared by America, Syrian honor would be satisfied and a sequel avoided.
Defense minister Ehud Barak promoted this rationale when he said after the attack that since neither Syria nor Israel wanted war, it would not occur.
debkafile‘s intelligence sources report that this simplistic policy appears to work for the moment, but is unlikely to hold up for long, for four reasons:
1. Israeli and Syrian armed forces still confront each other on high alert at close quarters across the narrow Golan border.
2. In the BBC interview, Assad did not exclude a military option.
3. The impression he and his spokesmen convey of late is that they are maneuvering to gain time for the Syrian army rather than backing down.
Even if the target were just an “empty military installation,” as claimed by the Syrian president, he did not explain the biggest enigma of how Israeli warplanes reached it undetected by Syria’s air defenses. His armed forces are still groping in the dark on this question, and are necessarily constrained from entering into military action until the problem is solved.
Therefore, Assad’s decision to hold his war horses at this time is not a strategic one, as Barak argued, but forced on him for lack of choice. A stance of helpless inaction is not one he can sustain for long. Stretching it out could affect the stability of his regime.
4. Syrian opposition leader Halim Khaddam, long vice president to Assad, remarked this week that the prospects of war between Israel and Syria were increasing. The Brussels-based dissident said Tehran would not let the Syrian president get away with opting out of retaliating for the Israeli attack. Iran was capable of dumping him in its own interests.
For all these reasons, the Syrian-Israel war game is far from ended by the ping pong match played by Assad and Israel’s military censor.

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