The Syrian government, by admitting that the Israel Air Force attacked the Jamaraya “Military Research Institute” (a euphemism for an arms deport), near Damascus, broke the barrier of silence the Israeli government had clamped down on its initial involvement in the Syrian conflict. It also indicated that Bashar Assad may have decided to pick up the gauntlet thrown down by Israel. The Syrian statement also refuted the report by foreign media from “Israeli sources” that Israeli jets had struck a convoy carrying sophisticated weapons from Syria to the Hizballah in Lebanon.
The Syrian statement was detailed: It said that the “Military Research Institute” developed Syrian army and Hizballah combat capabilities, that two Syrian solders were killed and five injured in the raid, and that a building had been leveled along with serious damage to military vehicles parked outside.
Israeli warplanes were described as coming in low from the north to evade Syrian [and Iranian] radar after flying over the Syrian peaks of the Hermon ridge. The Israeli jets were reported to have flown back to home base by the same route.
Last week, debkafile reports, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu sent two senior aides to Washington and Moscow with an identical message: If Bashar Assad ventures to permit Syrian arms, conventional or chemical, to reach Hizballah, the Israeli Defense Forces will prevent their delivery by force.
Military Intelligence chief Maj. Gen Aviv Kochavi handed this message to Obama administration officials in Washington and National Security Adviser Yakov Amidror delivered it for Vladimir Putin in Moscow.
debkafile’s military and intelligence sources report the message was sent out too late and soon overtaken by events:
1. Assad has passed the point of being accessible to outside influence or receptive to international condemnation. He no longer listens even to the advice of allies, such as President Vladimir Putin.
2. The Syrian ruler is no longer interested in how the sophisticated weapons owned by Hizballah and stored in Syria are disposed of. For years they were stored in Syrian military storehouses and kept from crossing the border into Lebanon by Israeli threats. Now, as far as Assad is concerned, Hizballah can collect the weapons systems or leave them where they are, whatever they wish. But they will have to take charge of keeping them secure since the Syrian army has no manpower to spare for this task.
3. On the other hand, Assad acknowledges his debt to Hizballah for the great assistance it has rendered his war against the Syrian insurgency. He will therefore not deny his Lebanese ally assistance in preparing for war with Israel.
For all these reasons, the Kochavi and Amidror missions were a wasted effort.
Furthermore, two days earlier, President Barack Obama made it clear that he was not getting the United States involved in the Syrian conflict. In an interview to The New Republic, he asked rhetorically: “In a situation like Syria I have to ask: can we make a difference in that situation?”
From that point on, it was obviously up to Syria’s neighbors to pick up the Syrian ball themselves, including the threat of chemical warfare.
After the Israeli air raid, the Pentagon pointed a finger at its authors, answering reporters’ question with a terse: Ask Israel.
By publishing the Israeli air raid, Bashar Assad seems to be treating it with all the seriousness of an act of war. His next step may well be to fight back.