After the Damascus Attack

(Institute for National Security Studies-Tel Aviv University) Amos Yadlin - While until 2000, Syrian President Hafez al-Assad limited the supply of arms to Hizbullah, his son Bashar Assad has provided Hizbullah with every form of advanced modern arms. The financing, knowledge, and training almost all hail from Tehran; some of the weapon systems are Iranian-made, others are manufactured in Syria, and still others come from Russia. Weapons transported from Iran arrive by air to Damascus, and from there are shipped to Lebanon. The legitimacy for Israeli action was bestowed by Security Council Resolution 1701 in 2006, prohibiting the supply of weapons to Lebanon to any body other than the Lebanese government. When late in the last decade it became clear that Bashar Assad had broken every arms supply rule in the book, Israel identified four weapon systems that it sought to prevent reaching Hizbullah, even at the risk of escalation: advanced aerial defense systems, long-range surface-to-surface missiles, the Yakhont shore-to-sea missile, and chemical weapons. Israel's assumption that its deterrence is very strong, given that the Syrians, Hizbullah, and Iran are preoccupied with more important challenges, and therefore will not risk an immediate military confrontation, proved correct. Israel also did not claim responsibility for the attack, leaving the Syrians plausible deniability. In addition, the targets were not Syrian assets, only Hizbullah and Iranian assets that pose a risk to Israel's security. The Israeli attack enjoyed a relatively high degree of legitimacy, from Western recognition of the move as one of self-defense (President Obama) to the Sunni world's pleasure at the distress of the Syrian and Iranian regimes and Hizbullah. The satisfaction with the attack in the Gulf and Saudi Arabia was hard to hide. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin is director of INSS.

2013-05-13 00:00:00

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