Whispers in the Pentagon and elsewhere in official Washington seem to indicate the Israelis may wait to launch massive airstrikes against Iranian nuclear sites until at least after the elections this summer in Iran.
But in the last 48 hours, Israel launched surprise airstrikes in Syria territory. The targets: shipments of Iranian missiles moving through Syria and bound for the Hezbollah terror forces in Lebanon.
The message to the mullahs in Iran: Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu isn’t hesitant to use force when he needs to.
“It was the second time in four months that Israel had carried out an attack in foreign territory,” noted the New York Times in its coverage.
As I’ve reported before, the Obama administration has long been pressuring Israel not to attack Iran. The latest reason: maybe the upcoming elections will lead to a change of policy in Iran. The first round of presidential and municipal elections will be held June 14th. If no presidential candidate receives a majority of the (rigged) vote (which often happens), the runoff would occur on June 21st.
The Israelis aren’t holding their breath. They don’t expect change amidst a rigged, corrupt so-called “democratic process” in which the Ayatollah Khamenei will quietly choose his favorite and make sure the ballot boxes are adequately stuffed for his man. Still, generally speaking, Netanyahu wants to go the extra mile in his relationship with President Obama and not precipitate an attack unless and until he can truly say he has exhausted all less dangerous options.
Thus, if the rumors in Washington are true (and not disinformation designed to mask a sooner attack), it would suggest before the Israelis start a new regional war they want to assess — and be seen assessing — whether Iran’s new government will maintain its hardline pursuit of nuclear weapons, or whether it would be willing to negotiate and give up the country’s atomic ambitions.
But even while being as patient as possible, Netanyahu cannot ignore Iranian efforts to beef up the missile forces of Hezbollah, the implosion inside Syria, the danger of Syria WMD being used or being transferred to jihadists, and the steady Iranian march towards The Bomb. The airstrikes in the last 48 hours help him send a message that his patience is running out, and that the Israelis have very precise intelligence on what Iran and its allies are up to.
Here’s the latest coverage from the New York Times.
“The airstrike that Israeli warplanes carried out in Syria was directed at a shipment of advanced surface-to-surface missiles from Iran that Israel believed was intended for Hezbollah, the militant Lebanese organization, American officials said Saturday,” reports the Times. “It was the second time in four months that Israel had carried out an attack in foreign territory intended to disrupt the pipeline of weapons from Iran to Hezbollah, and the raid was a vivid example of how regional adversaries are looking after their own interests as Syria becomes more chaotic.”
“Iran and Hezbollah have both backed President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, now in its third year,” noted the Times. “But as fighting in Syria escalates, they also have a powerful stake in expediting the delivery of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in case Mr. Assad loses his grip on power. Israel, for its part, has repeatedly cautioned that it will not allow Hezbollah to receive game changing’ weapons that could threaten the Israeli heartland after a post-Assad government took power. And as Washington considers how to handle evidence of chemical weapons use by the Syrian government, a development it has described as a ‘red line,’ Israel is clearly showing that it will stand behind the red lines it sets.
“The Israelis are saying, ‘O.K., whichever way the civil war is going, we are going to keep our red lines, which are different from Obama’s,’” said Ehud Yaari, an Israel-based fellow of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.
“The missiles that were the target of the raid had been sent to Syria by Iran and were being stored in a warehouse at Damascus International Airport when they were struck, according to an American official,” the Times reported. “Two prominent Israeli defense analysts said military officials had told them that the targeted shipment included Scud Ds, which Syrians have developed from Russian weapons and have a range up to 422 miles — long enough to reach Eilat, in southernmost Israel, from Lebanon. But an American official, who asked not to be identified because he was discussing intelligence reports, said they were Fateh-110s. The Fateh-110 is a mobile, accurate, solid-fueled missile that represents a considerable improvement over the liquid-fueled Scud missile. American officials have said it has the range to strike Tel Aviv and much of Israel from southern Lebanon.”
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