Although Israel has not officially acknowledged a role in the destruction last week of a chemical- and precision-weapons factory in Syria, Jerusalem has repeatedly made clear that it will not permit certain military developments near its borders, and will do what is necessary to enforce its red lines. Elliott Abrams explains the background, and implications, of the latest attack:
On August 23, Prime Minister Netanyahu visited Vladimir Putin in Moscow. The goal, I believe, was to tell Putin that certain actions by Iran in Syria would be intolerable, and to ask him to restrain Iran—his ally in Syria. Putin’s reply was negative. In effect he told Netanyahu: “I’m not restraining you and I’m not restraining them. Not my job. Take care of your own security.” Having learned that there would be no help from that quarter, the Israelis acted. The Russians seem not to object: Netanyahu is doing what he said he would do, and what Putin would do in a similar situation.
Israel is also acting in part because the United States does not seem willing to restrain Iran in any serious way in Syria. We are doing less, not more, while the Assad regime’s forces and Iran’s gain ground. . . .
Israel’s strategic situation has been seriously damaged in the last several years because there is now an Iranian presence in Syria. The Israelis are not going to go into Syria and try to drive out Iran, the Shiite militias, and Hizballah, but they are trying to establish some limits to acceptable Iranian behavior.
In my view this ought to be part of U.S. policy in the region as well. . . . What would be useful at this point, it seems to me, is a statement by the United States that we approve of the action Israel took, and that in the event of a conflict Israel would have our support in defending itself—for example by allowing the Israelis to have access to the stocks of weapons that we store in that country.