Syria’s Most Recent Attempt to Shoot Down an Israeli Jet: A Sign of Things to Come?

Oct. 18 2017

On Monday, Syrian forces fired a surface-to-air missile at Israeli planes conducting routine surveillance over Lebanon. This was not a first, but the planes in question were in Lebanese, not Syrian, airspace. In response, the IDF destroyed the battery that launched the missile—also unusual for Israel, which has generally refrained from striking so deeply into Syrian territory. Yoav Limor comments on the possible implications:

There are two ways to explain Syria’s part in the incident. The first is that it was not planned. The Israel Air Force (IAF) planes’ flight path took them further east than usual, and perhaps the Syrian troops manning the battery that night were frightened and decided to fire at them. If this was the case, the Syrians have not changed their policy, and for the moment at least there is also no special reason for Israel to worry.

The second possibility is the Syrian missile launch was the early phase of a new policy that includes a response to perceived threats not only in Syrian but also over Lebanese territory. If this is indeed the case, [the incident] constitutes a drastic change, reflecting a heightened self-confidence and a wish to relieve Hizballah—which defended the Assad regime with its own flesh and blood—of the task of protecting Lebanon.

Israel is leaning toward the first option, but there is no doubt that, in light of . . . the imminent defeat of Islamic State, . . . Bashar al-Assad is feeling confident in his rule, certainly while the Russian defense umbrella remains open above him.

This is also the reason that Israel resolved to be as clear as possible when it drew its red lines. Even though the missile did not put IAF planes at risk, another missile is likely to do so in a future incident. The Israeli response was meant to send the message that as far as Israel is concerned, Lebanon is out of bounds, and there is no better justification for an Israeli strike on Syria than if the Syrians shoot at a routine flight over Lebanese airspace.

Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Syria


How the U.S. Can Strike at Iran without Risking War

In his testimony before Congress on Tuesday, Michael Doran urged the U.S. to pursue a policy of rolling back Iranian influence in the Middle East, and explained how this can be accomplished. (Video of the testimony, along with the full text, are available at the link below.)

The United States . . . has indirect ways of striking at Iran—ways that do not risk drawing the United States into a quagmire. The easiest of these is to support allies who are already in the fight. . . . In contrast to the United States, Israel is already engaged in military operations whose stated goal is to drive Iran from Syria. We should therefore ask ourselves what actions we might take to strengthen Israel’s hand. Militarily, these might include, on the passive end of the spectrum, positioning our forces so as to deter Russian counterattacks against Israel. On the [more active] end, they might include arming and training Syrian forces to engage in operations against Iran and its proxies—much as we armed the mujahedin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.

Diplomatically, the United States might associate itself much more directly with the red lines that Israel has announced regarding the Iranian presence in Syria. Israel has, for example, called for pushing Iran and its proxies away from its border on the Golan Heights. Who is prepared to say that Washington has done all in its power to demonstrate to Moscow that it fully supports this goal? In short, a policy of greater coordination with Jerusalem is both possible and desirable.

In Yemen, too, greater coordination with Saudi Arabia is worth pursuing. . . . In Lebanon and Iraq, conditions will not support a hard rollback policy. In these countries the goal should be to shift the policy away from a modus vivendi [with Iran] and in the direction of containment. In Iraq, the priority, of course, is the dismantling of the militia infrastructure that the Iranians have built. In Lebanon, [it should be] using sanctions to force the Lebanese banking sector to choose between doing business with Hizballah and Iran and doing business with the United States and its financial institutions. . . .

Iran will not take a coercive American policy sitting down. It will strike back—and it will do so cleverly. . . . It almost goes without saying that the United States should begin working with its allies now to develop contingency plans for countering the tactics [Tehran is likely to use]. I say “almost” because I know from experience in the White House that contingency planning is something we extol much more than we conduct. As obvious as these tactics [against us] are, they have often taken Western decision makers by surprise, and they have proved effective in wearing down Western resolve.

Read more at Hudson

More about: Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Syria, U.S. Foreign policy, Yemen