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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 Lebanon—and Hizballah—Conned and Humiliated Rex Tillerson

Feb. 21 2018

Last Thursday, the American secretary of state arrived in Beirut to express Washington’s continued support for the country’s government, which is now entirely aligned with Hizballah. His visit came shortly after Israel’s showdown with Hizballah’s Iranian protectors in Syria and amid repeated warnings from Jerusalem about the terrorist organization’s growing threat to Israeli security. To Tony Badran, Tillerson’s pronouncements regarding Lebanon have demonstrated the incoherence of the Trump administration’s policy:

[In Beirut], Tillerson was made to sit alone in a room with no American flag in sight and wait—as photographers took pictures and video—before Hizballah’s chief allies in Lebanon’s government, President Michel Aoun and his son-in-law the foreign minister, finally came out to greet him. Images of the U.S. secretary of state fidgeting in front of an empty chair were then broadcast across the Middle East to symbolize American impotence at a fateful moment for the region. . . .

Prior to heading to Beirut, Tillerson gave an interview to the American Arabic-language station al-Hurra, in which he emphasized that Hizballah was a terrorist organization, and that the United States expected cooperation from the “Lebanon government to deal very clearly and firmly with those activities undertaken by Lebanese Hizballah that are unacceptable to the rest of the world.” . . . But then, while in Jordan, Tillerson undermined any potential hints of firmness by reading from an entirely different script—one that encapsulates the confused nonsense that is U.S. Lebanon policy. Hizballah is “influenced by Iran,” Tillerson said. But, he added, “We also have to acknowledge the reality that they also are part of the political process in Lebanon”—which apparently makes being “influenced by Iran” and being a terrorist group OK. . . .

The reality on the ground in Lebanon, [however], is [that] Hizballah is not only a part of the Lebanese government, it controls it—along with all of the country’s illustrious “institutions,” including the Lebanese Armed Forces. . . .

[Meanwhile], Israel’s tactical Syria-focused approach to the growing threat on its borders has kept the peace so far, but it has come at a cost. For one thing, it does not address the broader strategic factor of Iran’s growing position in Syria, and it leaves Iran’s other regional headquarters in Lebanon untouched. Also, it sets a pace that is more suitable to Iran’s interests. The Iranians can absorb tactical strikes so long as they are able to consolidate their strategic position in Syria and Lebanon. Not only have the Iranians been able to fly a drone into Israel but also their allies and assets have made gains on the ground near the northern Golan and in Mount Hermon. As Iran’s position strengthens, and as Israel’s military and political hand weakens, the Israelis will soon be left with little choice other than to launch a devastating war.

To avoid that outcome, the United States needs to adjust its policy—and fast. Rather than leaving Israel to navigate around the Russians and go after Iran’s assets in Syria and Lebanon on its own, it should endorse Israel’s red lines regarding Iran in Syria, and amplify its campaign against Iranian assets. In addition, it should revise its Lebanon policy and end its investment in the Hizballah-controlled order there.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Israeli Security, Lebanon, Politics & Current Affairs, Rex Tillerson, U.S. Foreign policy