Last week, Syria was hit by an airstrike, just a few miles from Damascus. Israel has all but taken responsibility (credit?) for the strike. This level of aggression between the two neighboring nations is rare. The two have continued their battles in rhetoric and by proxy since the birth of the Jewish state, but Israel has not made such bold headways into Syria since the still relatively mysterious bombing of a presumed nuclear facility in 2007.
It has been heavily reported that Israel informed, and was accorded a green light by, the U.S. before taking out their target: ground-to-air missiles purportedly being transferred to Hezbollah.
Following the strike, Saeed Jalili, the head of Iran’s National Security Council, stated that Israel “will regret its latest aggression on Syria.” He continued that “the Muslim world should be ready to defend the Syrian people.” It has been reported that Assad asked Iran to do just that, to “hit back” at Israel, but was rebuffed, being told that they must “take care of [their own] business.”
Rather than striking back against Israel themselves, Syria made an utterly bizarre excuse for opting out of a retaliation. Syria claimed that they had no reason to retaliate against Israel, as the Israeli attack had itself been a retaliation against Syria.
Syria is attempting to use this attack to tie Israel to their own rebels. They are claiming that because they have been defeating the rebels, Israel felt the need to get involved. At the same time, the Syrian regime blamed the rebels for weakening Syria’s defenses and creating the vulnerabilities which allowed Israel to strike without Syria even “throw[ing] a pebble” while Israeli jets were hitting targets in plain view of Assad’s palace.
With surprising honesty, Syrian Minister of Defense admitted on TV this week that Syria’s air defenses have been weakened due to their ongoing civil war. This comment was just one day after Assad claimed that “Syria’s military was capable of confronting any aggression.”
The rebels on the other hand, with no apparent particular loyalty to Israel, have “slammed” Assad for his lack of a response, calling it “proof of his weakness and acquiescence to the Jewish State.”
Turkish-Israeli relations have been very rocky of late, but it appeared recently that their was a possible warming on the horizon. But rather than calling for calm or investigations, Turkey’s immediate reaction to the conflagration was to “slam” Assad for not responding to the Israeli strike. He went further to say that Turkey “will not stand by as Israel attacks a Muslim country.”
But Turkey has also been struggling with the conflict raging in Syria. There has been cross-border fire several times in recent months between the two nations, and just last month Turkey permitted US and NATO troops to deploy armor and help them shore up their own border with Syria. This did not make Iran happy. In the words of Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi, “The deployment of Patriot missiles will achieve nothing but provocation.”
I am sure that these are just a few of the things that President Obama will be discussing with Prime Minister Netanyahu during his first visit to Israel since becoming President. The trip is scheduled for early this spring.
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