I seem to have been wrong when I guessed that last week’s flyover of Syria was just intended to collect data about Syrian radar equipment. Apparently, something was bombed. But what? Here are a few known facts:
- Israel took a significant risk, diplomatically and militarily, to do this. So the target must have been important. And it must have been time-critical.
- Israel was entirely silent about the affair.
Ami Isseroff thinks that the Russians may have been building an antiaircraft installation to protect Mediterranean naval bases they are developing in the Syrian ports of Tartus and Latakia, or perhaps a listening post such as the one in Lebanon which guided the successful missile strike on an Israeli ship in 2006.
He speculates that if there were Russian military personnel present, that would explain Israel’s silence. And there would be little risk to November’s summit planned by the US, since the US would be happy to see the Russian installations — which threaten US forces in the region — destroyed.
If the target were simply Iranian weapons being delivered to Syria and/or Hezbollah, then one would have expected Israel to make a public fuss about it, thinks Isseroff.
He may be right that Russian personnel were present. But this doesn’t explain the urgency. Unless Israel thinks that war with Syria is imminent — which of course is another possibility — then this must have been a very, very important target.
What would count as such a target? In my opinion, only an existential threat: maybe a nuclear or other WMD installation (it’s been suggested that North Korea is selling off nuclear material).
If we are on the verge of an Israeli or US attack on Iranian nuclear facilities, then whatever it was may have been intended for use in retaliation. This would explain the urgency, and the Israeli silence.
It would also explain the reluctance of the Israeli government to take action against Hamas in Gaza at this time, to focus attention on the major threat.