The always-perceptive David Gerstman connects some dots for us:
First the sequence:
a) Israeli Airstrike in Syria Targets Arms Convoy, U.S. Says by Isabel Kershner and Michael Gordon – January 30, 2013
Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory on Wednesday, American officials reported, saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon.
The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack, which the Syrian government condemned as an act of “arrogance and aggression.” Israel’s move demonstrated its determination to ensure that Hezbollah — its arch foe in the north — is unable to take advantage of the chaos in Syria to bolster its arsenal significantly.
b) Israel Bombs Syria as the U.S. Considers Its Own Military Options by Michael Gordon, Eric Schmitt and David Sanger – May 3, 2013
Israel aircraft bombed a target in Syria overnight Thursday, an Obama administration official said Friday night, as United States officials said they were considering military options, including carrying out their own airstrikes.
U.S. apologized for leaking details of Israel. US officials told that they review the matter.The leak forced Assad to react harshly.
— Chico Menashe (@chicomenashe) May 19, 2013
c) Israel Airstrike Targeted Advanced Missiles That Russia Sold to Syria, U.S. Says by Michael Gordon – July 13, 2013
Israel carried out an air attack in Syria this month that targeted advanced antiship cruise missiles sold to the Syria government by Russia, American officials said Saturday.
The officials, who declined to be identified because they were discussing intelligence reports, said the attack occurred July 5 near Latakia, Syria’s principal port city. The target was a type of missile called the Yakhont, they said.
d) Some Syria Missiles Eluded Israeli Strike, Officials Say by Michael Gordon – July 31, 2013
American intelligence analysts have concluded that a recent Israeli airstrike on a warehouse in Syria did not succeed in destroying all of the Russian-made antiship cruise missiles that were its target, American officials said on Wednesday, and that further Israeli strikes are likely. …
The officials who described the new assessment declined to be identified because they were discussing classified information.
On four separate occasions this year, administration officials talking to Michael Gordon (and other reporters) of the New York Times revealed information about Israeli striking Syria. In three of the cases it’s acknowledged explicitly that official speaking to Gordon would not identify him or her self. Yet only once did the United States apologize. Still, in three separate instances the administration deprived Israel of deniability about the strike. The most recent case, suggested that Israel would strike Syria again. The suggestion [is] hardly something that helps Israel.
Israel’s objective in these strikes is not to take sides in Syria’s civil war, nor is it to humiliate Bashar al-Assad or provoke war between Israel and Syria. It is simply to prevent advanced weapons from reaching Hizballah. In particular, Israel has not claimed any of these operations because it does not want to put Assad in the position of having to defend his honor by striking back.
When US officials leak intelligence information that identifies Israel as the perpetrator, it becomes harder for Assad to ignore these attacks or claim they are the work of rebels.
Assad isn’t stupid. He knows that Israel does not want to intervene in his civil war, and he has plenty to deal with without adding another enemy. He knows that if he hits back against Israel, it will retaliate in turn. He doesn’t need this when he believes that he is making good progress in pushing back the rebels. Yet he loses face and deterrence every time he absorbs an Israeli strike without responding.
My speculation is that he is thinking that he will settle scores with Israel later, after he defeats the rebels. But who knows how far he will allow himself to be pushed?
What are the motives of the US officials who are leaking this data?
• Is this a rogue operation, or are they doing it at the behest of the administration?
• Are they trying to provoke a war between Israel and Syria?
• Are they trying to deter Israel from interdicting weapons shipments to Hizballah?
• Are they trying to punish Israel for resisting efforts to force it out of the territories?
Whatever it is, it is extremely dangerous for Israel, which is facing tens of thousands of missiles aimed at it from both Syria and Hizballah.
Is this the behavior of an ally?