Two messages can be read from the Israeli raids on Syria, which took place today and on Friday evening and were subsequently confirmed by American officials. The first is that Israel is unconcerned by Hassan Nasrallah’s threats, which were reissued in his speech last Thursday. The second is that Assad’s defense capabilities are not as significant as the Americans have portrayed.
This is not the first time an Israeli air strike has targeted a shipment of advanced missiles—nor will it be the last. The recent air strike on Syrian territory was justified in the same way as that which preceded it—when Israel targeted a shipment of weapons said to be on its way to Hezbollah. An official within the Ministry of Defense told CNN that Israel would do everything necessary to prevent the transfer of arms to “terrorist” organizations, that it had done so in the past and that it “will do so in the future, if forced.”
This air raid serves as a message to Hezbollah that Israel is not bothered by Hassan Nasrallah’s threats, in which he has promised that Assad’s regional and global friends—i.e. Iran and Hezbollah—will not allow his government to fall. Similarly, Israel wants to show they are ready in the event that Hezbollah tries to act on Iran or Syria’s behest. Of course, this further complicates the crisis in Syria, but who said that it was not complicated in the first place? The situation as it stands is as follows: Assad has attacked locations along the Jordanian border, Hezbollah has taken part in the killing of Syrians, and Israel has hunted targets of its choosing within Syrian territory. Is there a possible scenario more complex than this?
Furthermore, the second message surrounding the Israeli air raid was that should an imposition of a no-fly zone—or even military action by NATO or a coalition of the willing—be desirable, the Syrian government’s air defense systems are not as capable as the US had portrayed. Israeli aircraft fly in Lebanese and Syrian airspace as they wish, and Assad’s air defense systems are unresponsive. The regime is concerned with the bombing of Syrians, not confronting Israel.
This second message is for the international community. Even if Israeli aircraft were outside of Syrian airspace when they delivered their payloads, as was announced, this means that the US and the international community have the ability to constrain Assad within hours. This is the opposite of what is currently being said about Assad’s defense systems.
This is not an oversimplification. Rather, it is an attempt to reveal exaggerations about Assad’s Air Force capabilities. The Syrian regime is like a dead body waiting to be buried—this is what the Israeli air strikes demonstrated. The question, therefore, remains the same as it has been since the beginning of the revolution. What are the Americans and the international community waiting for in order to intervene? How long will it be until the groups that are not currently gathered in Syria—Al-Qaeda, Iran, Hezbollah, and Israel—do so?