Israeli Raid on Syria Underlines Growing Mideast Risks

Article excerpt

Last weekend, Israel saw a threat to its interests and acted, staging aerial attacks on Syria's military research facilities and on a shipment of Iranian missiles waiting to be sent from Syria to Hezbollah militants in Lebanon.

Israel's action -- which it has yet to acknowledge -- and the retaliation it might trigger from Syria, Hezbollah or Iran are potent reminders of the dangers posed by Syria's escalating conflict. Indeed, unless the United States works more resolutely to end the conflict, it risks a spiral into a wider regional war.

The Israelis had good reason for their Damascus raid. Hezbollah is intent on the destruction of Israel. During their 2006 war, Hezbollah fired thousands of rockets into Israel and has since stockpiled thousands more. The shipment that was hit reportedly included solid-fuelled missiles that can be deployed quickly and fired precisely to reach targets in Tel Aviv from Lebanon. For the Israelis, such weapons, along with the shipment of anti-aircraft weapons that it attacked in late January, would have been a "game-changer," to use a phrase favoured by U.S. President Barack Obama.

While Israel moved quickly to respond to this threat, the Obama administration was caught up in an unseemly debate about what extent of chemical weapons usage, and by whom, in Syria would constitute a crossing of the "red lines" it set for a more forcible intervention.

Let's clarify where things stand: Israel's attack has increased the odds that Syria's conflict will embroil the region; the U.S., France, Britain and the United Nations have all acknowledged credible reports of chemical weapons usage; more than a million Syrian refugees are putting pressure on Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey; and the al-Nusra Front, one of the more effective members of the Syrian rebel coalition against the regime of Bashar Assad, has declared its loyalty to al-Qaida. …