There are two famous and often quoted expressions within the intelligence world: “Those who know, seldom talk” and “Those who talk, seldom know.”
So when we read about Israel launching an aerial attack with as many as eight fighter jets, targeting deep inside Syria and hitting two different airports, one a military airport and the other the main airport in Damascus, it should be no surprise that Israel keeps mum on the matter.
The explosions lit up the sky for miles around. The attack was covered throughout the Arabic press. Hezbollah media, Lebanese media, Christian media, Syrian media and even the more independent Arabic press like Al Arabiya ran almost the same story verbatim. They used the same lines, each report a rehash of the others. Explosion. Two locations. No injuries. An Israeli air strike.
Israel has still neither denied nor confirmed the reports. That is the Israeli modus operandi. Israel is not in the business of either claiming credit for or taking responsibility for these kinds of strikes.
But now, after the dust has settled, it appears that one key element contained in all the reports was erroneous. Two senior Hezbollah commanders were killed in the attack.
Killing Hezbollah leaders was not the raison d’etre for Israel’s aerial foray into Syria. Israel wanted to destroy the weapons and interrupt the flow of sophisticated arms on its way to Hezbollah from Syria. We now know what Israel knew–in both locations targeted by Israeli fighter jets new, Russian-made, Iranian-distributed S-300 rockets were being stored.
The S-300 has a range of up to 150 miles. They are a serious threat to Israel when used by both Syria and Hezbollah. Their launcher is very large. It looks like a very long and wide tube that sits on the ground or on the back of a truck. The rockets themselves are very large, about 25 feet long, roughly 4000 pounds and carry a 400-pound warhead.
The link went from Russia to Iran to Syria and–had it not been interrupted–to Hezbollah. These S-300s would not have been the first or only modern rockets to be procured by Hezbollah. But they were a large bunch. And Israel needed to prevent the weapons from being brought into the Hezbollah field of operations.
There is a practical philosophy at play. Actually, it is a business philosophy. Israel cannot destroy all weapons in Hezbollah’s arsenal. However, if they intercept a large shipment or if they prevent Hezbollah from stockpiling significant numbers of weapons, the effect will be to prevent Hezbollah from using the weapons that they do have.
Hezbollah will work harder to better guard, protect and preserve those sophisticated weapons and will think twice before using them, which makes for a safer region.
This is not the first time (nor will it be the last) that Israel has struck Syria. Israel has hit weapons depots, attacked army bases and even a nuclear laboratory. Once they even buzzed Assad’s palace breaking the sound barrier so close to the ground that it reportedly shattered the china in the presidential home.
Israel has very specific and precise objectives in Syria. They are not looking to change the regime. They just want to maintain the status quo.
The United States has recently publicly stated its policy: they want to both fight ISIS, take the fight to al Qaeda and remove the Assad regime. This kind of policy is nearly impossible to achieve. If it does happen know that a power vacuum will emerge that will be filled by ISIS and al Qaeda.
In “The Prince,” Machiavelli wrote: “The enemy that you know is better than the enemy you don’t.” usting a dictator in the midst of a crisis battle with ISIS and al Qaeda is simply irresponsible at the moment. Just because you want change does not mean it will happen the way you want it to happen.
I suggest that Western leaders take a page from Israel’s handbook. When it comes to Mideast policy, focus or an attainable goal and pursue it.