The Israeli Air Force has struck targets inside Syria twice since Thursday evening. Under the usual circumstances that prevail in the region, this would be the opening gambit in a war that would last a few days, maybe a couple of weeks. This time it is different. Israel is likely to face no retribution from the Syrian government, and it may have won some tacit approval from certain factions of the Syrian rebels.
The Israeli government confirmed Thursday that it had struck at a suspected consignment of Iranian-made Fateh-110 precision-guided missiles that it claims were en route to Hezbollah. In addition, there was evidence of air strikes in Damascus Friday night into Saturday morning that the Syrians also claim were Israeli in origin. The Israelis have neither confirmed nor denied this.
Naturally, the Assad regime has vowed it drive the Zionists into the sea. This time there was an interesting twist. According to the Syrian Foreign Ministry, “The Israeli attack on military sites in Syria is proof that there is communication between Israel and the terrorist groups who take their orders from al-Qaeda.” Not even Timothy Leary on an extra strong dose of LSD could see such an alliance. But the Assad regime is desperate.
And it is that desperation that will prevent it from retaliating. It is in a life-and-death struggle with the rebels, and if it has any resources that could harm Israel, they are probably better employed against the rebels. The only thing that can save the current government is some kind of political breakthrough, and attacking Israel will not provide it. It will merely draw more Israeli attacks further harming the regime.
In the last few hours, a glimmer of hope for the regime has emerged, and if there are nay wisemen left in Damascus, they will seize upon it for their salvation. UN investigator Carla del Ponte has told Swiss TV that there is evidence that the sarin attacks reported a few days ago were the work of the rebels. At the same time she said that there is no evidence as yet that the Syrian government used the gas.
This could allow the Syrians, with the backing of the Russians and the Chinese at the UN Security Council, to undertake a diplomatic offensive against arming the rebels. Moreover, it could demand indictments of the rebel leaders for war crimes. The propaganda value of this news is immense.
In the end, the Assad regime is probably doomed anyway. One doubts that a regime that has mismanaged things to this degree will grasp the straw Ms. del Ponte has offered it. It has positioned itself so poorly that Israeli air strikes win it no friends. Things truly are different this time.