Unnamed US officials leaked information Thursday on alleged Israeli air strikes
in Syria, and told The New York Times they expect an additional attack by Israel
in the near future.
The sources, described by the Times as “American
intelligence analysts,” discussed what they said were classified assessments,
according to which a July 5 IAF strike on a Syrian facility housing Russian
surface-to-sea missiles in Latakia failed to destroy them all.
air strikes would be required to complete the job, the sources said.
reports follow previous leaks by US defense officials on alleged Israeli
The American leaks have raised concerns among some observers in
Israel that Syrian President Bashar Assad would be unable to refrain from
responding to the attacks due to the embarrassment he would incur.
mere fact that such leaks happen often indicates that the Pentagon leadership
does not have Israel’s interests at heart,” Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the
Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University, told The
Jerusalem Post. “It is difficult to assess the motivation of such
Inbar listed several possible motives, including the wish to
prevent future Israeli action.
Other possibilities include an attempt by
Pentagon sources to embarrass US President Barack Obama, by pointing out the
“ease” with which Israel allegedly operates in Syria at a time that the White
House says US intervention is too complex and risky.
Alternatively, the leaks might stem from an effort to deter Russia from
transferring advanced weapons to Syria.
Other possible motives include
sending a signal to Saudi Arabia and Turkey that a US ally is harming Assad, or
maintaining a good relationship between the Pentagon sources and the media,
“What is clear is that they do not come from elements
friendly to Israel, because Israel’s preferred modus operandi is low profile.
[This is] intended to allow Assad to refrain from reacting,” he
Dr. Dan Scheuftan, director of the National Security Studies
Center at the University of Haifa, said the identity of the sources was far from
clear, but that he was sure it did not come from the Obama administration, which
he said has a very good and cooperative relationship with
Scheuftan, a visiting professor in the Department of Government
at Georgetown University, said he was not even sure the sources are really
American as claimed, but that if they are, “it’s not the US
“Coordination with the American government now is better
than in the past,” Scheuftan said, adding that the US president would not have
ordered the leak. He also doubted that it came from the Pentagon’s
The American intelligence community has a track record of
attempting to influence political decisions, Scheuftan said, citing the National
Intelligence Estimate of 2007, which claimed that Iran had frozen its nuclear
program, as an example of politicized intelligence maneuvers.
Scheuftan said he doubted the leak was the result of any kind of official move
by the intelligence community.
“It could be many elements.
intelligence has played very dangerous games in the political field. I can’t
rule out someone in US intelligence as a possibility,” he said. “There could be
elements within American intelligence that are interested in damaging Israel or
promoting a certain policy.
Scheuftan agreed with Inbar that the leak
could be trying to harm Israel’s interests.
“If the source is really from
the US, it could be someone who has access to this information and wants to
The Times report said that “Israel carried out an attack
on July 5 near Latakia to destroy the missiles, which Russia had sold to Syria.
While the warehouse was destroyed, American intelligence analysts have now
concluded that at least some of the Yakhont missiles had been removed from their
launchers and moved from the warehouse before the attack.”
noted that the officials were sharing “classified information,” adding that the
Assad regime attempted to cover up the fact that some of the missiles survived
the air strike by setting fire to missile launchers and vehicles at the targeted
The officials went on to say that Israeli fighter jets flying
over the eastern Mediterranean fired air-to-surface missiles in the July strike,
without entering Syrian airspace.
“The route of the Israeli aircraft led
to some erroneous reports that the attack had been carried out by an Israeli
submarine,” the Times report said.
Foreign media reports have attributed
four Israeli air strikes on targets in Syria in 2013, reportedly to prevent the
transfer of strategic arms to Hezbollah, which has sent fighters to support
Assad in the Syrian civil war.
These include an alleged strike on a
convoy ferrying SA-17 air defense missiles from Syria to Hezbollah in January,
and two strikes in May in the Damascus area, targeting storage facilities
housing guided, medium-range, Iranian Fateh-110 missiles.
reports of strikes in May, a Syrian army post near the Israeli border opened
fire at IDF soldiers patrolling the frontier.
The IDF returned fire with
a guided Tamuz surface-to-surface missile, destroying the post and hitting two
There were no injuries on the Israeli side.
days earlier, two Syrian mortar shells slammed into Mount
Speaking shortly after reports surfaced on the air strikes in
May, Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Israel is not “interfering in the
Syrian civil war,” but warned that Israel’s red lines are clearly defined,
“whether it’s transferring quality weapons to a terrorist organization or
violating our sovereignty along the border.”
“We are continuing with the
same policy we set,” he said.
“As soon as there is fire from Syrian
territory that endangers us, or enters our territory and violates our
sovereignty, we identify the source of fire and destroy it.”
On May 30,
Assad told Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station that Syria would immediately
retaliate for any future Israeli strike. •