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Analysis: Factoring in retaliation
By YAAKOV LAPPIN
04/02/2013
Syria would be foolish to open a new front against Israel; its forces are stretched to the limit dealing with rebels.
 
On the surface of things, Israel is projecting a business-as-usual message, days after air strikes attributed by foreign media to the Israel Air Force targeted an attempt to transfer strategic weapons to Hezbollah.

The two most senior defense officials are abroad.

The IDF chief of staff went ahead with a planned visit to the United States, and Defense Minister Ehud Barak is in Germany for an international security conference.

But behind the scenes, there can be little doubt that the IDF is on a high state of alert – as IAF fighter jets are, according to Lebanese media, flying sorties over southern Lebanon, the home of Hezbollah.

Presumably, Israel is looking out for two principal developments. The first would involve a new attempt to proliferate advanced Syrian arms or unconventional weapons, either through a transfer to Hezbollah, or the capture of Syrian military bases by the rebels. The second would be attempts by Damascus, or its allies in Tehran and southern Lebanon, to carry out a vengeance attack on Israel.

Syria would be foolish to open up a new front against Israel, as its forces are stretched to the limit in dealing with the rebels. A second front could easily topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.

Unsurprisingly, Iran, the country that said before the air strikes that it will view an attack on Syria as an attack on itself, is leading the vengeance chorus.

These threats cannot be dismissed.

Iran and its proxy, Hezbollah, can try to activate terrorist cells overseas to attack Israeli interests, or might order terrorists to anonymously attempt a missile attack on Israel from Lebanese or Syrian territory.

Yet, all parties are aware of the dangers of such “retribution.”

It could cause a wider escalation, at a time when the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah axis is in a strategically weak situation.
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