US President Obama with PM Netanyahu at White House 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa)
Signals from the US suggesting a military response to the chemical massacre in
Syria are growing louder, and Israel, it is safe to assume, is quietly making
preparations to ensure it is ready for any retribution attacks.
when Washington, together with its allies, launches a military strike on Syria,
the move will not only target the Assad regime.
A US military response
will challenge the belligerent axis that stands behind Syria, made up of Iran,
which is sending weapons and military advisers to Syria, and Hezbollah, which
sent thousands of highly trained, heavily armed fighters to help keep the Assad
This axis, also known as the Shi’ite crescent, operates
under Russian diplomatic cover, and gets military support from Moscow in the
form of extensive sales of sophisticated arms.
Iran, leader of the
Shi’ite crescent, views Syria as its critical forward province.
axis’s members will be thinking about how they should respond to a US military
Syrian officials have, since the outbreak of the civil war,
issued threats in an effort to deter US intervention. A common theme running
through many of the threats is a warning that any foreign intervention will
result in a “fire that will engulf the region.”
These threats have been
echoed by Iranian officials.
Israel has been mentioned as a target for
retribution, though US allies Jordan and Turkey could just as easily find
themselves on the target list.
Efforts to lash out at Israel could
include Syrian ballistic missile attacks, rocket attacks from Hezbollah in
Lebanon or in Syria, or terrorist attacks on overseas Israeli targets by global
Hezbollah or Iranian operatives.
Despite the threats, Hezbollah, Syria
and Iran all know that any provocation against Israel could backfire badly
The strength of Israel’s deterrence, based on its military
prowess, will help determine whether Israel becomes the target of a retribution
The signals sent consistently in recent months and years suggest
that it would be wrong to assume that Jerusalem will repeat its actions from the
1991 Gulf War, when Israel did not return fire at Iraq after coming under Scud
Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon and IDF Chief of Staff
Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz have made it abundantly clear that Israel will respond to
any attack on its civilians. The resolve was on display last week, when the
Israel Air Force bombed a terrorist site south of Beirut
, in response to the
firing of four rockets
at northern Israeli communities.
The air strike
was the latest in a series of clear signals designed to demonstrate Israel’s
determination to respond to all attacks on it.
Before that, the IDF’s
Northern Command responded to gunfire and shelling attacks from Syrian army
units by silencing the sources of fire
with guided surface-to-surface Tamuz
Not only has Israel beefed up its deterrence with such
responses, it has – according to foreign media reports – demonstrated its
preemptive capabilities and the resolve to use them.
reports, targets of past preemptive strikes ranged from caches of Iranian guided
missiles in Damascus to a jihadist terrorist cell in the Sinai Peninsula
preparing to fire rockets at Israel.
With the IAF able to strike more
targets (near and far) than ever before, and IDF Military Intelligence keeping
its many eyes on more enemy activity than ever before, those who consider
attacking Israel will surely not do so lightly, if at all.
of potential retribution should factor in the possibility that Syria, Hezbollah
and Iran might decide to take a calculated risk and launch a limited assault on
Israel in response to a US strike, based on a prediction that Israel will
refrain from responding with full force.
Such a prediction would be out
of tune with Israel’s quiet yet unmistakable warnings.