Syrian anti-aircraft missile launchers 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Sana Sana)
A glance north of the border reveals a fragile, unpredictable situation,
characterized by both hidden, explosive dangers and – possibly – over-hyped
As fast-paced chaos stemming from the bloody civil war continues
to rip through Syria, spreading into Lebanon as well, the immediate danger to
Israeli security rests primarily with future attempts by Hezbollah to get hold
of advanced weapons, such as guided missiles. Hezbollah could use such missiles
to paralyze the Israeli home front in a confrontation.
Israel remains on
alert for convoys carrying Iranian or Syrian weaponry from Syrian locations west
toward Lebanon. The danger of such proliferation has not subsided, and neither
has Israel’s willingness to enforce its red lines and prevent the weapons from
reaching their destination.
But the stakes are higher now than in the
past. Syrian President Bashar Assad has committed himself to a military response
from now on to any Israeli strikes. Israel has made it clear that it will not
tolerate any Syrian fire on Israeli territory. This means that the road to a
security deterioration has gotten shorter.
On the other hand, that fact
alone should be enough to dissuade Assad from green-lighting arms convoys to
There were initial concerns that the Assad regime would seek
to retaliate for air strikes in Damascus last month, in which Hezbollah-bound
Iranian guided missiles were destroyed, according to foreign media, by the
Israel Air Force. But the chances of that happening remain low, due to the IDF’s
policy of zero tolerance toward Syrian attacks.
When the Syrian army
fired on IDF border patrols in May, its position was obliterated by IDF return
fire. The message seems to have been received clearly on the Syrian side, and
the border has remained quiet since then.
In recent days, Assad made
headlines when he claimed that he was facing pressure by his citizens to allow
“resistance” groups to launch cross-border attacks on Israel.
community in Israel was left unimpressed by Assad’s latest threat.
controls less than half (40 percent) of Syria, according to Israeli intelligence
estimates, and his focus is on beating back the rebels. With the help of
Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, Assad is making some gains, yet he lacks the
resources and will to open a second front against Israel.
headlines of an imminent transfer of the advanced S-300 surface-to-air missiles
from Russia to Syria did not reflect the fact that the missiles are not expected
to arrive in the region any time soon.
Israel’s red lines are being
respected, for now, allowing Jerusalem to safeguard its status as a concerned
observer of events unfolding in the North.
Meanwhile, Shi’ite Hezbollah
fighters, backed by Iranian military advisers, continue to pour into Syria,
turning the battle for the strategic town of Qusair around in Assad’s favor.
Sunni leaders around the region have issued a battle cry to evict Hezbollah from
Syria, and the war between Sunnis and Shi’ites is escalating
Lebanon’s delicate sectarian society could form the next
battleground. Israel has no wish to get sucked into this brutal sectarian
These complex regional tensions will not diminish any time soon.
Away from Syria, to the east, Iran’s nuclear program continues to develop, and
it is approaching the most important Israeli red line of them all.