The world has been observing the events in Syria, particularly over the period of the civil war that has raged there for the past two years. Syria has long presented a threat to the international community because of two main factors. The first factor is its substantial arsenal of conventional, biological and chemical weapons which President Bashar al-Assad appears to have no reluctance to use. The second factor is its close links to Iran in the sponsorship of international terror. During the course of the civil war, the threat has escalated even further with numerous international terror groups using the instability created by the war to take up camp in Syria. This increases the possibility that dangerous weapons could fall into renegade terror groups around the world. The world has been observing these events from a safe distance without taking any action at all to prevent the strengthening of international terror.
Israel’s proximity to Syria, and the fact that a border is shared by the two countries, has always meant that all that happens in Syria is of significant interest to the Israeli security services. Syria has been an enemy of the State of Israel from the moment Israel came into existence in 1948, a situation that has not changed until the present day. The period during which the civil war has been fought in Syria is no exception, and has added further instability to the region due to the lack of predictability as to how the Syrian authorities and the rebels may direct their forces towards Israel. A few isolated missiles have already landed in Israeli territory from Syria, but these have been regarded having crossed the border in error rather than having been deliberately directed towards Israel. The truth is that the Syrian forces and their rebel enemies are too busy fighting against each other to spend much time worrying about launching an attack against Israel. While this presents a source of comfort for Israel on one hand, it also presents a real threat on the other hand.
The war has led to the general opening up of Syria’s arms and ammunitions depots for the Syrian army to use against the rebels. Some reports suggest that it has even made use of chemical weapons in this war. The opening of missile storage facilities means that these arms and missiles are also more easily available to other renegade groups who may wish to snatch them from the Syrians. This has resulted in the Syrians trying to move some of their most strategic missiles to be under the care of its allies and friends, most notably Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
These movements undoubtedly lie behind recent reports coming from Syria that a convoy of weapons was attacked while in transit from Syria to Lebanon. Israel has been accused of the attack, even though there is no formal word from the Israeli government or army on the matter. Another attack was also reported, nearer to Damascus, at around the same time. Syrian TV reported that Israeli jets attacked an army facility, widely rumoured to be a research centre involved in the production of chemical and biological weapons. Once again, the Israelis have remained silent on the matter. Even though there is no official word on whether Israel was involved in either or both of these incidents, the pinpoint accuracy with which they were carried out does bear the hallmark of operations that Israel could have been involved in. Hints have come out of the US government to confirm this, and remarks made by Israel Defense Minister Ehud Barak also seem to support Israel’s involvement.
While these attacks were clearly carried out in the interests of Israel’s own safety, she is doing the world a huge service in the process. The threat presented by the axis of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, and their links to other terror organisations, is one that is not solely directed towards Israel. The Bulgarian government confirmed that the attack against Israeli tourists in Burgas on the Black Sea in the summer of 2012, was carried out by Hezbollah. In addition to the 5 Israelis who were killed in the attack in Bulgaria, there was also a Bulgarian tour guide who was a casualty. The Bulgarian economy was also affected as a result of the decision made by tourists to stay away from the area while international terror organisations were operating there. Attacks on targets in the US, Far East and across Europe which have escalated over the past 10 or 15 years, show clearly that terror that was once aimed solely at Israel or limited to the Middle East, has now become a global threat. Any activities carried out by Israel against these terror organisations, even if it is solely in the pursuit of securing her own safety, represents a huge favour to the wider international community.
The unfortunate part of this is that Israel seldom, if ever, receives help, support and assistance in these activities. At best, Israel may receive a “green light” in the form of an agreement not to resist or oppose the attack. More likely, Israel is subject to international condemnation in the international press, and in bodies like the UN. An example of this is the reaction that was received to Israel’s bombing of Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility back in 1981. Israel was roundly condemned by the international community, and resolutions were passed by the UN Security Council and by the UN General Assembly criticising Israel’s actions. It took until 2005 for US President Bill Clinton to finally admit in public that ” I think, in retrospect, that it was a really good thing”. Clearly, the path of the Gulf Wars in Iraq would have looked completely different had Israel not been bold enough to carry out this attack. A similar assessment could be made of Israel’s attack on the Syrian nuclear reactor in 2007. Even though the world condemnation was not quite as vociferous on this occasion, there was no other country lining up to challenge Syria’s development of nuclear weapons, or to help Israel in destroying it. As the Syrian civil war continues, a heavy sigh of relief is being breathed by the world that there is no nuclear option available to the Syrian government.
As in the past, Israel’s strikes on the weapons convoy being sent to Hezbollah and the Syrian weapons research centre comes as a gift to the free world. This is a further service provided by the Israeli military, which seems at times to be the only force in the world that is ready to do the impossible. This impossible is frequently done on its own steam, and in the face of international condemnation. Although Israel is not necessarily seeking thanks and recognition for these efforts, many of which place the lives of our young soldiers on the line, it would be a welcome change to receive some support for these audacious actions.
Even if this is not forthcoming, I feel good to live in a country that is prepared to take the tough decisions to do the dirty work to secure the safety of its citizens, and has young men and women who are willing to put their lives on the line in the interests of executing it. This is a source of immense pride, and source of great comfort to me. It is a pity that the rest of the world gets a free ride in the process.