Surprise! Excellent article from NY Times on Israeli air strike into Syrian anti aircraft weapon caravan

Israeli Airstrike in Syria Targets Arms Convoy, U.S. Says

http://israel-commentary.org/?p=5818

By ISABEL KERSHNER and MICHAEL R. GORDON

The New York Times
January 30, 2013

JERUSALEM — Israeli warplanes carried out a strike deep inside Syrian territory on Wednesday, American officials reported, saying they believed the target was a convoy carrying sophisticated antiaircraft weaponry on the outskirts of Damascus that was intended for the Hezbollah Shiite militia in Lebanon.

The American officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Israel had notified the United States about the attack, which the Syrian government condemned as an act of “arrogance and aggression.” Israel’s move demonstrated its determination to ensure that Hezbollah — its arch foe in the north — is unable to take advantage of the chaos in Syria to bolster its arsenal significantly.

The predawn strike was the first time in more than five years that Israel’s air force had attacked a target in Syria. While there was no expectation that the beleaguered Assad government had an interest in retaliating, the strike raised concerns that the Syrian civil war had continued to spread beyond its border.

In a statement, the Syrian military denied that a convoy had been struck. It said the attack had hit a scientific research facility in the Damascus suburbs that was used to improve Syria’s defenses, and called the attack “a flagrant breach of Syrian sovereignty and airspace.”

Israeli officials would not confirm the airstrike, a common tactic here. But it came after days of intense security consultations with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu regarding the possible movement of chemical and other weapons around Syria, and warnings that Jerusalem would take action to thwart any possible transfers to Hezbollah.

Thousands of Israelis have crowded gas-mask distribution centers over the last two days. On Sunday, Israel deployed its Iron Dome missile defense system in the north, near Haifa, which was heavily bombed during the 2006 war with Lebanon.

Syria and Israel are technically in a state of war but have long maintained an uneasy peace along their decades-old armistice line. Israel has mostly watched warily and tried to stay out of Syria’s raging civil war, fearful of provoking a wider confrontation with Iran and Hezbollah. In November, however, after several mortars fell on Israel’s side of the border, its tanks struck a Syrian artillery unit.

Several analysts said that despite the increased tensions, they thought the likelihood of retaliation for the airstrike was relatively low.

“It is necessary and correct to prepare for deterioration — that scenario exists,” Danny Yatom, a former chief of the Mossad, Israel’s intelligence agency, told Ynet, a news Web site. “But in my assessment, there will not be a reaction, because neither Hezbollah nor the Syrians have an interest in retaliating.”

Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad, “is deep in his own troubles,” Mr. Yatom said, “and Hezbollah is making a great effort to assist him, in parallel with its efforts to obtain weapons, so they won’t want to broaden the circle of fighting.”

In the United States, the State Department and Defense Department would not comment on reports of the strike.

The episode illustrated how the escalating violence in Syria, which has already killed more than 60,000, is drawing in neighboring states and threatening to destabilize the region further.

Iran has firmly allied itself with Mr. Assad, sending personnel from its Islamic Revolutionary Guards Quds Force to Syria and ferrying military equipment to Syria through Iraqi airspace.

Hezbollah, which plays a decisive role in Lebanese politics and has supported Mr. Assad during the uprising by providing training and logistical support to his forces, has long relied on Syria as both a source of weapons and a conduit for weapons flowing from Iran. Some analysts think Hezbollah may be trying to stock up on weapons in case Mr. Assad falls and is replaced by a leadership that is hostile to the militia.

One American official said the trucks targeted on Wednesday were believed to have been carrying sophisticated SA-17 antiaircraft weapons. Hezbollah’s possession of such weapons would be a serious worry for the Israeli government, said Matthew Levitt, a former intelligence official who is at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

“Israel is able to fly reconnaissance flights over Lebanon with impunity right now,” Mr. Levitt said. “This could cut into its ability to conduct aerial intelligence. The passing along of weapons to Hezbollah by the regime is a real concern.”

While some analysts said the Assad government might be providing the weapons to Hezbollah as a reward for its support, others were skeptical that Syria would relinquish such a sophisticated system.

Hezbollah has boasted that it has replenished and increased its weapons stocks since the 2006 war with Israel. During that war, Israeli bombardments destroyed some of its arms, and other missiles were used in a barrage that killed Israelis as far south as Haifa and that drove residents of northern Israel into shelters.

Pruden dissects Obama, Netanyahu and Useful Idiot American Jews

PRUDEN: A Come-to-Moses moment at hand   
By Wesley Pruden
The Washington Times
Friday, May 13, 2011

The State Department, which has never been particularly friendly to Jews, is getting a little cover for its unrelenting deference to the enemies of Israel. The Jews eager to cover for the diplomats are the weak, the naive and, alas, the familiar.

They’re the liberal, mostly Democratic, Jews offended by the “aggressive” Israelis who understand what’s at stake in the Middle East. They’re embarrassed by and resentful of the “righteous Gentiles” eager to help Israel prevent a second Holocaust, this one in the Middle East, rather than to contribute to building another Holocaust museum later.

Israel once united the contentious factions of American Jews, but now the mere existence of Israel exacerbates tension between the realists and the deaf, blind dreamers. Nevertheless, a “come-to-Moses” moment is approaching. Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, fresh from his kiss-and-make-up session with the terrorists of Hamas, is coming to New York City in September to press the United Nations to recognize an independent Palestinian State.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be in Washington next week to address a joint session of Congress and to meet with President Obama. Maybe they’ll talk about that. The occasion will give Messrs. Obama and Netanyahu, in diplo-speak, “An opportunity for the United States and Israel to review the full range of issues, from Iran to the regional change to the peace process.”

If the past is the usual reliable guide, the White House and the State Department will actually see this as an opportunity to pressure Israel to submit to further accommodation to those who want to “wipe Israel off the map,” in the vow of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran and the chief enabler of Hamas.

Mr. Obama himself is all aquiver working on his speech, probably to be delivered next week, eager to speak softly and carry small convictions made of strawberry Jell-O. The Wall Street Journal reports that he will urge Muslims to “reject Islamic militancy in the wake of Osama bin Laden’s death and embrace a new era of relations with the United States.” Ah, if only.

But it’s not just the Jews who get the back of his hand. There hasn’t been a peep out of the White House since a dozen Egyptian Christians were killed and scores injured by violent Muslims last weekend. Christian homes and businesses were trashed and burned. The pope condemned it; Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper condemned it. Nothing from the president, though there’s White House precedent for condemning burning churches. (Bill Clinton once condemned the burning of black churches in Arkansas even when nobody had burned any churches in Arkansas.)

Some American Jews who are fed up with the passivity, or worse, of well-established advocacy groups are splitting to establish new organizations with an appetite for the red meat that is the diet of everyone else in the Middle East. One particular target is the confederation of local Jewish Federations that, no doubt well-meaning, offer aid and comfort to those who mean Israel nothing but ill.

In New York City, writes Jonathan Rosenblum, a columnist for the Jerusalem Post and the Hebrew daily Maariv, a Jewish Federation affiliate on the Upper West Side supports organizations promoting boycott, divestment and sanction of Israel. In Washington, the Federation funds an anti-Jewish theater troupe called Theater J, whose recent offerings include a play about Israelis as modern Nazis. A Southern California chapter contributes money to send students to Israel to be treated to scolding lectures by Hamas speakers.

This Jewish cover for anti-Israel initiatives is no doubt welcomed by Arabists in Foggy Bottom, where skepticism of Jews is part of the established old order. In his biography of Harry S. Truman, David McCullough tells of the fierce and bitter State Department resistance to recognizing the state of Israel at its founding in 1948. “The striped-pants conspirators,” Mr. Truman called the men just below George C. Marshall, the secretary whom the president regarded as something of a saint. “Some White House men … believe that a number of positions taken by career men on this matter were based on anti-Semitism, not diplomacy,” wrote one prominent pundit. Men at the State Department accused the president’s men of being more concerned about Israel than American security.

Six decades later, some things have changed, but not all. One thing that has changed is that there’s no one remotely like Harry S. Truman, a president fully at ease with the true character of the country he leads, in charge at the White House.

• Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.