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Why Israel bombed Syria

May 5, 2013, at 1:55 AM
Smoke and fire fill the the skyline over Damascus, Syria, early Sunday, May 5, 2013 after an Israeli airstrike. Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles.

Smoke and fire fill the the skyline over Damascus, Syria, early Sunday, May 5, 2013 after an Israeli airstrike. Israeli warplanes struck areas in and around the Syrian capital Sunday, setting off a series of explosions as they targeted a shipment of highly accurate, Iranian-made guided missiles. Photo: AP Photo/Ugarit News via AP video

Israel was twice able to attack targets inside Syria in the middle of an incredibly dangerous civil war where chemical weapons have been used, and no one seeks to blame them for the conflict. I find that remarkable. Nothing would unite Syria like a common enemy, and yet even when the common enemy invades their country, it makes more international headlines than in Syria itself.  

As a geopolitical affair, the Syrian civil war has almost nothing to do with Israel. It's a conflagration whose embers seem to blow by the neighboring country. Depending on the level of abstraction you'd like, it's a conflict between the Sunni majority and the Alawite family leadership that kept power by relying on Shia Iran; it's a popular revolt over the autocracy and ineffective four decades of Ba'ath party plutocracy in Damascus; it's the boiled-over frustrations at the Assad family; it's a proxy conflict between Sunni jihadists and Iran; it's a continuation of the Arab spring; it's actually the first real Arab awakening (where the long-oppressed Sunni religious majorities significantly alter their expectations about how to live their lives).  

That's a lot. Israel's focus is on the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah arms/money/land-space connection, and both of its strikes were incision-like interventions designed to protect the homeland from threatening missiles. Nothing more, nothing less. (Israel has Syria wired, which is to say that the Mossad and Aman, the Israeli foreign intelligence service and its defense intelligence service, have numerous agents on the ground and targeting packages at the ready, and can employ them easily.)

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