Robert Fisk asks: If the Syrian air force can use their MiGs so devastatingly – and at such civilian cost – against their enemies inside Syria, why couldn’t they have sent their jets to protect Damascus and attack the Israeli aircraft? Isn’t the Syrian air force supposed to be guarding Syria from Israel? Or are the MiGs just not technically able to take on Israel’s state-of-the-art (American) hardware? Or would that just be a step too far?
Much more important, however, is the salient fact that Israel has now intervened in the Syrian war. It may say it was only aiming at weapons destined for the Hezbollah – but these were weapons also being used against rebel forces in Syria. By diminishing the regime’s supply of these weapons, it is therefore helping the rebels overthrow Bashar al-Assad. And since Israel regards itself as a Western nation – best friend and best US military ally in the Middle East, etc, etc – this means that “we” are now involved in the war, directly and from the air.
The Los Angeles Times reports: Recent Israeli strikes inside Syria may have exposed weaknesses in the regime’s air defenses and could embolden the U.S. and its allies to take more steps to aid rebels fighting the regime there, said lawmakers on Sunday.
“The Russian-supplied air defense systems are not as good as said,” Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” Leahy, who heads the appropriations subcommittee on foreign operations, said the Israeli defense forces were using American-made F-16 Fighting Falcon jets to launch the missiles against Syrian targets.
“Keep in mind the Israelis are using weapons supplied by us,” Leahy said. “They have enormous prowess with those weapons.”
The New York Times reports: Syrian state television said the explosions confirmed government contentions that the rebels are part of an American-Israeli conspiracy to topple Mr. Assad for his support of Palestinians and his opposition to Western policies in the Middle East.
While being seen as allies of Israel could tarnish the rebels in Syrian eyes, the opposition could point to the strikes as proof of their government’s hypocrisy. A frequent refrain among fighters and activists has been that although the government’s security forces and military failed to prevent the Israeli strikes — and for that matter have not clashed with Israel since 1973 — they have killed tens of thousands of Syrians and jailed many more in order to hold onto power.
Some rebels say openly that they consider Mr. Assad a higher priority target than Israel, while making clear that they do not embrace Israel. The main exile Syrian opposition coalition walked that line carefully in a statement issued after the bombings, blaming the government for allowing attacks by “external occupying forces.”
“The regime has used its forces to suppress the popular demands of the people for change, weakening Syrian defense, and thus allowing external occupying forces to hit Syrian locations,” the statement said. “Israel’s actions, including its pre-emptive attacks to weaken Syrian defenses, demonstrate a fear of losing the years of peace that the Assad regime provided for Israel.”