Israeli Air Strikes Change Dynamic In Middle East

Over the weekend Israel confirmed it launched preemptive attacks on Syria, but denied that it was an attempt to destabilize the regime of President Bashir al-Assad.

Interviewed on Israel Radio, Israeli politician Tzachi Hanegbi said the aim of the military action was “to keep advanced weapons from Hezbollah as soon as intentions are exposed, and refrain from tension with Syria.”

Are Israeli Air Strikes A “Game Changer?”
British Foreign Minister William Hague warned that the Israeli air strikes “and many other events of recent days, do show increasing danger to the peace of that entire region from the Syria crisis just getting worse and worse. Lebanon is constantly threatened by being destabilised, huge numbers of refugees are crossing the border, Jordan is under incredible strain.”

This leaves the global community with some uncomfortable decisions to make in the coming weeks. If Syria responds, what next?

“The capacity of the Syrian civil war to draw other nations into its ghastly
vortex has finally been realised with the Israeli air strikes on targets inside the disintegrating state. While Western powers have been anxious to stay out of the conflict, Israel cannot afford to be indifferent to what is happening on its doorstep,” the editorial board of London’s The Telegraph argued.

“Just as Israel opted for preemptive action to protect its self-interest, the editorial contends, “the wider world may soon need to confront the implications of the inability to contain Syria’s tragedy within its frontiers. In the Middle East, the ramifications are already apparent on a daily basis as refugees stream into Lebanon, Turkey and other neighbouring countries.”

Exit Strategy Must Be Debated Before Action Is Taken
Before a decision to involve ourselves further in Syria’s civil war, the US must engage in a full debate about the “exit strategy,” counsels Michael O’Hanlon of the Brookings Institution. O’Hanlon says Iraq and Afghanistan exemplify how not to go to war, while the handling of the civil war in Bosnia may provide a useful template for Syria.

“We need a debate about the right exit strategy in Syria before we enter into the war. The right model is neither Iraq, nor Afghanistan nor Libya, but the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. . . . . Syria could be harder because the insurgents are so fractured. But by offering the various factions help — not only now on the battlefield, but also later as they try to rebuild Syria once Assad is gone — we can establish influence and leverage. This will not be easy and will hardly guarantee a great outcome. But it is far more promising than the trajectory we are on,” he explains.

UN Official Claims Rebels Used Chemical Weapons
Carla Del Ponte, a member of the UN independent commission of inquiry on Syria, muddied the waters further by stating that it was the rebel forces, not the government, which used sarin gas.

She said in a May 5 interview  that “there are strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof of the use of sarin gas, from the way the victims were treated.”

The Red Line Is Not Black And White
Del Ponte’s remarks reflect the challenge to the international community and individual nations of identifying the evidence it needs to act or not act where red lines are concerned. And those red lines are even murkier when the case is Iran.”

“Drawing a red line to deter involves a dilemma between ambiguity and specificity: too ambiguous and Iran might cross the line by accident; too specific and one risks binding one’s hands, losing the element of surprise, alienating allies and third-parties, and, above all, letting Iran walk right up to the threshold,” asserts Shashank Joshi in The Diplomat.

What Is The Red Line?
“We can see this dynamic at work in the public red lines of the United States and Israel, both in Syria and Iran: each appears to be unambiguous, but leaves key unanswered questions about what is and is not covered,” Joshi continues.


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