Tuesday, September 18, 2007
The Silence Is Deafening
The web's been abuzz with speculation about what actually happened in Syria last week. So far, what's actually known is that Syria announced that it had fired on Israeli warplanes that had violated its airspace. Turkey later announced that it had recovered fuel tanks of the type Israeli fighter jets use on its border with Syria, and very mildly protested about the Israeli violation of its airspace.
The rest is really speculation, because Israel has neither denied or confirmed the raid, and the only people who have commented on it have been "unnamed American officials" who at first suggested the target had been Iranian arms shipments transiting Syria for delivery to Hezbollah, and later tried to grow legs on a Syrian-Korean nuclear link story. The latter angle was picked up by the so-called "responsible" press, suddenly unable to resist a sensational story.
But this story's significance, as Ilene Prusher of the CS Monitor points out, lies not in what happened, but in what didn't happen. Namely, a rousing condemnation of the Israeli provocation. Not only has no one forcefully reprimanded them (aside from the Syrians), there's almost been a tacit sigh of relief.
My initial reaction to the story last week, before the Syrian nuclear installation got tagged onto it, was that the Israelis were conducting a dry run to smoke out Syrian air defences for an eventual raid on Iran's uranium enrichment facilities. And this map that accompanies the CSM article seems to bear out that hypothesis. Continue along that trajectory and before long you're in Isfahan and Natanz. In other words, the heart of the Iranian nuclear program.
Whether or not that's the case, though, I think Prusher's spot on in her conclusion. Israel sent the entire region, but especially the Iranians, a message, and it was willing to jeopardize any chance of peace talks with the Syrians to do so. The message? It can do what it pleases. And it can do it with impunity.