Syria declares right to retaliate as Israeli planes fly over Lebanon

On Thursday, Syria made a formal complaint to the United Nations and declared its right to self defense after Wednesday’s Israeli strike on Syrian territory. Russia, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah, and the Arab League also condemned the attack. Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon said that Syria had "the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation." However, ...

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

On Thursday, Syria made a formal complaint to the United Nations and declared its right to self defense after Wednesday's Israeli strike on Syrian territory. Russia, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah, and the Arab League also condemned the attack. Syria's ambassador to Lebanon said that Syria had "the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation." However, many analysts believe the Syrian military is too taxed by internal fighting to retaliate. The details of the attack are still unclear, and it is uncertain if there was one strike or two. Anonymous U.S. officials reported a warplane hit a military convoy carrying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Conversely, Syria claimed the strike targeted a scientific research facility. Israel has continued to refrain from comment, which some say is strategic. Lebanon reported more Israeli warplanes have flown over southern Lebanon on Friday. Departing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her final press interview in the position, warned that Iran has increased military and financial aid to the Syrian government and said the administration believes that Russia has continued to supply funding and military assistance. For the first time, Russian and U.S. officials along with U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are all set to meet together with opposition Syrian National Coalition officials on the sidelines of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Munich on Saturday. However, Russia has not yet confirmed the meeting. 

Headlines  

An explosion outside the U.S. embassy in the Turkish capital Ankara on Friday killed at least two people and wounded others in what was believed to be a suicide bombing. A Bahraini police officer has been imprisoned for seven years for killing a protester on February 14, 2011, the first fatality of the country's uprising. The United States warned Iran that its plans to upgrade the centrifuges at its enrichment plant in Natanz would be "another provocative step" and will lead to further isolation. Egypt's opposition is planning new protests for Friday after a group of lead rival politicians pledged to renounce violence

On Thursday, Syria made a formal complaint to the United Nations and declared its right to self defense after Wednesday’s Israeli strike on Syrian territory. Russia, Iran, Lebanon, Hezbollah, and the Arab League also condemned the attack. Syria’s ambassador to Lebanon said that Syria had "the option and the capacity to surprise in retaliation." However, many analysts believe the Syrian military is too taxed by internal fighting to retaliate. The details of the attack are still unclear, and it is uncertain if there was one strike or two. Anonymous U.S. officials reported a warplane hit a military convoy carrying arms to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Conversely, Syria claimed the strike targeted a scientific research facility. Israel has continued to refrain from comment, which some say is strategic. Lebanon reported more Israeli warplanes have flown over southern Lebanon on Friday. Departing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in her final press interview in the position, warned that Iran has increased military and financial aid to the Syrian government and said the administration believes that Russia has continued to supply funding and military assistance. For the first time, Russian and U.S. officials along with U.N. and Arab League envoy Lakhdar Brahimi are all set to meet together with opposition Syrian National Coalition officials on the sidelines of the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Munich on Saturday. However, Russia has not yet confirmed the meeting. 

Headlines  

Syria: how we can end the bloodshed (Jonathan Steele, The Guardian)

"The motives behind Israel’s attack on Syria on Wednesday are still as obscure as the nature of the target. But two things seem clear. It was related to Israel’s long war with Hezbollah in Lebanon rather than any desire to intervene in the fighting in Syria. Yet the attack was also a reminder that Syria’s turmoil is having dangerously unpredictable consequences across the region.

Finding a viable political solution is therefore all the more urgent. So it was good to hear that Moaz al-Khatib, who leads the Syrian National Coalition – the group of exiles who support armed intervention against the Syrian government and are backed by western and Gulf Arab states – now advocates talks with Basher al-Assad’s people. This is not the view of French, British and US leaders or most of Khatib’s Syrian colleagues, who talk vaguely of a political outcome but only mean Assad’s unilateral surrender."

The U.S. needs a completely different approach to Iran (Flynt and Hillary Leverett, Reuters)

"As Washington and its great power partners prepare for more nuclear negotiations with Iran, the Obama administration and policy elites across the political spectrum talk as if America is basically in control of the situation. Sanctions, we are told, are inflicting ever-rising hardship on Iran’s economy. Either Tehran will surrender to U.S. demands that it stop enriching uranium or, at some point, the American military will destroy Iranian nuclear installations.

This is a dangerous delusion, grounded in persistent American illusions about Middle Eastern reality. Because of failed wars-cum-occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan; a war on terror that has turned Muslim societies ever more firmly against U.S. policy; and de facto support for open-ended Israeli occupation of Arab populations, America’s position in the region is in free fall. Increasingly mobilized publics will not tolerate continuation of such policies. If, in this climate, the United States launches another war to disarm yet another Middle Eastern country of weapons of mass destruction it does not have, the blowback against American interests will be disastrous. Nonetheless, that is where our current strategy – negotiating on terms that could not possibly interest Iran while escalating covert operations, cyber-attacks, and economic warfare against it – leads."

–By Jennifer Parker and Mary Casey

<p>Mary Casey-Baker is the editor of Foreign Policy’s Middle East Daily Brief, as well as the assistant director of public affairs at the Project on Middle East Political Science and assistant editor of The Monkey Cage blog for the Washington Post. </p> Twitter: @casey_mary

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