Israel strikes Syria meanwhile U.N. investigator says rebels used Sarin

Israel launched airstrikes early Sunday into Syria for the second time in three days raising concerns of the spread of the Syrian conflict. Israeli jets reportedly hit several critical military facilities near Damascus, killing dozens of elite troops near the presidential palace, according to a Syrian military official. Opposition activists and fighters, as well as ...

AFP/Getty Images/MENAHEM KAHANA
AFP/Getty Images/MENAHEM KAHANA
AFP/Getty Images/MENAHEM KAHANA

Israel launched airstrikes early Sunday into Syria for the second time in three days raising concerns of the spread of the Syrian conflict. Israeli jets reportedly hit several critical military facilities near Damascus, killing dozens of elite troops near the presidential palace, according to a Syrian military official. Opposition activists and fighters, as well as residents, said the airstrikes hit Republican Guard bases and long-range missile storehouses, as well as a military research center at Jamraya, which U.S. officials have said is Syria's main chemical weapons facility. The attacks came after a strike early on Friday on a weapons facility at Damascus International Airport, which security sources said had Iranian missiles, which were to be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. An anonymous senior Israeli government official said, "If we don't take action now, we will be on the receiving end of those missiles."  Israel hasn't confirmed Sunday's attacks, and the White House declined to say if it believed Israel was responsible for the airstrikes. Syria condemned the strikes as a "declaration of war" and threatened retaliation, saying it was open to "all the options." While some analysts believe Syrian retaliation is unlikely, as a precaution, Israel deployed two of its Iron Dome missile defense batteries to its northern border and closed civilian flights to the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Meanwhile, with the increased speculation that chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian conflict, the head of the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte said there is "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof," that opposition fighters have used sarin gas. She did not elaborate as to when or where deadly nerve agent may have been used. Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokadad dismissed the statement insisting the opposition fighters do not have nor want chemical weapons, and "don't have the mechanism to launch these kinds of weapons."

Headlines

Libya passed a "political isolation" law, which would ban from office officials who had held a senior position under Qaddafi, in a move which could unseat Prime Minster Ali Zidan. China is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for separate talks, showing a desire for a greater role in the region. A Kenyan court has sentenced two Iranians to life in prison after being convicted last week of possessing explosives, which they allegedly planned to use to attack Nairobi and Mombasa in 2012. Iraqi provincial election results show Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki's coalition ahead in seven out of 12 provinces, including the capital, Baghdad. 

Israel launched airstrikes early Sunday into Syria for the second time in three days raising concerns of the spread of the Syrian conflict. Israeli jets reportedly hit several critical military facilities near Damascus, killing dozens of elite troops near the presidential palace, according to a Syrian military official. Opposition activists and fighters, as well as residents, said the airstrikes hit Republican Guard bases and long-range missile storehouses, as well as a military research center at Jamraya, which U.S. officials have said is Syria’s main chemical weapons facility. The attacks came after a strike early on Friday on a weapons facility at Damascus International Airport, which security sources said had Iranian missiles, which were to be transferred to Hezbollah in Lebanon. An anonymous senior Israeli government official said, "If we don’t take action now, we will be on the receiving end of those missiles."  Israel hasn’t confirmed Sunday’s attacks, and the White House declined to say if it believed Israel was responsible for the airstrikes. Syria condemned the strikes as a "declaration of war" and threatened retaliation, saying it was open to "all the options." While some analysts believe Syrian retaliation is unlikely, as a precaution, Israel deployed two of its Iron Dome missile defense batteries to its northern border and closed civilian flights to the northern Israeli city of Haifa. Meanwhile, with the increased speculation that chemical weapons have been used in the Syrian conflict, the head of the U.N. Independent Commission of Inquiry on Syria Carla del Ponte said there is "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof," that opposition fighters have used sarin gas. She did not elaborate as to when or where deadly nerve agent may have been used. Free Syrian Army spokesman Louay Almokadad dismissed the statement insisting the opposition fighters do not have nor want chemical weapons, and "don’t have the mechanism to launch these kinds of weapons."

Headlines

  • Libya passed a "political isolation" law, which would ban from office officials who had held a senior position under Qaddafi, in a move which could unseat Prime Minster Ali Zidan.
  • China is hosting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas for separate talks, showing a desire for a greater role in the region.
  • A Kenyan court has sentenced two Iranians to life in prison after being convicted last week of possessing explosives, which they allegedly planned to use to attack Nairobi and Mombasa in 2012.
  • Iraqi provincial election results show Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki’s coalition ahead in seven out of 12 provinces, including the capital, Baghdad. 

Arguments and Analysis

How Syria Ruined the Arab Spring (Marc Lynch, Foreign Policy)

"Washington today is consumed by another round of its endless debate about whether to intervene in Syria, this time in response to the regime’s alleged use of chemical weapons. I have little to add to the thousands of essays already published on this, beyond what I’ve already argued. I might add that defending American "credibility" is always a bad reason to go to war. The reputation costs of not enforcing a red line are minimal, and will evaporate within a news cycle; military intervention in Syria will be the news cycle for the next few years. The United States should act in Syria in the way that it believes will best serve American interests and most effectively respond to Syria’s horrific violence, not because it feels it must enforce an ill-advised red line.

Rather than continue that debate right now, I want to take a step back and look at how profoundly the Syrian nightmare has destroyed the spirit of fun, hope, and positive change of the early Arab uprisings. The promise of the Arab Spring has given way to Syria’s highly visible and protracted violence, divisive identity politics, focus on international intervention, crushing of expectations, fragmentation of the media landscape, state failure, and strategic proxy warfare.

The most obvious way in which Syria has eaten the Arab Spring is the ongoing violence. Egypt and Tunisia may not have been quite as peaceful as many like to believe — many protesters died in clashes with the police — but it mattered that the militaries opted not to open fire on their people. The NATO intervention began in Libya barely a month after the first days of the uprising, before Muammar al-Qaddafi’s violent backlash gained full strength. But Syria’s almost incomprehensible scale of death and devastation has ground on for two long years, with only worse horrors on the horizon."

Iranian Strategy in Syria (Will Fulton, Joseph Holliday & Sam Wyer, Critical Threats Project and Institute for the Study of War)

"The Islamic Republic of Iran has conducted an extensive, expensive, and integrated effort to keep President Bashar al-Assad in power as long as possible while setting conditions to retain its ability to use Syrian territory and assets to pursue its regional interests should Assad fall.

The Iranian security and intelligence services are advising and assisting the Syrian military in order to preserve Bashar al-Assad’s hold on power. These efforts have evolved into an expeditionary training mission using Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Ground Forces, Quds Force, intelligence services, and law enforcement forces. The deployment of IRGC Ground Forces to conflict abroad is a notable expansion of Iran’s willingness and ability to project military force beyond its borders.

Iran has been providing essential military supplies to Assad, primarily by air. Opposition gains in Syria have interdicted many ground resupply routes between Baghdad and Damascus, and the relative paucity of Iranian port-visits in Syria suggests that Iran’s sea-lanes to Syria are more symbolic than practical. The air line of communication between Iran and Syria is thus a key vulnerability for I
ranian strategy in Syria. Iran would not be able to maintain its current level of support to Assad if this air route were interdicted through a no-fly zone or rebel capture of Syrian airfields."

–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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