Israel's illegal act of war threatens to inflame the region far beyond the borders of Syria
It is highly likely that the US will have been notified about these attacks in advance and they are part of a growing campaign of intervention in the civil war in Syria.
By Lindsey German
The bombing of Syria by Israel yesterday hit up to 12 targets near the capital, Damascus. It cannot be seen as anything other than an act of war against another country. It is clearly illegal under international law.
British foreign secretary William Hague hardly rushed to make this point, instead repeating the usual justification of the Western powers, that Israel has a right to defend itself.
In the second attack within two days on Syrian territory, Israel is supposedly trying to destroy weapons which might be used by Hezbollah in Lebanon, key opponents of the Israelis in the Lebanon war in 2006 and now allied to both the Syrian and Iranian governments.
It is highly likely that the US will have been notified about these attacks in advance and they are part of a growing campaign of intervention in the civil war in Syria, which is already the site of arms, financial, training and logistical interventions.
But the attack by Israel is likely to exacerbate the situation, with the chance of Syrian retaliation leading to full scale war which would certainly draw in Lebanon, Jordan, Iran and other countries in the Middle East.
The background to the attack is increasing talk about Syria using chemical weapons and of the need for the ‘international community’ to intervene on this pretext. There are also signs that the government forces and Hezbollah are both making gains in the civil war, as Channel 4 News reporter Alex Thomson points out in his blog today, and this is making Israel act pre-emptively to strengthen the opposition.
Israel’s leaders are quick to preach about democracy but they are increasing the number of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and Jerusalem driving Palestinians off their land on a daily basis. Its aim in intervening in Syria is to weaken its government and hit at Iran and Hezbollah.
The costs to millions of people in the Middle East are likely to be very high. That’s why governments in the Middle East, such as Egypt, have condemned the raids. They understand that, whatever the attitudes to Assad’s government, this takes the region further on the road to war, not peace.
Israel is being aided and abetted by the Western governments who ignore the devastation they have caused in the region in the past decade (not to mention their shameful historic role) and simply propose more of the same intervention which has caused such devastation in the first place.
As we’ve seen in the last week, two of the biggest military spending governments in the world are straining at the leash to give arms to the Syrian opposition. US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel and his British counterpart Philip Hammond, defence secretary in the UK coalition government, held a joint press conference which flagged up once again the major interventionist role both governments are playing -- without, of course, having to go through the inconvenience of declaring war.
Hagel made clear that the Obama government was not ruling out arming the opposition, the first time this has been publicly acknowledged. While Obama said last year that he did not want to go down this road, now he claims to be looking at 'all options'. Hagel says that arming the opposition is 'an option'. Hammond is less reticent. At present the UK cannot supply arms to anyone in Syria because there is an EU arms embargo, but this is due to be lifted in the coming weeks. Hammond promises to 'look at the situation when that ban expires'.
This marked a further ratcheting up of the intervention in Syria. If, as looks likely, Britain and France supply weapons directly, and with the possibility that the US does, they will join Qatar and Saudi Arabia in exacerbating a dangerous and deadly war which is already bringing misery to millions of Syrians.
William Hague’s response to the Israeli bombings is that it is even more important to lift the arms embargo on the opposition so that the UK and France can directly supply arms. It is hard to see the logic in that. In fact the western powers are playing a criminally dangerous game in Syria which is already having implications far beyond its borders.