Syrian attacks: Lessons and repercussions


By Barry Shaw.


The news in early April circled two attacks in Syria.

One was the horrendous chemical weapons launched from Syrian warplanes. The world was sickened by the sight of dead and dying children and babies chocking on the poison that descended on them from a threatening Syrian sky.

The other was the decisive response when President Trump spoke for the outraged world by destroying the Syrian airbase from which the planes carried their lethal loads against the civilian population of Idlib.

Seventy died and hundreds were injured in the Syrian attack executed with the collusion of Russia.  

Faced with global outrage, the Syrian regime pointed the finger of blame against Israel, the Martians, anyone except themselves.

Assad told a Croatian newspaper that he blamed Israel “for supporting terrorists” and that he was engaged in a “Syrian-Israeli war” because “the same terrorists fighting on Syrian soil serve Israel, even if they are not members of Israel’s standing army. Israel is a partner with the same goals as the United States, Turkey,  France, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and other countries,” which basically points to Assad’s sense of isolation.

On April 5, the same day as the Syrian chemical attack against civilians in the Khan Sheikhoun district of Idlib, the Syrian delegate to the United Nations Disarmament Commission accused Israel of “intolerable and immoral” practices of introducing “nuclear terrorism, chemical,  biological and radioactive terrorism” into the region.

Ever heard the expression “getting away with murder”? Play smoke and mirrors at the UN by blaming Israel of gross violations of, well, anything from global terrorism or the abuse of children’s and women’s rights. It diverts attention away from your crimes as you are slaughtering women and children.

In the face of such gross injustices perpetrated by regimes that have been emboldened by the dangerously vacuous foreign policy of the Obama Administration, the caring world took a collective sigh of relief when newly-elected President Trump stepped up to the plate and knocked out twenty warplanes and the destruction of one of Syria’s primary airbases. This warning shot told dictators everywhere that America is back after eight failed years of Obama.

On December 2, 2012, when Obama warned that “the use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable,” he told Assad that, “if you make the tragic mistake of using this weapon you will accountable and there will be consequences.”

In August, 2013, in defiance of the American president, Assad launched a massive poison gas attack in Adra that reportedly killed more than 1,400 including over 500 children.  The response form the Obama Administration was confined to a few vacuous words and zero action.

By June 2014, the Wall Street Journal was heralding the headline, “Removal of Chemical Weapons from Syria is Completed” as Obama sent out his envoys to declare; “We were able to find a solution that actually removed chemical weapons from the use of Syria in a way that the use of force would never have accomplished.”  

This was Susan Rice on NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ on January 16 this year. Why is it that whenever Susan Rice goes public she talks such crock? Remember Benghazi and the video?  Remember Susan Rice saying that deserter Bergdahl served with ‘honor and distinction’?

Not that John Kerry was any brighter, or more honest. On ‘Meet the Press’ on July 20, 2014, he boasted that “we struck a deal where we got 100% of the Syrian chemical weapons out.”

Assad kept his chemical weapons stockpile.  What else would a rough regime do when a naïve US Administration lamely relied on trust without extreme verification? They would lie and cheat. That’s what a rogue regime does in the face of supine naivety.

This inevitably brings us to consider what if the Obama Administration was as totally impotent and wrong about Iran’s nuclear capability as they have been proven to be over Assad’s chemical weapons? What then?

The specter of Adra and Idlib raises grave questions.  

They were adamant there were no chemical weapons in Syria. They lined up in front of the media to brag about it. They were wrong. They were dead wrong.

In retrospect, the Obama doctrine was if you say it is so, it has to be so.  The deadly result of that fallacy hangs heavily over Israel.

What if the mad mullahs of Tehran have, as we suspect, amassed stockpiles of nuclear material and are now being allowed to develop their long-range launch capabilities to deliver their version of Adra and Idlib to the civilians of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem?

The uncertainty of idle boasts from the previous US has led Israel to worry even more about the Iranian nuclear threat over our heads.

We never trusted the Obama-Kerry deal then. We sure as hell don’t trust it today. But that is not the only concern for Israelis.

What of the repercussions for Israel of the Trump strike in Syria?

There has been media talk of Syria or their proxies taking revenge against American targets for the destruction of their airbase.

Certainly, the vast majority of Israelis applauded the president’s decisive action.  However, it is certain that there will be blow-back from one of Syria’s close allies, probably not Russia but surely Iran or Hezbollah.

Assad is not in a position to inflict damage on either America or Israel, but Iran and absolutely Hezbollah are.  Any Israeli national security assessment must take into consideration the possibility of Hezbollah striking either an Israeli or Jewish target sometime this year.  

Knowing Hezbollah’s past record, the target will probably not be in Israel or the States. They will select either a Jewish facility or Israeli embassy in South America, or against Israeli or Jewish tourist targets in Europe.

Hezbollah terrorists will give cover for Syria and Iran. They have always been a useful terror proxy for these rogue regimes. It would be hard for America or Israel to strike against Syria, Iran or even Lebanon should a deadly Hezbollah terror attack occur abroad.

Barry Shaw is the Senior Associate for Public Diplomacy at the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies. He is the author of the new book ‘1917. From Palestine to the Land of Israel.’


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