Jerusalem—Israel’s military strikes against Syrian weapons facilities and rockets over the last week (and in January) represent a kind of one-two punch against Hezbollah and its main weapons supplier, the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Israel’s aim was to destroy Iranian-manufactured Fateh 110 missiles, Syrian-made surface-to-surface M600 missiles (a replicated version of the Fateh 110), and an assortment of Russian-made surface-sea missiles, including the Russian-produced SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles.
In short, Hezbollah’s acquisition and deployment of this weaponry could alter the balance of aerial power between the Iran-sponsored terror entity Hezbollah and Israel. The transfer of weapons from Syria to Hezbollah’s base in Lebanon is now a central focus of Israel’s defense establishment.
The Jewish state’s military superiority to Hezbollah largely depends on its air capability to decimate the Lebanese Shiite organization’s arsenal in order to avoid facing sophisticated anti-aircraft and long-range missiles.
There are some key take-away lessons from Israel’s three preemptive defensive strikes in 2013. Yossi Melman, a senior Israeli national-security analyst and a contributing editor at TheTower.org and the Jerusalem Report, told me that “Israel proved it is not dangerous” to access Syrian airspace.
It is worth recalling that the Obama administration and the international community raised concerns about Syria’s allegedly potent anti-aircraft capabilities. The Israeli strikes since January “unmasked the excuses of the Obama administration” to not impose a no-flight zone on Syrian airspace, says Melman.
Writing over at the new The Tower blog, Melman—widely considered to be one of Israel’s top intelligence experts — succinctly summed up the need for a no-fly zone in Syria: “If the Israel Air Force has done it, the US Air Force or NATO are capable of enforcing a non-fly zone that would at least reduce the bloodshed.”
The Obama administration seems to have internalized the position that Assad’s military is on very wobbly ground and highly vulnerable. According to a Washington Post article, senior U.S. officials said the administration is mulling an option “to ground President Bashar al-Assad’s air power by destroying planes, runways and missile sites inside Syria.”
Representative Peter King (R., N.Y.) captured the imperative of sending weapons to the opponents of Bashar Assad in Syria. “If we are going to arm the rebels, we have to make sure those arms are not going to end up in the possession of al-Qaeda supporters,” said King on CNN.
There is no shortage of compelling political and international-security reasons for the U.S. and its allies to intervene and stop Assad’s use of chemical/conventional weapons, which has resulted in a blood bath of over 70,000 dead Syrians.
Hezbollah’s bolstered military presence in Syria to aid Assad should immediately trigger the EU to include Hezbollah in its terror list. Hezbollah’s fiercely anti-Western leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah alluded last week to the possibility of intervention by “resistance groups” in coordination with Syrian regime allies Iran and Russia to prevent the collapse of the Assad regime.
It is a superfluous point. Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guard have long been active in fighting Syrian rebel forces and killing civilians.
The French, German, Austrian, and Belgian view that Hezbollah serves as a stabilizing force in Lebanon no longer — if it ever did — holds water. Confronting Hezbollah’s terrorism against the U.S. and Europe is long overdue.
It is worth recalling that in January 2007, Hezbollah operative Ali Mussa Daqduq played a key role in the murders of five U.S. soldiers in Iraq. Daqduq is now back in Lebanon and protected by Hezbollah. In 1983, Hezbollah carried out a double suicide attack against U.S. and French military barracks in Beirut, killing 241 American servicemen and 58 French paratroopers. The time is ripe to dismantle the Syrian-Hezbollah-Iranian axis.
— Benjamin Weinthal is a Berlin-based fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Benjamin on Twitter: @BenWeinthal.