With the stakes so high as Iran pursues nuclear weapons, Israel’s airstrike this week on an Iranian munitions depot in Syria – containing high-end missiles destined for Hezbollah in Lebanon – sends a powerful message of deterrent to the mad mullahs of Iran.
Here are five reasons why the Israeli strike is a welcome step forward in the movement to stop Iran’s march to the nuclear goal line.
(1) Israel will not permit Iranian proxies to threaten its security.
The warehouse of Fateh-110 missiles that Israel destroyed at Damascus International Airport are “game changers” in that they are extremely precise, fit onto mobile launchers, carry a half-ton warhead, and have the range to reach from Lebanon into the Israeli heartland of Tel Aviv, and even to Israel’s southern-most city of Eilat. The lesson is clear: Israel will defend itself when threatened, and Israel will not be deterred by rhetorical or even actual threats.
(2) Israel has the intelligence and military capability to get the job done.
To reach its target, the Israeli air force blew past Syria’s air defense systems and went straight for the heavily-guarded capital in Damascus. The missile warehouse was located underground, protected by thick layers of concrete – not unlike Iran’s heavily-fortified underground nuclear facility at Fordow – and yet Israeli munitions did the job quickly and cleanly. Aside from the Iranian and Syrian soldiers guarding the site, it was a targeted strike with no collateral damage. It was, by all measures, a textbook display of intelligence and military capability. This puts Iran on notice that, when necessary, Israel is prepared to go the distance.
(3) Israel has international support.
Following the strike, world leaders made clear that, in the words of President Obama, "The Israelis, justifiably, have to guard against the transfer of advanced weaponry to terrorist organizations like Hezbollah." This demonstrates Israel’s willingness to work in tandem with Western leaders, and that Israel’s “PR reputation” will not suffer as it continues to act responsibly to defend its national security.
(4) Calling Iran’s bluff.
Western leaders have long feared that an attack against Iranian nuclear installations would produce doomsday scenarios such as Iranian rockets slamming American targets in the Persian Gulf; terror attacks by Iran's proxies on Western targets around the world; and global economic paralysis caused by a disruption in oil supplies. Iran has long declared that any attack on its proxy Syria would be treated as an attack on Iran and provoke harsh retaliation. Yet Iran's failure to respond to these multiple strikes on Syria (as well as a 2012 Israeli strike on Iranian weapons facility in Sudan) shows that to the contrary, Iran is generally reluctant to become engaged militarily. And though the concern of retaliation is clearly higher when considering a strike against Iran itself, Israel has demonstrated a clear willingness to take risks – when the stakes are too high not to.
(5) Stopping the slaughter in Syria.
As a bonus, the fact that Israel enforced its red line against Syria – that no high-end weaponry would be transferred to Hizbullah – sets a precedent in encouraging other Western nations to step up to the plate and enforce their own red line to stop the slaughter of Syrian civilians – what President Obama characterized as the use of chemical weapons.
As Iran ratchets up its pursuit of nuclear weapons, the Ayatollah is watching very carefully to see how Israel and world leaders react to Syria crossing the red line of transferring sophisticated weaponry to terror groups. Backing down against Syria would have the catastrophic consequence of sending the wrong signal to Iran.