The Audacity of Syria Seeking a Capability of Defending Itself Against Foreign Aggression

by Jun 6, 2013Foreign Policy2 comments

We see once again how Syria acquiring better means to defend itself against foreign military attack is used as a pretext to escalate military attacks against Syria.

I see it’s time to follow up on my previous post, “How Dare Syria Possess the Capability to Defend Itself Against the US! Washington must escalate its efforts to overthrow the Syrian government for this outrage!” In that post, I explained how

Syria acquiring a means to defend itself against a U.S. military intervention serves as a pretext for increasing U.S. support for the rebels seeking to overthrow the Syrian government, and responsibility for any consequent prolongation of the conflict must therefore fall squarely on the Assad regime.

That was with reference to Russian Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles. The theme continues with news of a pending Russian delivery of an S-300 surface-to-air missile system.

Some of the headlines have consisted of lies like “Assad: We received 1st shipment of Russian S-300 missile” or “ASSAD: WE ALREADY HAVE S-300 MISSILES”. The New York Times, for its part, refrained from repeating this lie, but began its report with:

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria displayed a new level of defiance on Thursday, warning Israel that he could permit attacks on the Golan Heights and suggesting that he had secured plenty of weapons from Russia — possibly including an advanced missile system….

First of all, the Golan Heights does not belong to Israel, but is occupied Syrian territory. So this would mean Assad was “warning” Israel that Syria might engage in armed resistance to the military occupation of its own soil. Second, however, here’s the part of the interview in question where this alleged “warning” occurred:

In fact, there is clear popular pressure to open the Golan front to resistance. This enthusiasm is also on the Arab level; we have received many Arab delegations wanting to know how young people might be enrolled to come and fight Israel.

Assad made this comment in the context of a discussion about Israel’s intervention in Syria’s conflict on the side of the armed rebels and terrorist groups seeking to overthrow his government. Coming to the missiles, the Times states:

He was vague on whether Russia’s deliveries had included a sophisticated S-300 air missile system — of particular concern to Israel because it could compromise its ability to strike Syria from the air and because those missiles can hit deep inside Israeli territory. The Israelis have said they would not abide a Syrian deployment of S-300s, suggesting they would use force to destroy them.

First, what the Times means by saying Assad was “vague” is that he said, “It is not our policy to talk publically about military issues in terms of what we possess or what we receive.” All he would say is that Russia was honoring contracts made before the present conflict in Syria even began. As the Times notes a bit further on, the matter of the S-300 missiles “was not directly mentioned in the televised interview”. That’s right, Assad not only didn’t say that Syria had already received the S-300 missiles, but he didn’t mention them at all. Nor did he imply such a thing.

Second, let us emphasize why the S-300 missiles are “of particular concern to Israel”, which is “because it could compromise its ability to strike Syria from the air”. That is to say, Israel is concerned about Syria acquiring these missiles not because Syria can pose a threat to Israel with them, but because Syria could better defend itself against Israeli airstrikes. Israel, remember, has on a number of occasions over the years launched airstrikes against Syria, including in the recent conflict.

Third, you might be asking yourself, “Ah, but what about that part about how ‘those missiles can hit deep inside Israeli territory’?” Well, remember, these are surface-to-air missiles. They are not surface-to-surface missiles. So what the Times means by that is that… well, let me just quote from another source (emphasis added):

The S-300 missile system is designed to shoot down aircraft and missiles at a range of 5-to-150 kilometers. That gives it the ability to destroy not only attackers in Syrian airspace but also any attackers inside Israel.

That is, what the Times means is not that Syria could attack Israel with these missiles—which is the conclusion we are apparently supposed to mistakenly draw—but that Syria could defend itself against additional imminent Israeli attacks before Israeli jets had a chance to enter Syrian airspace.

Here’s another detail from Reuters:

Russia has said it is committed to sell the S-300 surface-to-air missiles as a deterrent against foreign military intervention, under a contract struck in 2010 with President Bashar al-Assad.

Another Times article notes the U.S. response:

Secretary of State John Kerry on Friday strongly criticized Russia’s pledge to sell advanced antiaircraft weapons to Syria, suggesting that along with the growing involvement of Iran and Hezbollah in the fighting, the sale threatened to disrupt efforts to negotiate a political settlement and could destabilize the region.

Of course, the Times isn’t one to point out the hypocrisy of government officials to readers, because it just wouldn’t due, since that would be contrary to the goal of manufacturing consent for U.S. policies. So naturally, although this would be the perfect place to insert the information, the Times doesn’t mention the fact that the U.S. has been intervening in the conflict on the side of the armed rebels, including by coordinating the flow of arms to the rebels, whose ranks include Islamic extremist groups like the al-Qaeda affiliated al-Nusra Front, with most of the weapons having ended up in the hands of the jihadists. Naturally, when the U.S. intervenes in a conflict to arm one side to overthrow yet another foreign government, it doesn’t threaten to disrupt diplomatic efforts to arrive at a peaceful solution or threaten to destabilize the region. This is by definition only true of other countries’ interference, and only when those other countries’ interests are at odds with the U.S.’s.

The Times continues:

Russia’s confirmation this week that it planned to sell S-300 missiles to Syria — and President Bashar al-Assad’s defiant boasts on Thursday about Russian arms aimed at Israel — have added a dangerous new dimension to the civil war in Syria. They have also complicated efforts to organize an international conference in Geneva in the hope of ending a war that has killed tens of thousands of Syrians.

Notice that when the Times says Assad has issued “defiant boasts” about “Russian arms aimed at Israel”, what that in fact means is that Assad didn’t talk in an interview about a shipment of S-300 missiles yet to be delivered to Syria in order for it to defend against further Israeli attacks.

So how is it, again, that Syria having the means to defend itself against Israeli airstrikes complicates U.S. efforts?

[Kerry] said the missiles in particular threatened regional stability because of the threat they would pose to Israel, which has all but said it would respond militarily to stop the shipments.

Thus, we see once again how Syria acquiring better means to defend itself against foreign military attack is used as a pretext to escalate military attacks against Syria.

“Whether it’s an old contract or not, it has a profoundly negative impact on the balance of interests and the stability of the region, and it does put Israel at risk,” Mr. Kerry said at the State Department. “It is not, in our judgment, responsible because of the size of the weapon, the nature of the weapon and what it does to the region in terms of Israel’s security.”

The article concludes:

The State Department’s spokeswoman, Jennifer R. Psaki, said on Friday that the United States fully supported Israel’s right to defend itself.

So, let’s sum up. Israel bombs Syria. Syria looks forward to Russia honoring an old contract to supply it with a missile system that would allow it to defend against such attacks. For this, Israel threatens to attack Syria further. The U.S. denounces Russia and Syria for destabilizing the region, hampering efforts to bring peace, and threatening Israel’s security. The U.S. also gives Israel a green light to go ahead and attack Syria further in order to “defend itself” against the threat of Syria acquiring a means to defend itself against Israeli attacks.

Got that?

Oh, and meanwhile the discussion continues about how the U.S. should escalate its efforts and directly arm the rebels who “in recent weeks” have fired shells and rockets “indiscriminately on Shiite areas of Lebanon”. You know, the kind of violence the U.S. (rightly) calls “terrorism” when it is done by, say, Hamas.

But damn those Russians for intervening in the Syrian conflict and destabilizing the whole region!

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About Jeremy R. Hammond

About Jeremy R. Hammond

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2 Comments

  1. FreePress

    “So, let’s sum up. Israel bombs Syria. Syria looks forward to Russia honoring an old contract to supply it with a missile system that would allow it to defend against such attacks. For this, Israel threatens to attack Syria further. The U.S. denounces Russia and Syria for destabilizing the region, hampering efforts to bring peace, and threatening Israel’s security. The U.S. also gives Israel a green light to go ahead and attack Syria further in order to “defend itself” against the threat of Syria acquiring a means to defend itself against Israeli attacks.”
    Excellent summation. Indeed, it would appear that there was an agreement between Russia and Israel after the 2007 bombing of Syrian al-Kibar factory: i.e., in exchange for not delivering the S-300, Israel will refrain from conducting any further attacks. However, the three attacks this year violated this promise. That is why Putin placed an angry call to Netanyahu after the last attack which forced Netanyahu to rush to Russia (remember, his senseless justification was to prevent arms transfer to Hizbullah).
    It would appear that Netanyahu was counting on the Americans and EU to stop Russia from supplying the S-300 after his planned escalating attacks. This will account for President Obama’s immediate statement that Israel had a right to defend itself even if it was practicing Preemptive retaliation on a known Russian ally. In essence, these attacks were designed to probe Russian commitment to its interests in Syria prior to the establishment of a no-fly-zone to be enforced by Israel, Jordan and Turkey (a gateway to NATO involvement) while NATO watched from afar.
    Russia did not buy the preemptive snobbery and her response has been blunt and clear.

    Reply
    • Jeremy R. Hammond

      That’s an interesting take, although the contract for the missile system did pre-exist the current conflict. Thanks for that view.

      Reply

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