BY HAROLD KIRTZ / AJT //
Intelligence reports indicate that Iran is reviving its efforts to ship weapons to Hamas.
As best we know, the route for such weapons is by cargo plane from Iran to Syria, then from Syria to the Sudan, then by road from the Sudan through Egypt and the Sinai Desert to Gaza. These arrangements are the product of negotiations between the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the government of the Sudan and Hamas, which rules over the Gaza Strip.
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At the same time, Iran continues to try to supply weapons to Hezbollah in Lebanon, in preparation for more hostilities with Israel. It was this effort that served as the impetus for the Israeli attacks in Syria several weeks ago.
An Israeli military official stated that the Israeli air strikes were aimed at the supplies bound for Hezbollah and were not directly related to the ongoing struggle in Syria. According to the statement, the air raids were not to support or attack either the Syrian government or the Syrian rebels.
With this and other concurrent developments, the picture in the Middle East is getting more and more muddled. But on this we can be clear: Syrian President Assad’s struggle to maintain control over Syria is creating opportunities for havoc among some of the most dangerous characters in the world. The double threat of Hezbollah and Hamas rockets aimed at the heart of Israel is challenging the strength and strategy of Israel to protect its citizens.
Hezbollah has made known that they wish for the Syrian government to open up a front in the Golan Heights in its war against its own people. They hope that such an effort would bring Israel into the conflict, thus taking some of the pressure off the Syrian government. In fact, a Wall Street Journal article quoted Hezbollah leader Hassan Nizrallah as threatening to fight Israel through a front opened up in Syria.
Meanwhile, former Israel government minister Dore Gold expressed concern that Iran will boost its presence in Syria through Hezbollah and its own forces with a direct effect on Israel. But as much as Israel wants to stay out of the Syrian conflict, Hezbollah would end up on the short stick of such an effort.
Israel attacked sites in Syria only because they had detected weapons bound for Hezbollah. But if needed, Israel could use a Golan Heights front – if one were opened by Syria – to take out many more caches of weapons that the Israelis believe would be bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon (or even to Hamas in the Gaza Strip).
Along these lines, commentator Eyal Zisser has stated that the Syrian situation has allowed Israel to change some of the rules at play. Whereas in the past Israel has not wanted to open up a hot conflict with Syria, the Syrian uprising has allowed Israel more freedom of response. Even though many advanced weapons have been turned over to Hezbollah, Israel has decided that it should and can now respond more forcefully to future transfers of such weapons.
Also, Israel now has reason to believe that more egregious weapons – such as chemical weapons – could fall into the hands of Hezbollah and thus wants to put the brakes on such a development as much as it can. The recent strikes either were aimed at such weapons or were at least a test run to determine whether such an attack could be successful.
Interestingly, Abdulrahman al-Rashed, the General Manager of Al-Arabiya News Channel, has presented his audience with an analysis that supports Israel’s actions, even though he hates to admit that. He stated that, throughout the years, Iran and the Syrian regimes have sought to hijack the Palestinian cause in order to dominate Syria, occupy Lebanon and serve Iranian interests.
And despite Egyptian and Iranian condemnation of Israel’s recent air attack, it is certain that the Syrian people were happy that Assad’s warehouses and forces were shelled, regardless of Israel’s reasoning, as it meant fewer weapons aimed at them.
Of course, while Israel’s actions may have been popular on the Arab street in Syria, the Jewish State’s primary interest was in degrading the capability of Hezbollah. Thus, Israel should be supported – even if tacitly – for its actions by Western countries and all peoples interested in the defeat of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah.
Harold Kirtz is past president of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Atlanta.