Just Showed What a ‘Red Line’ is Really Supposed to Mean
By Benny Avni
New York Post
September 7, 2017
A red line’s a red line. That was Israel’s message
Wednesday, when it struck a major Syrian arms facility from the air.
Jerusalem officials declined to comment for the record, but
Syrian and Lebanese media reported that the Israeli Defense Force struck a major
missile and military research facility at Masyaf, Syria, that’s controlled by
President Bashar al-Assad and his Iranian co-conspirators.
The daring attack carried all the hallmarks of Israel’s
unique brand of non-proliferation enforcement. In an age of major
proliferation crises, that method should be studied carefully and emulated when
Wednesday night’s strike was “not routine,” tweeted
Amos Yadlin, the director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National
Security Studies. “It targeted a Syrian military-scientific center for the
development and manufacture of precision missiles” that also “produces the
chemical weapons and barrel bombs that have killed thousands of Syrian
Yadlin, who once commanded the IDF intelligence unit, knows
a thing or two about combating proliferation: He was one of the pilots who took
part in Israel’s 1981 “Operation Opera” to destroy Iraq’s Osirak nuclear
Wednesday’s hit on the Syrian factory was reminiscent of
another IDF feat, which occurred 10 years before, to the day: “Operation
Orchard,” the mission that leveled a nascent Syrian nuclear facility, built
with the help of Iran and North Korea.
Israel has told everyone (including UN Secretary-General
Antonio Guterres last week) that it wouldn’t allow into Syria and Lebanon
certain arms, including precision-guided missiles, that can change the face of
future wars against it. Wednesday’s operation made clear it means it.
It also dealt a major blow to Syria’s chemical arms
capabilities. Washington had fingered the bombed facility as one of Syria’s
three chemical arms factories.
And as it happens, just hours before the Israeli attack,
the United Nations confirmed Assad’s responsibility for a horrific chemical
strike on the town of Khan Sheikhun last April. Some 83 people, mostly
civilians, were confirmed killed in that strike.
In response, President
Trump authorized the firing of US Tomahawks on a Syrian air base, in a
symbolic departure from President Barack Obama’s failure to enforce his own
red line against Assad’s use of chemical weapons.
Recall that Obama, back in 2013, instead agreed to a
Russian scheme for Assad to sign the international chemical arms convention, vow
to never use those weapons again and destroy all his chemical stockpiles.
It’s a familiar tale: We negotiate with bad actors and
proliferators of banned weapons in the hope of avoiding military action, get
them to promise not to do it again and, presto, problem solved. Without firing a
Obama signed a nuclear deal with Iran that was also based
on promises. A decade from now, that may well look as ineffective as the deal
Bill Clinton signed with North Korea in the 1990s, when Kim Jong Un’s father
agreed to end his nuclear program. Kim
on Sunday conducted his sixth test of a nuclear bomb, his most powerful yet.
Such non-proliferation agreements are typically applauded
worldwide, because they involve no acts of violence and pose no major immediate
risk of a wider war. They’re hailed as effective at the moment they’re
signed — well before any time has passed to prove them the shams they are.
Now we know Assad’s promise to Obama that he’d not use
chemical arms didn’t work. Would Israel’s much-maligned method be more
A while back, one of the most admired diplomats in the
non-proliferation arena, Hans Blix, told me Israel’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak
facility was a major mistake, as it gave Saddam Hussein a huge incentive to
rebuild his nuclear program.
Maybe, but Saddam never again managed to get close to
possessing a nuke. Imagine if he had one in the two wars America fought in Iraq.
Or if Assad possessed the ultimate weapon during these last six years of war.
As the Syrian war appears to be winding up in victory for
Assad, Iran and Hezbollah, Israel is acting to prevent them from fulfilling
their vow to erase it off the map, and prevent proliferation of banned arms in
Israel now must “prepare for a Syrian-Iranian-Hezbollah
tweeted, adding that Russia too may be in “opposition” to Israel’s
strike. But Jerusalem has long made its red lines clear to all, including
This week’s lesson for the knee-jerk “no military
solution” crowd is clear: Daring, well-planned surgical attacks are a
non-proliferation tool that should be considered where practical — especially
when the alternative is a meaningless pact with an unreliable dictator.