Ossie Makepeace writes from Tel Aviv: Ariv Kochavi runs Israeli military intelligence. Ten days back he went to Washington to get electronic and satellite intelligence confirmation from the Americans of what he already knew: the Syrians were moving Russian-built surface-to-air missiles down to the Lebanese border, to be collected by Hezbollah. When the general got back here he told the airforce they had carry out a convoy hit. That’s what this latest strike against Syria is all about. The Russians say they’re screwed up on this occasion. But no one cares a toss what the Russians think, not even the Syrians.
What the good guys do think is this: putting anything from shoulder-fired to surface-to-air missiles into the hands of Hezbollah means very simply that Israel would be threatened. And we know exactly what that means. It means time to hit hard and make sure the other guy doesn’t get up.
But there are a couple of other things going on here.
Firstly, the Israelis (and they’re not alone) believe that the Syrians or elements of the Syrian army are dealing with Hezbollah and they have access to two battalions holding chemical weapons.
Secondly, and this is not a guess: the Americans have a ‘close look state board’ on Syria. This means valuable ground electronic intelligence is tasked with, for example, mobile and military network intelligence gathering patched in with near earth observations through satellite, fixed wing overflying and drone gathering intelligence.
On top of this, although rarely talked about, is special forces’ insertions into Syria aimed at identifying movement and readiness state of the chemical weapons units. Those special forces are from UK, US and Israel – a formidable combination. They’re not working together all the time. Nor should they be. They have to operate separately to get maximum security and best analysis.
So this shows that the major powers who ostensibly are keeping out of the Syrian civil war are very much involved in its closing stages. It means also that General Ariv Kochavi is taken seriously when he says that the Syrian thing could indeed spill over into an all-out confrontation in the Levant and knock-on countries.
Maybe then, there is an even more dangerous consideration here. Iran goes to the polls this spring. When times are dangerous and the economy is devastating individual lives because of sanctions against the Iranian nuclear programmes, it could just be that the Iranians would want a mini war to divert attention from grim truths. Trouble further here. Mini wars don’t often stay mini. In this case, Iranian trouble-making could only too easily spill into the Gulf. Too many other people – the Brits, the Americans and the Gulf States have a direct interest there.
That trip of the General’s included a chat about latest intelligence pictures of the Iranian nuclear facilities. Getting! The translation of that is: hell, here we go again.