The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

Syria's scuds

How exciting to see all the hullabaloo about reports that Syria gave scuds to Hizbullah! And to see somber-faced officials in Washington (although few) and Tel Aviv speak of this as some kind of provocation. Funny that this move, if true (US and Israeli officials don't have a great track record on these things — remember Saddam's WMDs?) would apparently justify a bombing raid on Lebanon.

On the one hand, if I were Lebanese, I would certainly to increase my country's defensive capabilities considering that Israel destroyed half the place in 2006. I would be focusing first on air defenses to take down aircrafts coming into my airspace, but longer-range rockets that can do similar damage to what Israel did to me (and it invaded me three times, occupied me for two and half decades, and regularly violates my sovereignty) would seem a good dissuasive measure.

On the other hand, when does anyone complain about Israel's weapons acquisitions or its ability to annihilate the entire neighborhood?

In other words, I am all for any actor in Lebanon making it more costly for Israel to repeat its 2006 exercise in collective punishment.

Syria, of course, is a nasty little regime and has done tremendous damage to Lebanon. At one time, though, it was seen as a stabilizer in Lebanon and actually committed enough to the status-quo that it would not risk any confrontation with Israel. Perhaps these calculations have changed, but considering the low effectiveness of Scuds (remember the Gulf War and the Israeli panic that didn't amount to much) I don't see how this can be construed as a game-changer. Lebanon and Syria both endorsed the Arab Peace Initiative and back the peace in exchange for the return of land. We are being told by some experts in America and Israel that it's not reasonable for Syria to expect the Golan Heights back. These are the same people who essentially argue it's not reasonable for the Palestinians to expect a viable state. Is everyone in the region supposed to accept a belligerent Israel, protected from any responsibility under international law, that refuses to make clear what its own borders are and regularly engages in attacks on its neighbors' territory?

Here's some commentary: