October 05, 2003

Israel Attacks Syria

Israel has attacked a terror base deep within the borders of Syria.

JERUSALEM - Israeli warplanes bombed Syria on Sunday, striking what the military called an Islamic Jihad training base in retaliation for a suicide bombing at a Haifa restaurant. It was the first Israeli attack deep inside Syrian territory in three decades.


"Any country who harbors terrorism, who trains (terrorists), supports and encourages them will be responsible to answer for their actions," government spokesman Avi Pazner said.

A direct military response by Syria appeared unlikely. One parliament member, George Jabbour, said military action has not benefitted Syria in the past.

It's about time Israel did something about this. Syria has attacked Israel with impunity and without retaliation for far too long.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at October 5, 2003 10:49 AM


Has anybody in the Sharon goverment thought about what will happen when an American president comes to office and decides Israel is too big a liability?

Dean seems to be making some noises in this direction.

Posted by: tallan at October 5, 2003 11:30 AM

The Palestinians had best pray that a US government never, ever decides Israel is too big a liability.

Posted by: Jaybird at October 5, 2003 12:38 PM

Given the likely reaction from the State Department over this and the fact that they did it anyway, I can't help wondering whether the Israeli government has at long last decided that the US is too big a liability.

Posted by: jeanne a e devoto at October 5, 2003 12:57 PM

this link makes clear that Israel has felt free to retaliate against Syria at various times over the past years. The difference is that usually Israel kills Syrian soldiers in Lebanon, rather than striking deep into Syria.

Posted by: Kimmitt at October 5, 2003 01:34 PM

The first response here is just indicative of how freeking totally hyocritically astoundingly Orwellianingly REDICULOUS this whole freekin thing is.

Syria through Hezbullah and the fact that EVERY again E-V-E-R-Y terrorist organization has its CEO headquarters in Damascus has been attacking, kidnapping and killing Israelis and others at their whim.

Israel should have been fully attacking Hezbullah and Syrian bases years ago! The ONLY reason they haven't is that the US has not allowed them to.

And every and any time they do the UN will surely let us know where it stands in the world - with the Terrorist Despots.

The fact that now Israel had the actual GALL!!!!***

to attack Syria after only 19 people were murdered including children, thanks to the fact the Syrian run Islamic Jihad figured if the Suicide murderer shot the guard instead of blowing up outside a restaurant they could get inside and kill MANY MANY MORE INNOCENT PEOPLE...... now Israel actually thinks they can strike back at Syria!! and potentially put a ripple in the Peace Process and Regional "Calm" OVER THERE!!



Posted by: Mike at October 5, 2003 03:15 PM

In case you were confused by Mike's post: he probably meant "damn," not "dam."

Posted by: Oberon at October 5, 2003 03:37 PM

Smart move for Israel: Lots of birds killed with one stone. I assume the diplomatic huffing and puffing is mostly for show, as will be the feigned outrage when someone takes out the mullahs' nuclear capability.

Woe the day that any future administration abandons Israel: I shudder to think of what other principles we may have abandoned.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at October 5, 2003 03:38 PM

Its a slow and steady process and the Arab organizations have made an amazing amount of headway in only 10 to 15 years. Colleges, academia and Middle Eastern departments are dominated in Europe and now the US (though perhpas not as much) by far left and Arabic sympathizers and terrorist apologists, who revile America. The Noam Chomsky, Edward Saids and the like are the ones who dominate college campuses.

Politically groups like CAIR and the AMC are getting stronger by the year and are all over Capitol Hill.

The numbers of Muslims is steadily rising in the country so its not rocket science to read the writing slowly appearing that would have been once thought to be unthinkable.


Posted by: Mike at October 5, 2003 06:04 PM


Interesting points, though you may have misread my post as implying complacency - not my intent. A couple of reactions:

- Chomsky has been around for years recycling essentially the same rant no matter who the "enemy"; as had Said. The trends you mention are not new, nor necessarily on the rise, at least not in America. The clash between the nihilists and the humanist modernists has simply come out in the open, probably for the better.

- I wouldn't overstate the local Arab immigrant threat: Arabs are hardly monolithic and will continue to represent a small fraction of the U.S. population, and for all of the bad press given to multiculturalism, by and large the melting pot still works. (A cab driver here in Paris was telling me just this week about all the problems he was having with his unemployed delinquent sons living in Paris, whereas his brother's children who had emigrated to the States were all gainfully employed, and assimilated, as doctors, lawyers, professionals, etc.) I should also point out that a number of my Arab friends and professional colleages here in Paris lean very heavily pro-U.S. And this is in a political and social environment that is rabidly anti-American as well as anti-Arab.

- I do think that Europe will continue to present a growing threat to Israel. (My example of press bias posted over at RogerLSimon's place being symptomatic of that.) But this has less to do with local Arab immigration (or French of Arab origin who despite being second or third generation are still regarded as "foreigners"), than with the economic, social and political crisis brought about by the increasingly evident failure of European economic, social and political models, which drive anti-Semitism, anti-Americanism, and ironically anti-Arab racism as well. (The subject is far too complex to discuss at any length here.)

- This should not be confused with the relationship to the Arab world outside of Europe, which has more to do with geostrategic leverage against the American hemegon, greater European oil dependency, and lucrative markets for European exports, including in particular defense and infrastructure. This is a more significant threat, which is merely a continuation of the abandonment of Israel by Europe - France in particular - after the six-day war. You may recall that at the time France was Israel's number one strategic ally: indeed, it won that war largely with French military hardware and France even provided Israel with its nuclear weapons capacity. The abandonment also had nothing to do with sympathy for the Palestinians (tho' that is its present cover) and everything to do with the oil crisis and following the oil money: which leads you of course to Osirik. Here I think lies the main threat to Israel as regards trends in Europe, which in many ways overlaps with the threats posed by oil money to collective security (viz Saudi Arabia) in the larger game in which both Israelis and Palestinians are pawns.

Could go on, but don't want to crowd out the space here.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at October 5, 2003 09:21 PM

I suspect that the US might give up on Isreal when Jewish peoples stop contributing to the GNP of the nation more than any other group. Please note that I am not talking about holding wealth or manipulating wealth, I am speaking about creating wealth for everyone around them. Excising that thread from the fabric of our nation could be done. Doing so would start a process of impoverishment and leave our children bickering in the squalid ruins of a once great nation.

There is a critical difference between treasure and wealth. One of the chief failures of many Arab peoples is the inability to make this distinction. Michael Totten also makes this mistake on occasion, so it could be said that this is not a massive intellectual failure, even if it is a critical one. Treasure provides tangiable rewards, wealth provides investment. It is possible to convert treasure into wealth, but it does take time.

The people of Isreal provide the world and the United States with wealth. The Arab members of OPEC provide the world with treasure. It is vitally important to remember that most Islamist fundamentalists view any economy other than a treasure economy as a direct violation of the teachings of the Koran. We are working to create a wealth economy in Iraq and al Queda is trying as hard as they can to kill us for it.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at October 5, 2003 10:36 PM

There will come a time, in prolly less than 5 years, when Iraqi Arabs are more sympathetic to Israel than to PA terrorists.

I haven't heard any denials by official Syrians that the camp was training terrorists; did I miss it? The reason there is no Pali state is 1) the Arabs of 1948-1973 didn't want one, and 2) the acceptance of terrorist attacks against civilians by Pali supporters.

Israel has the right to exist. (That's a big period.) Unfortanately, the initial not-quite just creation Israeli is still a problem, and the lack of a Pali state is another one. Israel is right to not allow a state until the PA can handle terrorists. They should more actively occupy and stomp out terror in various "occupied" cities. Real Israeli occupation would even be better than PA Pali-terrorist domination, today.

Perhaps there should be a Pali referendum on Arafat: "Support Arafat, or new elections w/o Arafat?"

Posted by: Tom Grey at October 6, 2003 01:52 AM

Mike wrote in part: "... the Syrian run Islamic Jihad figured if the Suicide murderer shot the guard instead of blowing up outside a restaurant they could get inside and kill MANY MANY MORE INNOCENT PEOPLE."

Actually, the young woman reportedly got inside very easily without firing a shot. It was an Arab-run establishment, and at least one of those killed was Arab. It was a restaurant -- open to the public. She was wearing a bomb-belt. The Int'l Herald Trib says she was "wearing casual clothes" (presumably permitted female jihadis if they expect to be in Paradise soon) and that "police said the scene inside the restaurant suggested she had walked out among the crowded tables before detonating the bomb [and] ... that they had no reports of gunfire before the attack and that the guard appeared to have died from shrapnel injuries."

If I may mention another factor: the lipstick job on this poor benighted young woman, if the Herald Trib photo is to be believed, could flash any guard worth his cojones an Angelina-Jolie ticket to entry. Would she have smiled coyly just seconds before dying? I don't know but ... these people are getting scarier all the time. Revenge for the unjust death of family members (the claimed motivation) is undoubtedly compelling. Was that really it? I don't know yet. Personally, I can easily believe that some of the female suicide bombers so far have actually been victims of an especially twisted sort of honor killing -- they strap on explosives and kill strangers because they've been told: "Do yourself in as a Jihadi, babe, and nobody in the Gaza Strip will ever hear whispering about how we gangbanged you that night when we found you drunk." Far-fetched? No: there's some serious depravity in any war, and especially in a terror war. But this is, I must admit, only speculation.

As for Israel's retaliatory raid: The PFLP is claiming that it was one of their own bases, and that it was abandoned, and not an Islamic Jihad training camp. It's hard to imagine that Israeli intelligence wouldn't know this, if so. Even more strangely, Al Jazeera has a story saying Hamas' armed wing claims the Iraelis were aiming at a civilian target, a refugee camp. Syrians identified this as the Ein Saheb Camp. Google web (not news) searches on "ein saheb" and "ain Saheb" aren't turning up anything, so this is a pretty obscure location. The damages? Two deaths? Or just one wounded? The picture is confused. But I think this place was basically nowhere, and that was the point.

Israel's attack on Syria seems largely symbolic, pointedly avoiding more civilian casualties than Israel itself suffered in the Maxim restaurant bombing, while using their justly-famous air superiority. It's a test-message for the still-new Syrian regime: will it cooperate on hemming in Palestinian terrorists? Syria has been considered by Israeli defense analysts as a much greater potential WMD threat to Israel than Iraq was, and in the responses so far, Syrian representatives spoke pointedly of being able to "deter" future Israeli attacks if Syria so chose, while clearly (so far) preferring only to complain to the U.N, rather than respond militarily.

I also believe Israel's strike reflects the New New World Order as now defined by the preemptive invasion of Iraq. It was one thing when Israel struck the Osirak nuclear facility back in the early 80s. Israel wanted to maintain regional strategic nuclear dominance, and had proven by then that it wasn't going to use it unwisely. Given the character of the Ba'athist regimes in both Iraq and Syria, this limited strike was a shrewdly-phrased message directed at nascent threats in both countries, and required no immediate provocation. The Osirak strike was undertaken after the Israeli Chief of Army Intelligence had publicly urged Iran to attack the reactor, and after Iran's attack had failed to do much damage (whether in response to such urging or opportunistically, is unclear.) The reactor represented a regional security threat by a regime with a lot of border issues it wanted to settle. A preemptive strike made sense in that case.

But Israel's move yesterday wasn't a preemptive strike, it was proof of a willingness to retaliate for terrorism by crossing borders and striking with superior military might against an internationally recognized government, not just against a pathetic no-hoper gang like the Taliban. That's a qualitative difference and one that perhaps only America's preemption could have paved the way for. As such, it illustrates one of the dangers cited by those of us who opposed preemption: that it could send us down the slippery slope of legitimation for this sort of attack -- starting with when it can be understood and sympathized with by any reasonable person, as in this instance -- and sending us on a race to the bottom.

What will be the U.S. response to any such slide, to the collapse of an reliable sovereignty norm? Malaysia and Singapore rattle sabers at each other a few times a year. It hardly makes news. But what happens when Singapore can tie an Islamist terror attack back to a camp that has enjoyed some sponsorship by some Malaysians? Can it send jets into Malaysia? The scenarios can be multiplied.

And what will the U.S. response be to such multiplication? One response might be: "that's only for us (and a selected few)."

For the U.S to arrogate only to itself and to certain allies the privilege of preemption will only fan the flames accusations that it's becoming an empire. And who can say that the accusation wouldn't have a lot of merit in that case?

Michael Turner
(P.S. "TFB" is an acronym that you don't need expanded if you understand words like "treason" and "censorship" in their proper common senses. But if you really need to know, you can slake your curiousity about this on other threads in other reader comment sections of Michael Totten's blog, particularly those responding to one "HA".)

Posted by: TFB at October 6, 2003 02:28 AM

MT - it illustrates one of the dangers cited by those of us who opposed preemption: that it could send us down the slippery slope of legitimation for this sort of attack

This is fine as a generalization, but I'm less sure that it applies to the case of Israel fighting a war on its borders. Further, this strike can hardly be called preemptive. (Didn't you read the news from the day before?)

Back to your general point about the problem of pre-emptive strikes. I agree entirely. But not at the cost of collective suicide. The fact is that states such as Israel and the United States will have to engage in unilateral (or semi-unilateral) pre-emptive security until a great number of our "partners" stop playing politics and bring a serious sense of reality to the table. In other words, you've identified a perfectly legitimate concern - there is after all a reason for the theory of balance of powers - but don't provide a solution to the more general problem.

As the French might say: It might work in practice, but will in work in theory?

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at October 6, 2003 03:32 AM

Sorry: Previous post should be addressed to TFB (put Michael Turner as a cc:)

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at October 6, 2003 03:37 AM


"What will be the U.S. response to any such slide, to the collapse of an reliable sovereignty norm? Malaysia and Singapore rattle sabers at each other a few times a year. It hardly makes news. But what happens when Singapore can tie an Islamist terror attack back to a camp that has enjoyed some sponsorship by some Malaysians? Can it send jets into Malaysia?"

What happens indeed. Terror-sponsoring nations are being put to these decisions: What will powerful western nations do in response to terror attacks. Who's next. Will it be us? What will be the limit of response. Might our interests be best served by putting a stop to actual violence and retreat to mouthing 9th century nonsense? Would that serve to remove western boots from our testicles?

You mention 'reliable sovereignty norm'. The idea of this normative thinking includes that terror-sponsoring nations get a pass because the crime they sponsor against other nations is carried out by those who are not in uniform.

I, too, wonder about the slippery-slope aspect of this. I worry more about what happens if we return to the world as it was and retreat into defensive shells waiting for a terrorist to slip through some unseen crack and take more innocent lives any recent war.

Keith Johnson

Posted by: Keith Johnson at October 6, 2003 04:42 AM

Not to put too fine a point on it, but is attacking a terrorist camp the same as attacking "Syria"?

I mean, if Zimbabwe flew into our airspace and blew up an Aryan Nations compound, I don't think I would be calling for retaliation. But I can see how Syria could get the UNSEC to call this a violation of airspace.

Posted by: bleeding heart conservative at October 6, 2003 01:08 PM

If Zimbabwe flew into the US and hit an Aryan Nations compound, I'd be relieved that they killed people I find repugnant instead of my friends and relatives, but I'd sure as hell be expecting my President to make certain in some fashion that it not happen again, be that an investment in anti-aircraft weaponry or a retaliatory strike.

Posted by: Kimmitt at October 6, 2003 03:07 PM

If that be the case then Israel should have attacked Syria months ago. I mean just because the media doesn't report the Syrian group Hezbullah shooting anti aircraft artillery shells into Israel every week, with the timers turned off so they explode on the ground and not in the air) they are still nonetheless being fired!!

A few weeks ago they took out a house in northern Israel but luckily the family was not in the living room or they'd likely been killed?

Thus, taking Kimmit's advice.

I'd sure have expected Israel to more than just fire missiles at some abandoned site in Lebanon as a symbolic gesture or a month later fire missiles into an abandoned terrorist training camp in Syria!! I mean they should be really taking out some hard targets don't you think? What the hell is this symbolic shit they are doing?

Oh, but wait I'll just read the media reports which lead me to believe Israel committed a potentially major International crime for meekly I mean 'beligerantly' responding to these unprovoked attacks that don't actually occur via the AP Wires and Int'l Media at least and that other minor point of 19 people being murdered by a group whose headquarters and sponsorship come from the Syrian State government. If I thus pretend I never heard of those artillery shells and rockets being fired into Northern Israel for no apparent reason and buy that Israel is the real aggressor here, for potentially causing ripples in the "Regional Peace and the "Peace Process"" which wasn't upset by the previous Suicide Bombings or this one of course, then I can not get so freeking enraged by it all.

Now someone pass me a fat blunt so I can open real wide and swallow all this shit and then at least get a good sleep.


Posted by: Mike at October 7, 2003 12:02 AM

Israel does more against Hezbollah than lob shells into Lebanon, and you know it.

Posted by: Kimmitt at October 8, 2003 12:36 PM

Really? Their big coup d' grat here was bombing an abandoned unused training center in Syria?

They likely had to get clearance 10 different times from the US and had to make sure that noone was killed in the attack.

Meanwhile, Hezbullah/Syria just shot an Israeli soldier across the boarder and they kidnapped, tortured and kept the bodies of IDF Reservists while the UN """""" Monitors """""" whatever the fuck they are!! watched!! and videotaped it!!!

The only reason the videotape was even seen was so COFFEE could get his meaningless NOBEL AWARD!! He probably had to force himself to sit through the Service in Israel after which the sobbing parents made a plea to him.

Nothing like motivation to get an award and Recognition! BOYU IT'LL DO IT EVERY TIME.


Posted by: Mike at October 8, 2003 11:55 PM

Regarding the FACTS on the 'Strike in Syria'


Posted by: Mike at October 9, 2003 12:08 AM


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