In light of the recent disclosure by Israeli president Shimon Peres that Syria has shipped Scud missiles to Hezbollah, Wall Street columnist Bret Stephens considers recent actions by Syria, Hezbollah and how they could ignite the Next Mideast War:
In the matter of Syria’s alleged shipments of Scud missiles to Hezbollah, it bears noting how often the fate of the Middle East has turned on seemingly trivial or nearly imperceptible events…
Why would Syria risk war with Israel by transferring the sorts of weapons it doubtlessly knows could provoke a sharp Israeli reprisal?
It is no secret that since Israel’s summer 2006 war with Hezbollah, Syria has helped to rearm its Lebanese ally with as many as 50,000 rockets and missiles, many of them hidden-at the unwitting recommendation of last year’s Goldstone Report-in homes, hospitals and schools. But the transfer of Scuds, which can be tipped with chemical or biological weapons, poses a threat to Israel of a different order of magnitude.
The prosaic answer is that Syrian President Bashar Assad has a reckless streak. He was reckless in allowing Syria to become a way station for Iraq-bound jihadists, reckless in (almost certainly) ordering the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, reckless in attempting to build a covert nuclear facility, and reckless in pursuing a no-wriggle-room alliance with Hezbollah and Iran.
Then again, Mr. Assad has never had to pay the ultimate political price for those gambles…. Another destructive war over Lebanon might just be sufficient to topple Beirut’s fragile pro-Western governing coalition, enhance Hezbollah’s prestige, and perhaps give Damascus the cover it needs to re-enter Lebanon militarily by posing, as it so often has in the past, as a force for “stability”…
What does the Obama administration do? So far, it hasn’t helped matters by giving the impression of a clear wedge between Israel and the U.S. Nor has the administration’s assiduous courtship of Damascus done anything other than embolden Mr. Assad’s taste for adventure.
In 1967, a series of seemingly minor events, tactical misjudgments, and particularly an Arab perception that the West would not honor its international commitments or come to Israel’s defense triggered a war the consequences of which have defined the Middle East ever since. We are adrift in those same waters today.