In an ominous sign of escalating tensions, Syria yesterday test-fired Scud missiles “to defend the Syrian homeland”.
The Syrian Arab News Agency reported Sunday that the Syrian army has staged a live-fire drill in the eastern part of the country “under war-like circumstances with the aim of testing the missile weaponry in confronting any attack.”
According to the report, during the drill the army fired at least one Scud-B missile, which has a range of about 300 kilometers (roughly 190 miles), in the direction of the border with Iraq. It was further reported that 300 and 600-millimeter surface-to-surface missiles were also test fired. The missiles have a range of 150 (93 miles) and 200 kilometers (124 miles), respectively.
The drill is apparently aimed at showing the region’s nations that Syria’s army is still functioning despite the civil uprising against President Bashar Assad’s regime, which, according to the UN, has claimed some 4,000 lives so far.
The exercise also sends a message to the international community amid calls for NATO’s intervention in Syria.
Yisrael Hayom adds:
The Iranian-style military exercise also included the firing of rockets with a range of up to 150 (90) and 200 (120) kilometers. The drill was held in the eastern part of Syria, with the missiles exploding in the direction of Iraq.
Assad himself is quoted as saying that in the event of forfeign military intervention against his regime he would “shower Tel-Aviv with missiles” and “set fire” to the Middle East within six hours.
A senior IDF official said the objective of the drill was not to intimidate Israel, but rather to serve as a warning to the international community that Syria’s military was powerful and could resist any international bid to interfere with Assad’s reign. “The IDF is following the events in Syria with watchfulness and concern,” the official said.
Other Israeli officials have suggested that perhaps Assad, sensing he could not hold on to power any longer, was flexing his muscles at traditional enemies Israel and Turkey.
This wouldn’t be the first time that a Muslim country threatened Israel with missiles in retaliation for a third party’s actions. This is exactly what happened in Gulf War I in 1990-91 when Saddam Hussein fired 39 Scud missiles at Israel in retaliation for America’s invasion and rescue of Kuwait. In Israel’s experience, if an Arab dictator threatens Israel, it is wise to take him at his word and take action accordingly.
This action would not include the inane ideas expressed by US Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman who said (in the same Ynet link as above):
Western powers led by the United States have called on Assad to leave power. Feltman said the stepped-up diplomatic moves by the Arab League and the international community to isolate the regime was to avoid a slide into deeper bloodshed.
“But the way you save Syria from moving into chaos and civil war is you get rid of Bashar, stop his methods now, so we hope this happens quickly,” Feltman said.
He said the US administration did not want military intervention in Syria and still had not “exhausted peaceful avenues” to force Assad to end a military crackdown that has pushed the death toll close to 4,600.
“I don’t think any one of us wants to see any kind of military intervention in Syria..So we need to look at what tools we have to try to show Assad and the clique around him that running Syria like a murderous family in business is not the best way to move forward,” he added.
Wishful thinking never won wars Mr. Feltman.