THE Israeli attack on a Syrian research centre on Wednesday was a foolhardy adventure and has added to apprehensions that the conflict in the Levant could escalate, with grim consequences for the region. Flying low to evade radar detection, Israeli planes destroyed the scientific research centre and not, as later stated by a Syrian military spokesman, a convoy on the way to Lebanon. There is no doubt Israel is taking advantage of the civil war to advance its geopolitical interests at the expense of what it regards its most implacable foe. Convinced that the beleaguered Damascus government is in no position to retaliate, Israel is flexing its military muscle and threatening further attacks if chemical weapons purportedly in Syria’s possession fall into rebel hands. With the neutrality of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, backed by Nato powers, already compromised and Hezbollah said to be deeply involved, Tel Aviv’s recklessness is deserving of strong condemnation. Instead, only Russia has denounced the Israeli strike. At the same time, Nato-supplied Patriot missiles have been positioned on the Turkey-Syria border. What purpose this will serve is beyond guessing, for Damascus is unlikely to even think of firing lethal missiles on its northern neighbour. Iran, too, has issued a grim warning, with Ali Akbar Velayati, aide to the Iranian supreme leader, declaring last week that an attack on Syria would be considered an attack on Iran.
This dangerous drift towards escalation needs to be arrested. The misfortune is that the intensity of the civil war in Syria shows no signs of abating, though there are clear signs that a stalemate has been reached, with neither side in a position to clinch victory. With the Arab League and OIC having washed their hands of Syria, and the UN a mere spectator, there is little possibility of normality returning to the country.