Syrian Missile Crisis: Is War Coming?

U.S. and Israeli officials claim the country transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah

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U.S. and Israeli officials say that Syria has transferred Scud missiles to Hezbollah, the Lebanase Shia militia that has long clashed with Israel. The long range of Scud missiles, which can reach for hundreds of miles, has stirred up diplomatic and military concerns worldwide. Here's what happened and what it means for the region.

  • How War Could Start  The Center for New American Security's Andrew Exum warns, "everyone hold your breath. Because this is how wars start." He writes, "the next Israel-Lebanon war starts when either a) Hizballah or Israel does something stupid or b) Hizballah acquires 'equilibrium-breaking' weaponry like powerful long-range rockets or anti-aircraft weaponry. Israel might decide, in the event of the latter, that it must act preemptively and that the very fact that Hizballah possesses such weapons is casus belli enough."
  • So Much for Obama's Syria Outreach  The Wall Street Journal's Charles Levinson and Jay Solomon say the move "threatens to alter the Middle East's military balance and sets back a major diplomatic outreach effort to Damascus by the Obama administration. ... Syria and Hezbollah both denied the charges. But the allegations already are affecting U.S. foreign policy: Republicans pressed on Capitol Hill to block the appointment of a new American ambassador to Damascus."
  • 'Fueling the Middle East Arms Race'  The Guardian's Simon Tisdall explan, "From an Israeli perspective, the balance of terror in the Middle East just tipped dangerously. ... To many in the region, Israel's undeclared and internationally uninspected arsenal, including hundreds of nuclear warheads, looks considerably more threatening than a few truckloads of North Korean-made Scuds. While this remains the case, there is no reason to believe the headlong Middle East arms race will stop."
  • How This Changes Hezbollah  Haaretz's Amos Harel and Avi Issacharoff predict, "Scuds are weapons in a league of their own. This will be the first time that any terrorist-guerrilla group can boast of possessing ballistic missiles of the kind that usually comprise the arsenals of organized armies. ... Iran would prefer that the Scuds be used as a response to any Israeli attack against its nuclear installations, while Hezbollah may view Scuds as the fitting Lebanese answer to a more local clash with the Israel Defense Forces."
  • King of Jordan: War Imminent  Steve Clemons reports that Jordanian King Abdullah, in a private meeting with U.S. Congressmen, predicted "imminent" war between Israel and Hezbollah.
  • Are Scuds Effective?  Neal Ungerleider says "It is important to remember that when Scuds were last fired at Israel during Gulf War I, they caused relatively little damage to local targets and were rather less precise than feared. However, it is not known whether the Scuds sent to Hezbollah have more precise aiming capability… but odds are that they do." 
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.