Imagine Osama Bin Laden with with nuclear-capable missiles, and you have an idea of what the Israelis must like now.
Hezbollah now has Scud missiles , courtesy of Syria, according to Israeli and Arab newspapers. I haven’t seen any official Hezbollah confirmation, but considering that the Lebanese terrorist group already has an arsenal of tens of thousands of Katyusha-style short-range rockets thanks to its Iranian and Syrian patrons, it seems plausible.
This is a lose-lose deal for everyone. For the Israelis, depending on which model of the Scud we’re talking about (there are several homegrown Iranian and North Korean knockoffs of the original 1950s Soviet missile), the missiles have a range of 100 to 400 miles, which would put Lebanon-based Scuds within range of most of Israel, including Israeli airbases and the nuclear plant at Dimona. Unless the missiles can be shot down by Patriot or Arrow anti-missile batteries, which is a dicey proposition at best, Israel has to reckon on any target in the nation being struck. Scuds are notoriously inaccurate for precision strikes – Iran and Iraq couldn’t do any better than lob them at each other’s big cities in the 1980s – but there is always the potential for technology like GPS to improve accuracy.
For the Obama administration, which has been determined to improve ties with Syria, this is going to complicate plans to send the first ambassador to Damascus since 2006. But the more interesting question is what a terrorist group’s acquisition of long-range rockets means for Obama’s goal of reducing global nuclear arsenals. Hezbollah may not have nuclear weapons, but it has ballistic missiles that can easily carry chemical or radiological weapons. Israel has refused to join international agreements on nuclear arms, or even officially acknowledge that it has them. Lots of luck convincing Jerusalem to sign the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty now.
Syria and Iran are no doubt hoping to deter any Israeli military action – like bombing Iranian nuclear sites. Bomb us, Evil Zionist Entity Whose Name We Dare Not Speak, and our proxy Scud-stud Hezbollah will rain death and destruction on you while we sit on the sidelines and laugh. Brilliant, unless of course Israel decides that with Iran trying to build nukes and a hostile terrorist group on its border, it might as well strike before the situation gets any worse. And if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad wants to reassure the Israelis that it’s safe to hand back the Golan Heights, maybe pointing missiles at them isn’t the smoothest PR move?
Finally, the biggest losers are the Lebanese. Hezbollah is a state within a state, with more military muscle than Lebanon’s army. Now Hezbollah has ballistic missiles. It’s as if Mexico sent Scuds to the Hutaree militia in Michigan, to be aimed at the Canadians.
When Hezbollah rocketed northern Israel in 2006, the Israeli Air Force pulverized Lebanon’s infrastructure. Israel didn’t care that Hezbollah has more loyalty to Tehran than Lebanon. The rockets came from Lebanon, and that’s who Israel rightfully held responsible. I don’t want to think what the Israeli response will be to Scuds landing on Tel Aviv, but I know who will pay the price.