The Wall Street Journal reports that Syria has transferred long-range Scud missiles to Hezbollah. There have been rumors about this for a few days, but now U.S. officials, who at first refused to confirm them, are saying that the transfer has occurred.
The Scuds are believed to have a range of more than 435 miles. This means that Hezbollah can now bomb Jerusalem and Tel Aviv from Lebanon. During the 2006 war, the rockets Hezbollah rained on Israel had a range of 20 to 60 miles.
President Obama has made engaging Syria a cornerstone of his Mideast policy, hoping to woo Damascus into a regional peace process and lure it from a strategic alliance with Iran. Syria has responded by handing missiles to a terrorist group backed and probably controlled by Iran.
Naturally, the Syrians, while denying the transfer, are complaining about the pace with which the Obama administration is making concessions to them. The implication is that unless Obama moves more quickly on the concessions front, Syria is prepared to make mischief.
The White House, not surprisingly, is basically endorsing Syria’s narrative that the latest mischief counsels in favor of quickening the pace of rapprochement. In response to congressional resistance to confirming an ambassador to Syria in light of Syria’s latest acts of hostility towards Israel, a senior administration official says, “if anything, we need (an ambassador) in Damascus full time just to ensure that reality gets its day in court now and then.”
Unfortunately, reality has gotten its day in court in Damascus. The reality, as Bashar Assad has grasped, is that Syria can do what it wishes without fear of consequential American action because for Obama nothing must stand in the way of engaging our adversaries. Assad also grasps that the Obama presidency reduces the chances of Israeli action against Syria, at least in the short term, because Obama can be counted upon to discourage Israel from taking such action.
As Noah Pollak puts it:
The Scud-D has been around for decades; why is it being transferred to Hezbollah at this particular moment? There are two likely reasons: (1) the White House has become the most prominent Western critic of Israel, and Syria is confident that President Obama will not do much to either punish an Israeli enemy or speak clearly in Israel’s defense; (2) under the Obama Doctrine, many enemies of America are treated with kindness in order to prove that they should not fear us, under the theory that once the fear is gone, there will be very little to obstruct the progression of smooth relations. The engagement policy thus requires the overlooking of all kinds of bad behavior.
I disagree with Pollak only to this extent: I’m not sure Obama thinks that the shipment of Scuds to Hezbollah is bad behavior in any strong sense.