Within hours of the attack, a consensus of talking heads and internet commentators concluded that it was Israel that bombed a Syrian military base. That consensus is probably correct, but if it was Israel, it had nothing to do with Assad’s chemical weapons attack the day before.
You won’t hear the Israeli military confirm or deny that it was the IAF that bombed Syria’s T-4 military air base in Homs province early on Monday. The IDF never confirms or denies such reports. It took 11 years for them to admit they destroyed the Syrian nuclear reactor just before it would have gone operational in 2007.
The Homs attack had nothing to do with Assad’s chemical hut and everything to do with Iran. The T-4 base may on Syrian land but for all intents and purposes is operated by the Iranian National Guard. If conducted by Israel, the Monday morning attack was at least the third time IAF planes struck the T-4 base.
In February, an Iranian Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (drone) entered Israeli airspace from Syria and was shot down by the IAF. The drone was launched from the T-4 airbase and though it could have been destroyed over Syria, the Israeli Air Force helicopter didn’t shoot it down until it reached Israeli territory so the drone could be studied. Once the drone was shot down, the IAF immediately attacked Iran’s drone command and control unit which was based at the same T-4 military airport that was bombed Monday.
At the time of the February incident, the IDF issued a press release that said in part, “Iran and the [Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ special unit] Quds Force for some time have been operating the T-4 Air Base in Syria next to Palmyra, with support from the Syrian military and with permission from the Syrian regime.”
Even that wasn’t the first reported time the Israeli Air Force visited T-4. A year earlier in March 2016, the IAF hit a Hezbollah weapons convoy that had just picked up Iranian arms at the T-4 base. In other words, the Israeli Air Force is very familiar with the T-4 military base and it is crucial for her self-defense that Israel discourages Iran from increasing its military presence in Syria.
If/when the United States punishes Syria for the chemical weapons attack, it probably won’t be through an Air Force bombing but, like the April 2017 attack, with Tomahawk cruise missiles, positing less danger to American heroes than bombing sorties.
An American attack won’t target T-4, which is controlled by Iran, but more likely a base housing the Syrian planes that conducted the chemical attack. For example, the Shayrat base was targeted in last year’s cruise missile attack specifically because it was used by the Syrian Air Force to deliver its chemical weapons.
And keep in mind that this would be a second U.S. attack. Therefore, an American attack would likely be much harsher than the April 2017 launch of 59 cruise missiles.
Lending credence to the Israeli attack theory is that on Monday morning prior to the reports of a bombing in Syria, there were reports of IAF activity over Lebanon. Tracking from Lebanon into Syria is another indication that the attack came from Israel.
In a strange move, both Russia and Syria have blamed Israel for the attack. For Syria to blame Israel for the attack, it would be an admission that the IAF was able to navigate Syrian airspace, not something that’s helpful to Assad. Remember, Assad never blamed Israel for destroying its nuclear reactor back in 2007, and it wasn’t because they didn’t know.
Undoubtedly Israel coordinated this attack with the United States military. Not asking for help or permission, but to ensure that both countries weren’t executing their differing missions at the same time, confusing or even totally damaging the efforts.
If the U.S. retaliates against Syria later in the week, Israel’s choice of timing is brilliant, because in a few days no one will likely remember Israel’s attack on Syria’s T-4 military base except Iran, as the attention will be focused on what is expected to be a much larger attack by the USA.