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Updated: September 4, 2013 04:00 IST

Israeli missile tests part of psychological warfare

Atul Aneja
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Obama for ‘limited and proportional strike’; faces opposition at G20 meet

A Russian radar has detected the launch of two Israeli projectiles meant to test Tel Aviv’s anti-missile defences — an event that has fed into the mind games that were being played by the advocates and opponents of a military intervention in Syria. Analysts say that by highlighting that its radar at the Armavir station on the Black Sea coast had detected the launch over the Mediterranean, the Russians reminded the pro-war hawks in the West that Moscow was prepared to step up the level of its opposition to a proposed strike against Syria.

Israel, on its part, seemed to signal to Iran after testing its Hetz anti-missile system that it did not lack preparedness to counter a possible attack by Tehran, in case the strikes on Syria spread into a wider regional conflict. Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu warned on Tuesday that, “I want to say to anyone who wants to harm us — it is not advisable.”

Lebanese military analyst Amin Hoteit told Lebanon’s Al Manar television that the Israeli missile tests also send “a message to the U.S. Congress that the forces are ready and wait for the war approval.” The frenzied activity in the vicinity of the Syrian coastline has followed Washington’s assertion that Syria would be attacked provided congress, which convenes on September 9, stamped its approval on the strikes. Earlier, a Russian defence ministry statement said that it had detected two ballistic “objects” flying towards the eastern Mediterranean from the central part of the sea.

Interfax news agency quoted a ministry spokesman as saying the launch was detected at 10:16 a.m. Moscow time (0616 GMT) by the Armavir early warning radar station which has been positioned to pick up missile launches from Europe. In Damascus, the Russian Embassy in Syria said that there were no signs of a missile attack on the capital. A Russian ministry official had earlier slammed Washington for deploying warships in the Mediterranean in the vicinity of Syria.

In Damascus, President Bashar Al-Assad warned that an attack on Syria was endangered a wider spillover of the conflict. “The Middle East is barrel of powder and today the flames are creeping closer. It is not just a question of the Syrian response, but what else might happen after the first [Western] air strike,” Mr. Assad told French newspaper Le Figaro.

He also challenged the U.S. and France to prove that his government had used chemical weapons on the outskirts of Damascus on August 21 — an allegation that has become the cause for a possible military attack. “We have challenged the United States and France to come up with a single piece of proof,” Mr. Assad told Le Figaro. “Obama and Hollande have been incapable of doing so.”

As tensions in the Levant reached fever pitch, the Obama administration stepped up its drive to seek congressional approval for the attack against Syria. President Barack Obama has said after meeting top congressional leaders that any U.S. military strike on Syria would be “limited and proportional”. He stressed that he was confident of obtaining congressional support.

However, on Tuesday night, Mr. Obama departs via Sweden for the Group of 20 summit in Russia, where he is likely to confront serious sceptics of a military strike on Syria, including Russian President Vladimir Putin. On Tuesday, India, a member of the G-20, joined Russia and China in opposing military intervention in Syria, calling for a diplomatic solution to end the simmering crisis.

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