Huge Blast Reported at Syrian Military Base, Many Iranians Among the Dead

An overnight explosion at a Syrian military base that was powerful enough to be detected by earthquake monitors, left at least 26 people dead, including many Iranians, The New York Times reported Monday.

According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors events in Syria through sources on the ground, the overnight attacks killed at least 26 people, many of them Iranians.

One of Iran’s semi-official news agencies, ISNA, reported that 40 people were killed, but later took the report down.

In a press briefing that was hosted by The Israel Project, Israel’s former head of military intelligence Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin said that Iranian officials denied the report because they were not prepared to react to the airstrike. “If there are no Iranian casualties, you are not committed to retaliation,” Yadlin said. He compared it to the Israeli strike against Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007, which President Bashar al-Assad never acknowledged.

However, Yadlin said that even though Iran wouldn’t strike back immediately, “The Iranian retaliation is on its way.”

Yadlin also said that while Israel didn’t need outside or American support to fight back against the Iranian presence in Syria, he acknowledged that Israel does need the American “diplomatic support,” to give legitimacy to Israel’s actions, especially, if necessary in the United Nations.

In answer to a question whether Israel was running a risk by taking more daring actions in Syria, Yadlin doubted that the latest strike would affect Iran’s calculations. In recent months Israel has reportedly struck the Tiyas or T-4 airbase in Syria twice. The second time a number of Iranian military personnel, including a colonel said to be in charge of Iran’s drone program, were killed.

Yadlin explained that Israel is faced with a dilemma of whether to preempt an enemy’s military threat or not. Israel’s doctrine of preemption previously applied only to a nuclear threat. But Yadlin said that Iran’s efforts in Syria included advanced air defense, advanced drones with the ability to launch attacks, and high-precision ballistic missiles. While these technologies are not on the same level as nuclear weapons, they present a “very serious threat” to Israel.

He also pointed out that Israel did not preempt Hezbollah’s buildup and now Israel faces a grave threat from Lebanon. Many think it was a mistake not to interfere with Hezbollah. “This the dilemma,” Yadlin sumamrized, “paying a small price now by preempting, or paying a very high price in the future.”

Earlier in the briefing, Yadlin suggested that the reason the explosion from the airstrike was so large was because of the munitions targeted. He said that the explosion could have resulted from “ballistic missiles with heavy warheads.”

A complete recording of the press briefing by Yadlin is embedded below.

[Photo: jamison870 / YouTube ]