There were two unclaimed explosions in Damascus overnight Thursday and early Friday, 12-13 January. One of them was at an officers club in Damascus. The second occurred at Mezze military airbase. Syria blames Israel for the latter attack, claiming that Jerusalem used its new S-35 stealth aircraft to fire across the border from a point above the Sea of Galilee.
Nobody claimed responsibility for the attacks. While Israel might be responsible for the occurrence at Mezze airport, it does not seem likely.
Israel's standard policy is to hit any Iranian arms shipments headed for Hezbollah in Lebanon when those shipments come across Syria. But Iran is no longer delivering weapons to Hezbollah in this manner.
Hezbollah, the so-called "party of Allah," is a well known Iranian proxy with a long history of terror attacks against Israel. Like Iran, Hezbollah is motivated by Tehran's version of Shia Islam which seeks to establish a global caliphate that will be governed by a messianic figure called the Mahdi.
Today, at the behest of Iran, Hezbollah is still fighting in Syria in order to secure the government of Bashar Assad. To that end, it has 9,000 elite fighters fighting for Damascus.
But Hezbollah no longer needs to take delivery of Iranian arms from trucks crossing Syria or Lebanon, for that matter. Today those armaments are delivered directly to Hezbollah bases in Syria without exposure to Israel air strikes.
Tehran has learned from bitter experience that the Mezzeh airport in Damascus is under close surveillance by Israeli intelligence. As a result, it no longer uses the airfield.
Instead, Iran flies arms shipments for Hezbollah to Beirut using commercial aircraft, which Israel prefers not to attack. When shipments come by land, they take a detour. Coming overland through Iraq to northwestern Syria, the the consignments are picked up and transferred to Lebanon by sea.
Indeed, should the Iranian proxy Hezbollah decide to go back to shooting missiles at Israel - or using Iranian-supplied unconventional weapons – it has new launching pads readily available in Syria from Hezbollah bases far from Damascus.
Those Hezbollah bases are located in the Qalamoun mountains in western Syria and at Zabadani, a Syrian ghost town near the Damascus-Beirut highway, which the Lebanese terror group has made its military center.
Both would be obvious targets for Israel to attack rather than Damascus’ Mezze airport.
So, if an Israeli F-35 air strike on the Damascus airport should be confirmed, its target would not have been Iranian-Hezbollah military supplies.
Today, the Mezze military airbase is the site of a sterile zone set aside for the exclusive use of President Bashar Assad, his family and his top military and intelligence chiefs. It also houses laboratories for developing and manufacturing unconventional weapons; and it serves serving as the main command center for the Syria's 4th Military Division, whose Republican Guard unit protects the President Assad, his family, and members of the ruling caste.
In the first attack last night, a suicide bomber blew himself up at an officers’ club in the heavily policed Kafra Sousa district of Damascus. At least ten people were killed and dozens injured. Located nearby are the homes of many Assad loyalists in the security and military establishments, as well as top secret facilities.
The ability of a suicide bomber to penetrate one of the most heavily secured locations in Damascus and blow up at an exclusive regime watering hole raises questions about the inner workings of the Assad regime.
Some unknown hand struck the heart of that regime in the space of a few hours – not once, but twice.
Assad's government used its standard scapegoat, Israel, for covering up these embarrassing and inexplicable occurrences.
However, DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources disclose that the regime has reached an awkward crossroads.
The Russians have taken charge of the Syrian war and no longer bother to consult with the Syrian president or Iran on its conduct. They are deeply immersed in preparing the Syrian peace conference they are sponsoring which is scheduled to open at Astana, Kazakhstan on 23 January.
If Moscow coordinates its Syrian strategy with anyone, it is Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, not Bashar Assad. But even with Erdogan, it does to a limited extent.
The Syrian ruler and Iran, having been sidelined by Russia, is following its example. Both Tehran and Damascus have taken to holding their cards close to their vests, operating in tight secrecy.
Just last Sunday, Iran sent its Secretary of the Supreme National Council to Damascus. Ali Shamkhani is also one the closest confidant to Iran's "Supreme Leader" Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The purpose of the visit was to pierce the aura of mistrust that has spread over the Iranian-Syrian alliance, and find out what, in fact, is going on in Damascus.
As for the two attacks in Syria last night, the mystery further deepened this morning when Syrian state media ran photos of a big blaze – which may or may not be authentic – to illustrate the alleged Israeli attack on Mezze military airbase.