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Damascus has evidently concluded an Israeli offensive across the Golan Heights is in the offing. For the first time in 40 years, Syria dismantled military checkpoints on the road to Kuneitra on its side of the Golan. Foreign journalists were barred from covering Israeli maneuvers on the Heights. Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said the IDF was conducting military maneuvers — and nothing more.

One of the more plausible scenarios has Israel preparing for a drive into Syria across the Golan Heights, and then fighting a “decisive” battle with the Syrian army on the road to Damascus, followed by a left “hook” into Lebanon to execute an outflanking attack on Hezbollah. Syria has advised its citizens to leave Lebanon as soon as possible.

That could also be a strategically propitious moment for U.S. action against Iran. It remains to be seen whether the key players in President Bush’s National Security Council would agree an opportunity is at hand to dust off an Air Force and Navy contingency plan to take out Iran’s 23 nuclear facilities.

Arnaud de Borchgrave is editor at large of The Washington Times and of United Press International.