Israel's dramatic weekend air assault on military targets inside Syria has turned up the pressure on President Barack Obama to intervene more aggressively in the Syrian civil war. But Israel's actions don't change the calculus for the United States.
Israel had a vital national interest at stake and a limited, achievable objective for its military strikes. The United States has neither. So Obama's restrained approach of providing humanitarian assistance and pushing for a negotiated end to President Bashar Assad's regime is still the right course for the United States.
Israel was directly threatened by long-range missiles on the ground in Syria. Israeli officials feared they were there temporarily while en route from Iran to Hezbollah terrorists in Lebanon, who would turn them against Israel. The Israeli strikes Sunday and Friday hit the storehouse of missiles, a military research center thought to be a chemical weapons facility, and killed dozens of Assad's elite guard.
Many in the region who are convinced Israel and the United States always operate in tandem will see the strike as retaliation against Assad for crossing Obama's red line by using chemical weapons. But Israeli officials insist their only objective was taking out the missiles, and that Israel has no intention of intervening in support of the rebels.
Unlike Israel, the United States has no vital security interest at stake. And intervening to remove Assad -- by arming rebels or establishing a no-fly zone -- would embroil this nation in the war alongside rebels whose ranks include radical Islamists and members of al-Qaida.
While in Russia this week, Secretary of State John Kerry should push for a negotiated end to the fighting. Russia is Assad's major ally and, as a member of the United Nations Security Counsel, can veto multinational action. Kerry needs to convince the Russians that it's in their interest to avoid greater chaos in Syria by nudging Assad to relinquish power.