The management of publicity of the Israeli air raid on Syria last month indicates more than the implied regional political messages between two warring parties.
The raid took place on September 6, and the Syrians took a few days to announce it. The statement was short, and intentionally ambiguous.
This opened the door to speculation. The area in the north-east of Syria where the incident took place suggested the involvement of US soldiers straying in from Iraq or pursuing insurgents across its western borders. Then the Turks, after the Syrians broke the story, expressed their concern over fuel tanks dropped by Israeli warplanes over their territory. After that, measured leaks from Washington began to appear in the Western and Israeli media, with accusations that Syria was cooperating with North Korea on the nuclear issue.
It seems that not many around the world bought the propaganda about Syrian weapons of mass destruction, as the fabrication involving Iraq's "WMDs" had not yet been forgotten. The only person who kept on talking to the Israeli media, and some Rupert Murdoch owned media outlets, about this was John Bolton - one of the neocons who dominated George W. Bush first presidency.
Then, a hint came from the fanatical right-wing Israeli leadership-hopeful Benjamin Netanyahu.
Reports in American, British and Israeli media focused on the US gathering evidence for months - mainly from Israel - that North Korea had been cooperating with Syria on a nuclear facility. This evidence - codenamed "Orchard" - was said to include "dramatic satellite imagery that led some US officials to believe that the facility could be used to produce material for nuclear weapons", according to The Washington Post.
Then The Sunday Times published aerial photographs of an alleged Syrian site targeted by Israel, not only through aerial bombardment but also clandestine commando operations to gather "evidence" long before the raid. We still remember Israel's aerial surveillance of Lebanon and satellite intelligence on Hezbollah, which did Tel Aviv no good in the end.
The leaks, and the photos, were a bitter reminder of the situation former US secretary of state Colin Powell found himself in, thanks to the likes of Bolton and US Vice-President Dick Cheney. He was made to show the world, from the United Nations, fabricated photos and graphs of the alleged Iraqi WMD sites.
The photos, the IAEA, and the leaks have not yet built a strong case against Iran, so Syria might be a soft target. That's why the Israeli attack was deliberately left unexplained, open to speculations.
First, the Syrians waited to see what the Israelis are going to say. When nothing came out from Tel Aviv, some in Damascus thought it was better to make some announcement. Then, when Syrian President Bashar Al Assad confirmed - in a BBC interview - that a military installation had been targeted, the Israeli military eased censorship on media reporting the incident. The test balloon was fully used - end of story.
The intention was not, at least initially it seems, to tell the Syrians that Israeli warplanes can reach anywhere in their territory. Nor was it intended to regain some dignity after Israel's humiliation at the hands of Hezbollah fighters a year ago. Most likely it was something to do with a possible strike against Iran.
Nuclear cooperation between North Korea and Syria would, if proved - or fabricated in the media - help the case against Iran. It will also widen the scope of any attempt, with the help of the French in Lebanon, to tackle the triangle of Iran-Syria-Hezbollah. The media machine is in full gear, yet the world is not fully convinced about the case for war with Iran.
Whether Israeli warplanes hit a military building under construction, as Bashar admitted to the BBC, or a research centre as the Americans leaked or a nuclear facility as we're meant to believe, is not very significant.
The tactic of using the media for war is being used and the world is left waiting for the "worst", hinted at by French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. Some might find it far-fetched to strongly link the Israeli air raid on Syria to Iran crisis, but wasn't Iraq linked to Al Qaida in the preparation for invasion? The world hasn't changed much since then, as Bin Laden and Bush are still around.
Dr Ahmad Mustafa is a London-based Arab writer.