On High Alert — Israel's Concern about Syria's WMDs
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak have been sending out strong messages over the past few days, warning the international community of an impending Israeli military operation. They have stated that Israel’s Defense Forces are prepared and ready for an attack on enemy forces in Syria and Lebanon.
The Israeli government has assessed that Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government is ready to fall, and he may try and flee the country. The greater concern is what he will do with his mass weapons arsenal; advanced missile systems; and WMD’s (chemical and biological weapons).
Some of Syria’s chemicals have, reportedly, been placed in warheads and fitted on Scud missiles that could be used against Israel. Though the Free Syrian Army is in the process of forming a team to protect chemical weapons sites, this may not be enough security to satisfy Israel and America. The United States is prepared to move its forces into Syria to help destroy Assad’s WMD’s, if needed; and, to back up Israel if it decides to launch a military operation in the near future.
Israeli intelligence is keeping a watchful eye on Syria and Lebanon, hoping that Assad has not already smuggled some of his dangerous chemical arsenal to Hezbollah. Israel also wants to make sure that nothing lethal and dangerous to the Jewish State ends up in the hands of Al Qaeda; global jihadists; or other radical Islamic insurgents.
While most of Assad’s anger has been unleashed on his own people, there is uncertainty as to whether he will extend his fury towards Israel in a last ditch effort to save his regime and his life.
In addition to staging troops on the Israeli-Syrian border, the Netanyahu government is preparing refugee camps in an enclave between the two countries, in case thousands of Syrian citizens try to flee to Israel. Already, a few dozen have attempted to cross the border in an effort to get away from the wrath of Assad’s security forces. They have feared for their lives as the civil war expands across the country.
In recent days, at least 20,000-50,000 Syrian’s, including foreign aid workers and diplomats, have fled into Lebanon to escape the Syrian war. Turkey has kept its border open to some 30,000 refugees; and, Cyprus has expressed a willingness to take in 200,000 Syrian’s escaping from their war torn nation.
Last week, Syrian rebels achieved a victory in an attack on Assad’s senior ministers and security officials. Four high-level leaders were killed, including Assad’s brother-in-law. The bomb attack on the National Security building was considered an inside operation that penetrated Assad’s inner cabinet. Some in Syria have claimed this is a turning point because individuals close to Assad’s inner circle must have provided intelligence information to Assad’s enemies. While the civil war is far from over, this event signaled that Assad’s power and options are diminishing, and opposition forces are growing in strength.
Israeli government officials are worried that Islamic militants may take advantage of the chaos in Syria and try to stage terrorist attacks against Israeli northern border towns. This would be a similar tactic used by militants launching terror attacks against Israeli southern towns along the border with Egypt.
The instability in Syria has created a vacuum that is now being filled by radical Islamists. While they are intent to fight alongside Syrian opposition forces, their goal may be to take over the Syrian government once the Assad regime falls. At least two Salafist groups, backed by Al-Qaeda have been carrying out suicide car bombings in Syrian cities, causing more upheaval in the country. Iraq and northern Lebanon have been gathering points for these jihadist fighters who daily cross the border into Syria, hoping to join the resistance.
The current civil war in Syria is undermining Iran’s regional axis of pro-Shiite sympathizers. Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Syria have formed a bloc against Sunni dominated Arab nations in the region.
However, there are strong pockets of Sunni resistance forces in Lebanon that may contend with Hezbollah’s supremacy in that nation. They could try and support Sunni’s that are fighting Assad’s Alawite forces in Syria. This means that sectarian clashes are expected to continue even after Assad’s government falls.
Since the beginning of the Syrian conflict in March 2011, the goal of Assad’s regime has been to accuse rebel forces of being controlled by an outside Islamic insurgency. Assad has been in denial that his own people have hated him and his dictatorial regime. Rather, he has painted a false picture that it is outside terrorists acting against the Syrian government that have infiltrated rebel forces among the general population. But, video reports and eye witness accounts have proven that what was once public discontent for Assad’s rule has now become a war to bring him and his government down.
Once Assad falls, the question remains as to who will lead the country. Syria may become split along sectarian lines, similar to Lebanon and Iraq. For example, the Druse would remain on the Golan; the Alawites in the Ansariya mountains; and, the Kurds in northern Syria. The Sunni’s who make up the majority of the population, would continue to live in cities throughout the country. Israel can only wonder who, out of all these population groups, might become the next leader of Syria. And, will that leader follow in the evil footsteps of Assad and his family?
In the meantime, Israel will continue to pay close attention to the uprising in Syria, preparing its ground troops and air force for all possibilities. The persistent warnings by high level Israeli officials are a way of letting the Assad government and Islamic radicals know that the turmoil in Syria cannot be used to conduct a surprise attack on the Jewish State. Israeli forces are ready for any battle ahead.
“Blessed be the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, and my fingers for battle.” Psalm 144:1
Ms. Haves is a news analyst, reporting on political, diplomatic, military and spiritual issues in Israel and the nations.
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