Both Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post report that Defense Ministerhas declared that if the rebels in Syria successfully oust President Assad, Israel would take military action if needed to ensure that Syria’s advanced and chemical weapon systems do not fall into Hezbollah’s hands.
In a television interview on Friday, Barak said that, “Syria has advanced antiaircraft missiles, surface-to-surface missiles and elements of chemical weapons...I directed the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] to prepare for a situation where we will need to consider the possibility of an attack.”
In a separate televised interview, Barak left no doubt about Israel's intentions, plans, and capabilities. He categorically stated that the “moment [President Bashar Assad] starts to fall we will conduct intelligence monitoring and will liaise with other agencies.”
According to an Israeli government source, Israel worries that the current unrest in Syria will leave the considerable stockpiles of non-conventional weapons – as well as advanced conventional weapons – unprotected and within reach of “terrorist groups and other extremist elements.” To avoid this, Israel is “looking at different contingency plans. To do otherwise would be irresponsible.”
The White House responded to Barak's statements on Saturday, indicating that the U.S. government was “closely monitoring” Syria’s chemical and non-conventional weapons caches,” and is “actively consulting” Syria's neighbors.
“We believe Syria’s chemical weapons stockpile remains under Syrian government control,” White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said. “Given the escalation of violence in Syria and the regime’s increasing attacks on their people, we remain very concerned about these weapons.”
According to the Daily Telegraph, a Free Syrian Army general indicated that the FSA is preparing to secure Syria's chemical weapons. The rebel general came out of retirement from a similar role in Syrian Army and has joined the opposition specifically to perform the same job for the FSA.
“We have a group just to deal with chemical weapons,” Gen. Adnan Silou told the Telegraph.
He described two chemical weapons sites, one in east Damascus and another near Homs.
And, in apparent retaliation for the killing of four top security officials on last week, including Assad's brother-in-law, a Syrian army defector claims that the Syrian military is, in fact, mobilizing its non-conventional and chemical weapons for use against the rebels.
Does any of this sound familiar? All that is missing is the term “weapons of mass destruction.” There should be no doubt that U.S. intelligence agents, both military and government, are and have been “on the ground” in Syria for some time. The question is whether the U.S. will find a sufficient reason to deploy actual “boots on the ground” in Syria.
At this point, the situation there is so completely muddled, confused, and volatile, it is unlikely that American soldiers would be able to discern friend from foe. Besides, beyond its “strategic” geographic location, there is little to no American “national interest” in Syria which would justify an American military response. The “weapons” matter is interesting, but, in my view, not particularly compelling.
The fear, of course, is that, as stated, such weapons could aid “terrorists” in the region. Interestingly, though, no mention has been made either by the U.S. or Israel as to the role Iran is playing in all of this. Should Iran surface as an instigator or even motivator of events, then all bets are off.