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Ron Ben-Yishai  

 

Is Assad threatening Israel?

Ron Ben-Yishai analyzes recent reports on movement of Syria’s chemical and biological weapons

Published: 07.14.12, 12:01 / Israel Opinion

Had the reports that Syria’s regime is taking chemical weapons out of storehouses reflected reality, they should have raised concerns around here. Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Army Chief Benny Gantz have already declared that Israel is closely monitoring Syria’s chemical and biological arsenals for fear that President Bashar Assad will order their transfer to Hezbollah in a desperate move before he falls – or worse, use these arms himself against Israel in a suicidal gesture.

 

However, for the time being it appears that Syria’s regime is not significantly changing the location and deployment of its chemical and biological weapons. At most, they are being moved to safer bases and storage areas, far away from regions controlled by the rebels or sites of battles.

 

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The Syrian regime and its security forces lost control over wide swaths of land in northwestern Syria, in the country’s southeast, and in the Damascus area. The regime is particularly concerned about the infiltration of al-Qaeda cells and the growing rate of attacks carried out by the group near the capital, where the Syrian army’s most sensitive and important bases, as well as non-conventional weapons, are located.

 

The Syrian regime apparently fears that the chemical weapons will fall into the hands of al-Qaeda men, who as noted infiltrated the capital’s vicinity and are carrying out attacks on a daily basis. The reports by The Wall Street Journal, based on American intelligence sources, reflect anxiety more than a reality that has already taken shape.

 

However, these reports should not be disparaged. The Americans, Turks and Jordanians are also very concerned by the quantities of chemical and biological weapons held by the Syrian regime and fear that these arms may end up in the hands of radical Islamist elements.

 

Assad’s end nearing?

The indications which the Wall Street Journal report was based on apparently show that something may be happening, but it appears that we are seeing anxiety on the part of the Syrian regime and Assad’s fear that these weapons could end up in al-Qaeda’s hands. In any case, Western intelligence officials have not seen developments pertaining to Syria’s non-conventional weapons that should concern Israel or Syria’s other neighbors.

 

The state of the Syrian regime keeps deteriorating, among other things because the army has not managed to suppress armed rebel groups operating in broad areas of the country. This is the case because Assad’s forces cannot curb the infiltration of Global Jihad elements into the Damascus area. On top of this come the destabilized economy, isolation and sanctions adopted by the Arab world, Europe, the US and Turkey. Hence, officials estimate that President Assad is at the end of the road, yet it is difficult to determine how long the regime’s decline would last.

 

We should keep in mind that Assad is not only fighting for his life and his own survival, but also for the life of his family and members of the Alawite sect, whose members constitute the regime’s elite. Another factor that extends the regime’s death throes is the fact that the political opposition and armed rebels operating from Turkey or Lebanon are not united and have failed to come up with the critical military mass and an alternate regime that would prompt Syria’s middle class to shift to the rebels’ side.

 

 

 

 

 

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