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What next in Syria? Photo: EPA
What next in Syria? Photo: EPA
 
 

Syrian nightmare for Israel

Op-ed: Islamist rise in post-Assad Syria may find Israel surrounded by radical Muslim elements

Alex Fishman
Published: 07.26.12, 18:31 / Israel Opinion

Intelligence information collected and analyzed by the CIA shows that Israel has many causes for concern about the day after Assad. It turns out that there is a fundamental gap between what the White House says about events in Syria or what will happen after Assad goes and the disturbing picture taking shape at CIA headquarters in Langley.

 

The CIA is engaged in an intensive race against time to acquire information about Syria’s arsenal of chemical and biological weapons. The investment is huge, ranging from field agents dispatched to reinforce CIA stations in the region to technological intelligence, satellite images and so on. In fact, everything offered by modern technology is being invested in Syria at this time.

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CIA officials are working with regional intelligence bodies – such as Turkey’s and Jordan’s spy agencies – and collecting information from Syrian army defectors in order to map out the body known as the “rebels” and categorize them: Who will be cooperating with the US Administration in the future, who will be serving the interests of radical Islam, and whether someone among them can be trusted on the chemical weapons issue.

 

This intelligence information prompted several leaks, which apparently reflect reality. One of them referred to the possibility that Jordanian commandoes would take over Syria’s chemical and biological sites. The second referred to the possibility that Israel will be bombing these sites. Yet another report revealed that the US Administration formulated contingency plans for taking over border crossings, airports and seaports in Syria to prevent the transfer of chemical and biological weapons and nab fleeing terrorists.

 

Here we can add another assumption: The assassination of top Syrian defense officials was not necessarily carried out by the rebels. This story has too many hallmarks of a blow delivered by an orderly spy agency capable of penetrating through the security around Syria’s top brass. Turkish intelligence, for example, has the abilities and also the interest – in conjunction with the Americans – to avenge the downing of the Turkish jet by the Syrians.

 

No new Syria

One of the products of CIA collection efforts is a problematic opinion about the rebels. Firstly, says the spy agency, the number of rebels is smaller than what is perceived in the West. Secondly, the rebel leadership was massively infiltrated by radical Muslim Brotherhood elements. Some of the rebels have a radical agenda, both politically and religiously, which is incommensurate with what someone in the White House thinks.

 

Moreover, as the rebels are still not shying away from using cellular phones, CIA agents have been able to report that some of the massacres in Syria in the past year were carried out by elements that were not activated by the Assad regime.

 

And so, while the White House is trying to cultivate a group of states that would endorse the new Syria, CIA officials warn: Not only will there be no new, modern Syria, there is a chance it will be a very old Syria, similar to the current Egyptian model or to the Iraqi model, where nobody knows who controls what. The states who offer financial and military support to the rebels have no idea who they’re supporting.

 

The US Administration had a vision for Syria. The Americans wanted the Baath party to continue running the country. This party is indeed headed by an Alawite, but mostly comprises Sunnis. The Americans wanted to see a Sunni regime in Syria that has an alliance with Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Yet none of this vision materialized. What is left for the Americans is to continue reciting the mantra whereby Assad needs to be toppled because of his brutality, ties with Iran and so on.

 

For the Americans, the day after Assad can bring unpleasant realities and strategic difficulties. For Israel, the day after Assad is a critical matter. Muslim Brotherhood on the Egypt border, Muslim Brotherhood in Gaza, Muslim Brotherhood on the Syria border, Hezbollah on the Lebanon border – this is a nightmare that could materialize.

 

 

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