Joint US-Israeli Contingency Plan: '18 Chemical Targets In Syria'
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While the US prepares to arm rebels and after its confirmation that the Syrian army has used chemical weapons and crossed the much debated "red line", Time Magazine published a detailed account of how and when the US and Israel plan to destroy President Bashar Assad's chemical weapons stockpile.
According to the report, the two countries have formed a number of contingency plans in case Assad's regime falls or rebels near the weapon caches, mandating a speedy Western response, in an attempt to prevent Syria's weapons of mass destruction from falling into the wrong hands.
In the report, senior Israeli intelligence officials are quoted as telling Time that one of the possible scenarios for the attacks – which supposedly target some 18 different caches – is a sudden disappearance on Assad's part, either as a result of his death, fleeing to another country or going into hiding.
In any case, if Assad's regime should collapse, it is possible that the two states would launch a targeted attack on 18 different weapon stockpiles where chemical weapons are known to be stored.
In addition, as part of such a scenario, search operation would also be enacted in attempt to locate and destroy any such arms which might have already reached radical al-Qaeda affiliated rebels.
According to Time's report, the Israeli official stressed that it has yet to be decided whether Israel or the US would conduct the attack.
What is clear is that according to the Israeli, the American plans include placing ground forces in Syria and launching a number of attacks, promising such arms are indeed neutralized.
On Friday, CNN reported that the White House had decided to arm the rebels with light weapons, ammunition and possibly anti-tank missiles as well; however, further details have yet to be published or confirmed.
According to the Israeli official quoted by Time, America's intelligence has known for some time that Assad's forces have used chemical weapons.
They further said that America was privy to the same information that prompted Military Intelligence Commander Brigadier-General Itay Brun to announce on April 23 that sarin gas was used during the civil war.
“We are sharing,” the official said. “We have our cards on the table with the Americans for a long time. They’ve had all this information.”
However, only two days ago did the US administration confirm that indeed such weapons were used in at least two separate incidents in Aleppo.
The Israeli is further reported as telling Time that the transfer of American F-16 jets to Jordan as well as the placement of US Patriot missiles – allegedly as part of a military exercise – were intended as a message to Syria.
“It’s a clear, purposeful, presence of a strike force near the border of Syria,” he noted, adding: “I think it’s a message, a clear message,” not only to Syria, but also to Iran, as the force is “only a short leap (from) the Gulf.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Saturday any attempt to enforce such a no-fly zone over Syria using F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missiles from Jordan would violate international law.
"There have been leaks from Western media regarding the serious consideration to create a no-fly zone over Syria through the deployment of Patriot anti-aircraft missiles and F-16 jets in Jordan," said Lavrov, speaking at a joint news conference with his Italian counterpart.
"You don't have to be a great expert to understand that this will violate international law," he added.
As part of the more candid cooperation between the Israel and the US, Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon met with his American counterpart, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.
The meeting took place in Hagel's Pentagon office and was preceded by a flight in a V-22 plane that Israel is expected to purchase from the US.
Regarding the Syrian conflict, Ya'alon said: "Assad's victory in Qusair is not a turning point in the Syrian conflict, and I do not believe it gave him the momentum needed for victory.
"Assad currently controls only 40% of Syria. Hezbollah is involved in Syria and has suffered heavy losses during the fighting, and as far as I know we are talking about around 1,000. We need to prepare ourselves for a long conflict with many shifts in ups and downs," the defense minster said.