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Monday, August 13, 2007

Barak tries to cover up the gas mask shortage

I want to update you on the gas mask situation here. About a month ago, I wrote a post in which I told you that our gas masks had been opened in 2003 and had not been replaced since. The good news is that over the past couple of weeks, the Home Front went around collecting the old gas masks. The bad news is that Defense Minister Ehud Barak is hiding behind a fear of goading Syria to war to explain why new gas masks are not being distributed, at a time when IDF intelligence assessments indicate that Syria thinks that Prime Minister Ehud K. Olmert is planning to attack and is preparing itself accordingly.
Damascus does not believe Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's public statements of reassurance that Israel has no intention of attacking Syria, and is genuinely concerned about an Israeli preemptive attack, according to official Israeli assessments.

Olmert's attempts over the last few weeks to calm Syrian jitters have not been overly successful, and Syrian President Bashar Assad still believes he plans to attack, according to these estimates.


Despite these assurances, the Syrians, according to these assessments, fear that Olmert will attack, in large part, to make up for the failure of last summer's war in Lebanon and to counter what is expected to be a damming final report issued later this year by the Winograd Committee looking into the Second Lebanon War.

Assad, according to this school of thought, believes Olmert's public comments that Israel has no belligerent intentions toward Syria are merely part of a "conspiracy" to lull the Syrians into complacency.

This Syrian concern, according to these assessments, has been fanned by the largest IDF maneuvers in the Golan Heights in some five years. The Syrian jitters are indeed so real that, according to some reports, the Syrian military has canceled large-scale summer training exercises so as not to give Israel a pretense for military action.
The IDF intelligence assessment also indicates that the Syrians are nearing the end of an accelerated deployment of a large rocket arsenal of Katyusha and Scud missiles capable of reaching Tel Aviv and causing thousands of civilian casualties. Syria is known to have chemical and biological weapons that are capable of being deployed on Katyusha and Scud missiles.
According to the military sources, launchers now known to be located on the Syrian side could potentially unleash a barrage on IDF installations, infrastructure and civilian targets with missiles numbering in the hundreds within an hour.

IDF officials have said off the record that thwarting such a potentially catastrophic bombardment would be problematic for the Israel Air Force, and that ground forces would therefore need to get deep into Syrian territory quickly to stop the firing at its sources.

Also, according to the officials, Syria had accelerated training periods for its troops, emphasizing guerrilla tactics utilized by Hizbullah against the IDF. The sources said Syrian commandos equipped with advanced antitank missiles had learned from Hizbullah and were known to be stationed along the length of the border.

However, the latest Military Intelligence assessment said these forces remain in a defensive position, and that Syria did not attend to initiate an all-out war with Israel.

Along with accelerated missile deployment, officials in Jerusalem have noticed over the last nine months an increased emphasis inside Syria on its connection to the Golan. This has been manifest in greater media interest inside Syria about the Golan, as well as the launching of a biweekly newspaper last September called The Golan, which has now turned into a weekly.
Former Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee Chairman Yuval Steinitz, who heads the Subcommittee on Home Front Preparedness, slammed Barak:
"The decision not to hand out masks so as not to upset the Syrians reminds me of Moshe Dayan's unfortunate decision not to call up the reserves so as not to upset the Syrians and the Egyptians on the eve of the Yom Kippur War," he said.

"I say it's possible to defend the citizens of the state from threats, and whoever does not do this will stand before a commission of inquiry next to which the Winograd Committee will pale in comparison," he declared.
If anyone is left here when the shooting stops.

Steinitz is right and Barak knows it. But the problem is much greater than Barak refusing to hand out gas masks. The problem is that the government spent the last two years (and longer) deluding itself that the dawn of a 'New Middle East' is on the horizon, and because of that, as I noted last month, it does not have enough gas masks to hand out:
Acknowledging that the population's gas masks will not be renewed and effective for at least another two years, defense officials told the Post Sunday that the IDF Home Front Command was currently considering proposals, if the need arises, to make emergency purchases of gas masks from Israeli and American companies. [Well, why don't we just ask the Syrians to postpone any attack until the incompetent boors at the Home Front Command can get off their fat overpaid butts and finish 'considering' the proposals. CiJ]

If war were to break out in the coming months, the Home Front Command would only have enough gas masks for 1.5 million adults and half-a-million children. [At the end of May 2007, Israel's population was 7,161,000. That means the government is close to 5,000,000 gas masks short not counting the tourists. And as of the end of 2005, the population included approximately 2.5 million people under the age of 19. CiJ]

The shortage in gas masks stems from a 2003 Defense Ministry decision to collect the public's gas masks, a project that only began at the beginning of 2007. Due to a lack of funds, the project was recently suspended and is expected to be renewed - following Sunday's government decision - in the coming weeks. [And could someone please explain what happened until the project was suspended? Why haven't any gas masks been collected for the last four years? CiJ]

"This situation could be interpreted as neglect," a senior official told the Post. [COULD???? CiJ] "If war breaks out and non-conventional weapons are used then we could find ourselves in a major crisis." [How reassuring! CiJ]
What the government ought to be doing is trying to buy gas masks on the open market. Now. Because if I have figured this out, so have the Syrians, and they aren't going to wait for us to be ready to fight them.


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