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Sunday, August 25, 2013

Assad has 100,000 missiles to aim at Israel

The assessment in Israel over the weekend was that the United States is going to attack Syria... sooner or later.

America's change of course in its policy toward Syria is a result of what seems to be the Syrian military's massive use of chemical weapons against civilians last week near Damascus. The casualty numbers and horrific images coming out of the targeted areas left no other choice, even for the vacillating Obama administration and General Martin Dempsey's stuttering military. This is the same president who refrained from responding after every red line he declared was brazenly crossed, and it is the same joint chiefs of staff that claimed it would be "impossible" to implement a no-fly zone over Syria -- and these are now the people expected to act in contravention to their desires and put the U.S. army right back into a Middle Eastern war zone.

In Israel, officials think that in its first phase, at least, the American attack will be limited and focused (possibly against the precise Republican Guard unit that launched the chemical weapons), so as to avoid complicating the mission and because of the concern that a wide-scale strike will actually prompt Assad to unleash his unconventional weapons against his rivals (he might calculate that he has nothing to lose).

An important question must also be asked: How will Russia respond to the expected strike against its Middle Eastern protégé? American procrastination will allow Russia to pull its diplomatic levers in the United Nations and military levers in the Mediterranean Sea, which could alter the nature of the conflict into a direct clash between major blocs.
As far as Israel is concerned, the challenge will be to continue to stay out of the picture. The natural concern is that if its back is against the wall, Syria (or Hezbollah and Iran) could aim the shooting towards us as well. We should thus see tight coordination between Jerusalem and Washington, accompanied by American guarantees to protect Israel if it is attacked (as was the case in the first Gulf War).
Actually, the US did not do much of a job of protecting Israel during the first Gulf War. Apparently one of the conditions for that protection was that someone had to be killed. Only one person was actually killed by Saddam's SCUD's.

But Assad has much more of an arsenal than Saddam had. Assad has 100,000 missiles and rockets that can be aimed at Israel. 
According to estimates, the Syrian army has in its possession some 100,000 missiles and rockets. Several thousand of them, such as the Scud-D missiles, are considered very powerful and accurate and can reach any target in Israel. President Bashar Assad's army also has Russian-made SS-22 medium-range surface-to-surface ballistic missiles, which can carry some 120 kilograms of explosive material. 
The Syrian army is not only weary from fighting the rebel forces over the past two-and-a-half years, it has also used up a fair amount of its weapons. However, Russia continues to send arms shipments to Syria and is making certain the regime is Damascus receives more rockets, anti-tank missiles, small arms and ammunition. The Syrian army also receives logistical support from Iran.  
The events of the past week have raised fears in Israel that Assad will use chemical weapons not only against his own people. The Syrian army is capable of arming its missiles with chemical agents, as it did this week prior to the attack on rebel strongholds on the outskirts of Damascus, and use them against Israel, although such a scenario seems unlikely at the moment. 
A response to an American attack could also come from Syria's regional allies. Israel is convinced that Hezbollah will not take action against "the Zionist enemy" without a direct order from Iran, and thus, in the event of a Western attack that may break the Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis, Israel may take a blow from the north. 
The Israeli response will start with an attack which will be primarily based on intelligence that will allow the IAF to launch a powerful opening blow to Hezbollah's strategic assets in southern and central Lebanon.   
Read the whole thing

But Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz told the cabinet on Sunday that he does not believe that Syria will attack Israel in the event of a US attack.
"I'm not so sure that any American strike on Syria will lead to a Syrian attack on Israel. I believe that the chances of that are actually slim," Steinitz said. "Regardless, we have to be ready in terms of both our defensive options and our offensive ones."
My guess is that if the United States hits Syria, we will at least see a symbolic retaliation against Israel. How far that retaliation goes will determine whether we go to war. 

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