Israel has sternly warned embattled Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad against transferring his stockpile of unconventional weapons, long-range missiles and advanced anti-aircraft weapons to the Hezbollah terrorist organization. A transfer of chemical weapons would be tantamount to a declaration of war against Israel, declared a senior Israeli defense official on February 6 who averred that his country will not accept such a move and would act to prevent it.
Assad confronted political opponents and ordinary Syrians in a nearly 11-month standoff in which 5,000 people have been killed, according to the United Nations. Over the last ten days, Syrian rebels briefly controlled the eastern periphery of Damascus, the capital city, but were met with a brutal and swift response by Syrian forces loyal to the dictator. While the resistance was crushed, it is seen in the region as a dangerous development for the regime.
Bloodletting in Syria has increased in recent days as Western and Arab diplomatic efforts to pressure Russia over its refusal to condemn the Syrian regime. A draft resolution submitted to the U.N. Security Council demands that Assad halt the violence to then implement an Arab League peace plan. The plan would require him to transfer power to his vice president, and allow creation of a unity government to prepare for elections. If Assad fails to comply within 15 days, the Council would consider unspecified "further measures," a reference to a possible move to impose economic or other sanctions.
Israel is concerned over the possible transfer of Syria’s its armaments, including unconventional weapons, to the Hezbollah organization based in Lebanon. Syria has already transferred armaments to the control of the terrorist group, even while the weapons are still on Syrian soil. The other weapons that could be transferred into the hands of Hezbollah include long-range missiles, and advanced anti-aircraft systems that could threaten Israel’s Air Force, and chemical weapons. It is believed that Syria possesses the world's largest stockpile of chemical weapons, including some of the deadliest chemical agents known, such as sarin and the nerve agent VX. Their chemical agents have already been integrated in warheads mounted on advanced Russian-made Scud missiles.
While the weapons are currently under the supervision of the military loyal to Assad, should he tumble from power they could be transferred to Hezbollah – possibly even at Iran's behest – because Lebanon is currently perceived as more stable than Syria. "We are seeing a paradoxical process unfold, in which Syria is undergoing a process of 'Lebanonization' and vice versa," said a senior Israeli defense official quoted in the Israeli press. "Syria, which was an island of stability in the past is now being torn apart by military clashes. Lebanon is now perceived as being the more stable of the two," the official added.
The transfer of weapons – especially chemical weapons – to Hezbollah would be intolerable for Israel. The senior official said such a situation would be tantamount to "a declaration of war." Unlike Syria, whose weapons are mainly a deterrent, "Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that is much less predictable and cannot be allowed to entertain itself with unconventional weapons," the official said. Western powers also view such a transfer warily, and is believed Syria has been warned off such a move.
Israeli Air Force Commander Maj.-Gen. Ido Nechushtan recently warned that Syria’s instability could lead to conflict on Israel's northern border region. Nechushtan reiterated recently, "Everything that is happening [in Syria] every day is reason for us to re-examine the situation, closely follow the developments and make decisions as necessary."
The U.N. Security Council in session on February 7 discussed Syria’s plight and the draft resolution backed by the Arab League and the West that demands that Assad transfer authority to Syrian Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa within 15 days. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, British Foreign Secretary William Hague, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, and Arab League Secretary-General Nabil Elaraby were among those present. The proposal is supported by 10 of 15 Security Council members, which would force Russia or China to veto the move to prevent its approval.
Secretary of State Clinton called on Council members to approve the Arab League's plan, saying, "It is time for the international community to put aside our own differences and send a clear message of support to the people of Syria. I know that some members here may be concerned that the Security Council is headed toward another Libya. That is a false analogy. We all have a choice: Stand with the people of Syria and the region or become complicit in the continuing violence there."
Secretary Clinton told Security Council member, "Despite its ruthless tactics, the Assad regime's reign of terror will end and the people of Syria will have the chance to chart their own destiny. The question for us is: How many more innocent civilians will die before this country is able to move forward toward the kind of future it deserves?"
Russia, Syria’s main armaments supplier, remained at odds with the West's position. "The Western draft Security Council resolution on Syria does not lead to a search for compromise," wrote Russia's Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov in a Twitter message. "Pushing this resolution is a path to civil war."
Violence continued throughout Syria this week with more than 50 people killed in action on February 7 alone in clashes between Assad’s forces and defectors to the "Free Syrian Army" on the outskirts of Damascus, echoing the battles that eventually brought down another Arab dictator, Muammar Gadhafi of Libya.
Originally published at The Cutting Edge News http://www.thecuttingedgenews.com/index.php?article=71977&pageid=37&pagename=Page+One
The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's own and do not necessarily represent those of The Prince Arthur Herald.
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