The emerging Russian-brokered deal to remove chemical weapons from Syria to
forestall any US attack is – from Israel’s point of view – a very mixed
The good news is that if Syrian President Bashar Assad honors
the deal – a huge “if,” considering that Assad is a butcher who has killed tens
of thousands of his own people to stay in power – then a very deadly weapon will
be removed from Israel’s doorstep. Israel will no longer have to worry about
chemical warfare with its bitter enemy to the north.
Moreover, if indeed
the stockpiles are all destroyed or moved, then Jerusalem would also be relieved
of the major headache of worrying that these weapons could be transferred to or
“fall” into the hands of Hezbollah or other terrorist
While the assessments in Jerusalem have long been that
Assad would be reluctant to use his chemical weapons against Israel because of
fear of retribution, the concern is that the radical suicide terrorists might
not harbor a similar fear or even care about the payback.
Crisis in Syria - full JPost.com coverage
weapons out of Assad’s hands, therefore, is a net gain – that is the good
The bad news, however, is that Assad is left standing.
message of his surviving this whole incident as president of Syria is that – yes
– in the 21st century you can wipe out entire neighborhoods and cities, use
missiles, planes, artillery fire and even sarin gas to indiscriminately kill
your own people, and still be allowed to rule.
That Assad is left
standing, and may even end up remaining in power, is bad for Israel because it
sends the following reassuring message to those in the neighborhood –
particularly Iran – either perpetrating heinous acts or contemplating them: No
worries, this world won’t interfere, you can get away with it.
Assad has to forfeit his WMD stockpile, he will still literally get away with
murder because – to borrow loosely from Bruce Springsteen’s song “Born in the
USA” – “He’s still there, they’re all gone.”
Ever since the outbreak of
the Syrian civil war more than two years ago, many asked who Israel wanted to
prevail. Did Jerusalem prefer Assad, the predictable “devil it knew,” or the
motley crew of rebels fighting him who could conceivably bring to power Muslim
Brotherhood elements or – worse – al- Qaida?
More than 100,000 dead Syrians
later, including a few thousand killed by deadly gas, there is increasingly a
feeling among some key policy makers in Jerusalem that it simply cannot get any
worse than Assad.
Assad is one of the most brutal and dangerous leaders
on the planet; one without restraints; one who is now turning his country from
an Iranian proxy into an Iranian client state. If he survives, it will be
because of Russian political cover and Iranian and Hezbollah physical and
True, the Muslim Brotherhood and al-Qaida would
definitely – if they ever gained control of Syria – cause Israel
True, they could turn the Golan border, so quiet under Assad and
his father since the Yom Kippur War in 1973, into a living hell.
though the Sunni terror and jihadist groups like Hamas and al-Qaida threaten
Israel and cause enormous problems, the main peril to Israel right now is not
the Sunni terrorists but rather the possibility of an Iranian-led Shi’ite axis –
one that soon could be armed with nuclear weapons – stretching from Iran through
Iraq, Syria and into Lebanon.
Let no one be distracted by the current
events in Syria and Egypt: Iran remains Israel’s principal threat today, a
threat that becomes existential if it gains nuclear arms. As such, anything that
benefits Iran is bad for Jerusalem. Assad remaining in power benefits Iran, it
is another link in the Iranian-Syrian-Hezbollah axis of evil.
as it might be, even a Muslim Brotherhood or al-Qaida controlled Syria might be
the lesser of two evils for Israel since at least the Iranian propelled Shi’ite
arc would be broken, and Iran would be weakened. A toppled Assad is a weakened
Hezbollah and a weakened Iran, and that is a net gain.
The bad news in
the Russian-brokered deal currently under discussion is that Assad remains at the
helm. This is bad not only because a man who murdered so many will remain
standing to kill another day, but also because Iran will retain a vital
strategic ally. And, of course, Iran is the much more significant game right now
for Israel than even Syria.