Despite pressure on US President Barack Obama to intervene in Syria following the reported large-scale chemical attack, an American military response remains unlikely, Israeli defense experts told The Jerusalem Post Thursday.
“It is not the first use of chemical weapons by the Assad regime and I doubt very much whether the US and the UN will effectively do anything this time,” said Prof. Efraim Inbar, director of the Begin- Sadat Center for Strategic Studies at Bar-Ilan University.
“In the end the loser in the civil war will be the side that is more sensitive to cost,” he added.
“A chemical attack on Israel is a different story, as Israel is expected to retaliate heavily in order to restore deterrence,” Inbar added, explaining why the risk to Israel is limited.
Dr. Dan Schueftan, director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, said, “There’s no countdown to US intervention, certainly not.”
Schueftan, who is also a visiting professor at Georgetown University, said that while he opposes many US policies in the Middle East, he supports the White House’s decision not to intervene in Syria.
“There is no one to support,” he argued. “The alternative to Assad is not a liberal regime.”
Schueftan said the available videos and photographs emerging from Syria gave him the impression that reports of a chemical attack were authentic, but added that he could not completely rule out the possibility of mass manipulation.
“If it occurred, it signifies the readiness of the Syrian regime to use these weapons,” he added, describing the development as “grave.”
From Israel’s point of view, the threat of a chemical attack is low, as the regime would only be willing to fire chemical weapons at its southern neighbor if its existence was in danger, Schueftan said.
“That’s not the case today. Their war is against the rebels, not Israel,” he said.
He recalled how Egypt used poisonous gas in Yemen in the 1960s, which at the time led to concerns that the chemical weapons would be turned against Israel.
“The main significance for Israel lies in the possibility of foreign intervention in Syria.
At the moment, I think the repercussions for Israel are limited.
But we must know that Arab regimes can be barbaric, and changes in the Arab world don’t decrease barbarism, but rather, increase it,” Schueftan said.