weapons of mass destruction 311 R.
(photo credit: Reuters)
Israeli-US intelligence and defense ties have reached new heights due to the
uprising in Syria and fears the country’s chemical weapons will fall into
terrorist hands, defense officials said on Sunday.
The officials denied
reports that Israel was under pressure from Washington to refrain from taking
unilateral steps – such as military action – to destroy Damascus’s chemical
“We are working very closely together and there is very close
coordination,” one official said, adding that the situation in Syria was at the
heart of talks with administration officials, including US Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton and National Security Adviser Tom Donilon.
Binyamin Netanyahu, in an interview with the Fox News Sunday program, said his
concern in regard to Syria was less about who would replace President Bashar
Assad, and more about what could happen to the country’s stockpile of chemical
weapons in the chaotic “seamline” when there was no government in
“This is a real problem,” the prime minister said. “Can you
imagine Hezbollah – the people who are conducting, with Iran, all these terror
attacks around the world – [if] they would have chemical weapons? It’s like
al-Qaida having chemical weapons.”
Netanyahu said this scenario was
unacceptable to Israel, as it was to the US.
“I think that this is
something we’ll have to act to stop if the need arises,” he said. “And the need
might arise if there is a regime collapse but not a regime change, that is you
go into some chaos and these sundry sites are left basically unguarded.
Hezbollah can come and pick at it, or some other terror organizations or groups
can come and pick at it.
“It’s a great threat,” the prime minister said
of the possibility of chemical weapon “leakage.”
Asked whether Jerusalem
would act alone or would prefer that the US take the lead, Netanyahu said,
“We’ll have to consider our action. But do I seek action? No. Do I preclude it?
Defense Minister Ehud Barak had a similar message earlier in the
day, saying that Israel “cannot allow” Syria’s chemical weapons to fall into
“We are watching for the possibility that Hezbollah will try
to move advanced weapon systems,” Barak said during a visit to the IDF’s Tel
Hashomer induction center to meet with new recruits to the Golani Brigade. “More
than this, we cannot know, including when we will act, how we will act and if we
Barak predicted Assad would fall soon but insisted that it
would happen without Israeli involvement.
“The Syrian people will topple
him and the only ones who are helping him are Iran and Hezbollah – and despite
that assistance he will still fall,” Barak said.
subordinate, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Gilad, said on Sunday that Assad’s forces
were still in control of the chemical weapons facilities. But on Friday, Barak
told Israeli TV stations that he had ordered the IDF to prepare operational
contingency plans to prevent the proliferation of chemical weapons in
Syria is said to have one of the largest chemical weapons arsenals
in the world, with thousands of bombs that can be dropped from the air alongside
dozens of warheads that can be installed on Scud missiles. In addition, in the
late ’90s, the US warned that Damascus was developing warheads that could
detonate in midair and disperse smaller bomblets packed with various nerve
Israel has several options. One possibility could be to attack
from the air convoys of chemical weapons or bases where the weapons are stored.
The fear though is that such a strike, even if conducted in the twilight of
Assad’s regime, would spark an all-out war with Syria, Hezbollah and possibly