Former IDF Intel Chief urges grounding of Assad's helicopter fleet

“Even without poison gas, these vehicles are used to launch inaccurate explosives that inflict terror and death on Syrian civilians,” said Amos Yadlin.

Amos Yadlin
The US should ground Syrian President Bashar Assad's helicopters which drop barrel bombs and chemical weapons once and for all, the IDF's former intelligence chief Amos Yadlin urged on Sunday.
Deadly gas attack reported on Syrian rebel enclave, Damascus denies, April 8, 2018 (Reuters)
In a series of tweets, the current president of Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) called on the US to take action against Assad’s helicopter force and also made a somewhat more vague call for Israel to take a louder “moral stance” against the Saturday use of chemical weapons against Syrian rebels and civilians.
Although the Syrian Assad regime has frequently used chlorine-derived chemical weapons against its Syrian civil war rivals, this is the first time since April 2017 that it has used the far more dangerous chemical weapon – sarin gas.
But Yadlin said that the helicopters themselves were an issue even beyond their use to deliver sarin gas as a weapon.
“Even without poison gas, these vehicles are used to launch inaccurate explosives that inflict terror and death on Syrian civilians,” wrote Yadlin.
Amos Yadlin ahead of INSS Conference
Yadlin noted US President Donald Trump’s announcement of a potential near-term US  withdrawal from Syria as a major factor emboldening Assad, along with the recent Syria-Iran-Turkey summit.
“Encouraged by the Ankara summit and Trump’s announcement about the upcoming US withdrawal from Syria, Assad has once again used chemical weapons against his own citizens,” he wrote, adding that Israel must take a stand against the Syrian leader.
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“As we approach Holocaust Remembrance Day, Yom HaShoah, Israel should clarify that it takes a moral stance against killers who use weapons of mass murder against civilians. In this instance, Israel’s values and its strategic interests both point in that direction,” wrote Yadlin.
He called on the US to repeat its 2017 attack on Syria - “by responding in a way that damages Assad’s ability to produce and launch chemical weapons.”
In April 2017, Trump ordered a barrage of Tomahawk missiles fired at Syrian targets related to its chemical weapons program.
The quick and decisive response by Trump was hailed by Israel and some US Sunni allies as a sign of the return of the US to a dominant and more involved position in the Middle East after perceptions that the Obama administration was reducing the US’s footprint and influence.
Also, the decisive action was contrasted to Obama’s red-line threat that the US would intervene militarily in Syria if the Assad regime used chemical weapons as part of the civil war.
Obama eventually stepped back from his threat and cut a deal with Assad to give up his chemical weapons arsenal, though the ongoing uses of those weapons have left the question of how much Assad really gave up in dispute.
Despite the 2017 series of events, there is far greater doubt currently that Trump will order another attack after Saturday’s events. While the Pentagon would like to maintain an influential US presence on the ground there, Trump has mostly sent messages that with ISIS mostly defeated, he wants the US out of Syria.
Damascus has denied the chemical attack and said the rebels in Douma, who are massively outgunned and completely encircled, were collapsing and spreading false news. However, the Assad regime has also denied other uses of chemical weapons and massacres which the US, the UN and most Western countries confirmed as true.
The US State Department said reports of mass casualties from the alleged chemical weapons attack in Douma were "horrifying" and would, if confirmed, "demand an immediate response by the international community."