The White House has dispatched three top officials to the Middle East in an effort to calm war tensions which Lebanon and Syria have played up over Israel's homeland missile defense exercise Turning-Point 4, debkafile's Washington sources report. As the exercise began, Sunday, May 23, OC Northern Command, Brig. Gady Eisenkott said: "No party concerned has an interest in another showdown, but the IDF could be ready to fight within hours." He added that [if confronted] "Israel could take on both the Syrian-Lebanese front and Gaza." He was talking to the local council heads in Galilee, northern Israel.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told the weekly cabinet meeting that the drill is just routine, not the consequence of any unusual security event. Israel seeks calm, stability and peace, he stressed, adding: "It is no secret that we live in a region beset with rocket and missile threats."
The five-day exercise covering the whole country will test local and national authorities' responses to simultaneous missile and rocket attacks against civilian locations from Lebanon, Syria, Iran and the Gaza Strip. Sirens Wednesday, May 27, will signal civilians to make for sheltered areas.
Syria has placed its air force and air defense forces on high alert, while Hizballah has transferred thousands of its militiamen to South Lebanon and placed the border region on a war footing against a supposed Israeli attack.
Saturday, May 22, John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, arrived in Damascus for talks with President Bashar Assad, his fifth visit to the Syrian capital. His spokesman said "Chairman Kerry planned to speak with President Assad about a range of issues critical to the stability of the region." His obvious mission, debkafile's sources report, was to prevent security on the Syrian and Lebanese borders from running out of control in the wake of Damascus' continuing buildup of Hizballah smuggled weapons arsenal.
The US official assigned with holding Israel back is President Barack Obama's Chief of Staff, Rahm Emmanuel. Although his visit to Israel was described as private – for the traditional celebration of his son's Bar Mitzva this week at the Western Wall – he set up appointments with President Shimon Peres, the prime minister and the defense minister Ehud Barak.
Assistant secretary of state Jeffrey Feltman who heads the Syrian-Lebanese desk, while on a round tour of Middle East capitals, is using press interviews to call on Syria to prevent smuggled arms reaching the Lebanese Hizballah and other terrorist organizations in Iraq.
He said talking to the Syrians was "not easy, but most important." Speaking in Amman, Feltman said: "President Assad's decisions affect security in the region and so Washington must be sure that he fully understands our concerns."
Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri arrives in Washington Monday, May 24, for his first meeting with President Barack Obama. This will also be the first time the White House receives a Lebanese prime minister bound in a power-sharing accord with a terrorist organization committed to "resistance" against Israel and bearing arms in violation of UN Security Council resolutions.
Obama's adviser on counter-terrorism John Brennan "sanitized" the event by announcing after an advance trip to Beirut last week that the "United States should build up moderate (!) elements within Hizballah."
This Iran-backed Shiite terrorist organization has always boasted that violent hatred for Israel and Jews is its only raison d'etre, yet not a single Israel official voice was raised to query Brennan's delusive prescription.