Western military sources predict an upsurge of tension this week along Israel’s borders with Syria and Lebanon. Moscow, Tehran and Damascus may be planning to embarrass Binyamin Netanyahu when he sits down with President Barack Obama at the White house Monday, Sept. 30, and addresses the UN General Assembly the next day, Oct. 1.
They see an opportunity to push Israel further out in the cold after the Obama administration’s brush-off in his rush to pursue relations with Tehran. Israel is seen as hitting a weak streak as a result of Washington’s cold shoulder and its own lack of military impetus as Netanyahu arrives in America to present Israel’s case to the US President and the international community.
Those sources therefore predict that Russian, Iranian and Syrian strategists may be planning to goad Israel into an ill-judged and badly-timed military response at this moment. They can then fit the Netanyahu government into the frame of the neighborhood warmonger and disrupter of the hopeful US-Russian partnership for solving the Iranian and Syrian chemical weapons issues by diplomacy.
All that needs to be done is to place a shipment of advanced or chemical weapons on the road from Syria to Hizballah in Lebanon to draw forth an Israeli air strike and start a blaze in a highly explosive sector.
The world would then turn round and say that Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani was correct when he defamed Israel in New York last week as the sole cause of Middle East wars in the last 40 years – without encountering a single dissenting voice in America – and the only nation in possession of weapons of mass destruction.
debkafile’s sources report that, although President Obama stated last Friday, Sept. 27, that he informed America’s allies, including Israel, of his landmark phone call to Rouhani, the truth is that he has kept Jerusalem in the dark on the contacts he initiated on the Iranian and Syrian issues, although Israel is most vitally affected.
The US-Russian deal for the dismantling of Syria’s chemical arsenal was sprung on Jerusalem from Geneva on Sept. 14 without warning, as were the Washington-Tehran exchanges and understandings on Iran’s nuclear program.
Saturday, Sept. 28, US Secretary John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov repeated their Geneva duo performance by announcing that the UN Security Council had unanimously adopted Resolution 2118 requiring the elimination of Syria’s chemical stockpile.
All the 15 Council members present appreciated that the motion was toothless after the US and Russia had agreed to omit penalties for non-compliance.
The text said: “No party in Syria should use, develop, produce, acquire, stockpile, retain or transfer chemical weapons.” This wording strongly recalls Security Council Resolution 1701 which was enacted seven years ago and banned any transfer of weapons to Hizballah as the aggressor in the Second Lebanese war against Israel.
This ban was never upheld. In fact, the flow of Iranian and Syrian arms shipments to Hizballah increased from that day on, providing the Shiite terrorist organization with one of the most powerful advanced rocket arsenals in the Arab world.
Even before its enactment, Resolution 2112 was already heading for its first prevarications Friday with two separate steps by Washington and Moscow:
1. Two weeks after Kerry’s thunderous rhetoric on the size and threat to the region of the Syrian chemical stockpile, considered the third largest in the world, US officials including the State Department told the media that since most of the stocks are “unweaponized” and exist in liquid precursors, the entire arsenal could be neutralized in a shorter period than thought, about nine months.
debkafile’s sources point out that this factoid has been known for months. It doesn’t address the real difficulties of locating the stocks Bashar Assad has hidden or transferred, or the difficulty of inspectors reaching them in areas under combat. At present, UN experts are not even free to move around Damascus without coming under fire.
2. Lavrov reiterated Saturday that the new resolution absolutely rules out the use of force or any application of Chapter 7 of the UN Charter. Any possible use of force n the future under Chapter 7 would require a new resolution, he said.
Moscow has offered to provide troops to “guard workers and facilities.” The message is that if any foreign troops are to be allowed in Syria, they can only be Russian.
As for the “transfer of chemical weapons,” which is barred under the new resolution, suspicions by Western intelligence that Syrian plans to sneak part of its arsenal to Hizballah in Lebanon, or has done so already, apparently reached Beirut. Friday, President Michel Suleiman hastened to declare: “Syria’s chemical weapons have not been smuggled to Lebanon and there is no evidence of their presence in the country.”