Two radical developments arising from the Syrian conflict are revealed by debkafile: In an astonishing about face, Turkey has just turned away from its 14-month support for the anti-Assad revolt alongside the West and made common cause with Russia, i.e. Bashar Assad. Further exacerbating fears of a “proxy war” involving Israel, Iran and Syria, the Lebanese Hizballah is getting ready to bring its Scud D missiles, which can reach any point in Israel, and other advanced weapons, including anti-air missiles, out of secret storage in Syria and transfer them across the border to Lebanon. Two years ago, Israel issued an ultimatum through Washington that the Scuds would be destroyed if they were moved over to Hizballah’s launching pads in Lebanon.
The Lebanese Shiite group has since kept its most advanced hardware stashed at the Syrian Al Hame and Al Zabadani military bases near Damascus.
Now that Syrian rebel attacks are closing in on Syrian military targets, Tehran and Hizballah leaders are working on plans to get them across into Lebanon without exposing them to Israeli attack.
One plan is to enlist the Palestinian Jihad Islami in the Gaza Strip and exploit a clash over the Scuds’ transfer as a trigger for an all round military offensive against Israel. It would be timed for the moment the Western-Arab intervention in Syria against President Assad crosses the line between covert and overt military action and begins an operation to establish safe zones as bases for rebel operation.
Washington, London and Paris began rushing forward contingency plans for this eventuality upon discovering that Ankara had secretly notified leaders of the rebel Free Syrian Army Thursday, May 31 that it had withdrawn permission for them to launch operations against the Assad regime from Turkish soil.
It was then realized that Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and his Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had stabbed Western-Arab Syrian policy in the back and moved over to help prop Assad up at the very moment his regime was on the point of buckling under international after-shocks from the systematic massacres of his own people.
That day, Erdogan’s betrayal was confirmed when Davutoglu announced over Turkish NTV: “We have never advised either the Syrian National Council or the Syrian administration to conduct an armed fight, and we will never do so.” He added: “The Syrian people will be the driving force that eventually topples the Syrian regime. Assad will leave as a result of the people’s will.”
This was precisely the view voiced this week by Russian President Vladimir Putin, when he spoke out against violent rebellion, military intervention and sanctions to topple the Syrian ruler.
For the time being, the pro-Assad Moscow-Tehran front, bolstered now by Ankara, has got the better of Western and Arab policies for Syria. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Bashar Assad and Hassan Nasrallah have drawn encouragement for advancing to their next step: to confront the United States and Israel with another accomplished fact, the deployment of Scuds aimed at Israel from Lebanon.
Failing to curtail their transfer across the Syrian-Lebanese border in compliance with its 2010 ultimatum will seriously shake Israel’s deterrent capabilities and undercut its military credibility against its enemies, including Iran.
If on the other hand, the Obama administration again holds Israel back from military action, this time to destroy the long-range Scuds, Bashar Assad, Hizballah and Tehran will be awarded a winning hand – and not only in Syria.