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Syria - Beginning of the End?

Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi: 'Israel Constantly Monitors Syria's Chemical Weapons Arsenal That Pose Threat To Israel'

'Al Qaeda & Islamic Jihad Militants Now Flocking To Syria Could Turn Golan Heights Into Hostile No-Man's Land Similar to Sinai'

IsraCast Assessment: IDF Intelligence Chief Paints Picture Of Rapidly Changing Landscape In Middle East That Poses New & Serious Challenges For Israel

Syrian President Bashar Assad

 Does the deadly bomb blast in Damascus that killed three of President Bashar Assad's three top officials spell the beginning of the end? That is the question that is now being asked in Israel. Just twenty-four hours earlier, IDF Maj.Gen. Aviv Kochavi gave a closed-door briefing on the situation in Syria. Kochavi, the commander of the IDF Intelligence Branch stated: 'Syria is going the way of Iraq: the demise of the central government and the breakup of the state into various tribal regions'. In the Knesset Foreign Affairs & Defense Committee, Gen. Kochavi reviewed the latest developments on Israel's various fronts. Analyst David Essing is of the view that not only Iranian A-Bombs pose a future threat, Syria's massive chemical weapons may now be a 'clear and present danger!'

 How long can Syrian tyrant President Bashar Assad survive? Gen. Kochavi said it was hard to predict: 'maybe two months or maybe two years'. What was certain was that Assad's days were numbered. Syria is now going the way of Iraq with a breakup of the central government in Damascus and the emergence of various tribal regions. What dwarfed all other Israeli concerns about Syria was what will happen to the Syrian army's massive arsenal of chemical weapons. Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad terrorists have been pouring into Syria from all over the Middle East to join the campaign to topple the Assad regime. If they ever get their hands on those chemical weapons the situation would be fraught with danger. No less risky were the non-conventional weapons being smuggled across the Lebanese border to Hezbollah. On the Lebanese front, Gen. Kochavi revealed that the number of Hezbollah rockets targeting Israel has now soared to between 70,000 to 80,000 - the former estimate was 40,000 to 50,000.

Add to this the warning from Syria's ambassador to Bagdhad who has just defected to the rebels. Former Ambassador Nawaf Faras told the BBC that the Syrian army may have already used chemical weapons during the recent battle in the town of Homs. And Faras added that if Assad's back were to the wall: 'I have an absolute conviction that Assad will not hesitate to use chemical weapons against the Syrian people!'. The IDF estimate is that 500 -700 Syrians are now being killed weekly. Gen. Kochavi displayed aerial photography showing batteries of Syrian army artillery shelling opposition towns and villages. Such brutality indicated the desperation of the Syrian military in trying to quell the uprising. On the other hand, the rebels have succeeded in assassinating over sixty Syrian Army officers. And although growing numbers of Syrian soldiers were deserting to the opposition, the Syrian army was holding up. And while cracks have appeared among Assad's ruling clique, it also continued to function.

Golan another Sinai...

On the ground, there have recently been clashes between Syrian troops and the rebels adjacent to the Golan Heights and not far from the Israeli border. Now that Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad terrorists are present in Syria, Gen. Kochavi warned of their attempting to turn the Golan area into a no-man's land for attacking Israel, similar to the situation in the Egyptian controlled Sinai. On this score, the intelligence commander disclosed: 'Just recently in Sinai ten terror infrastructures were smashed while plotting deadly attacks against Israel'.

Egypt cold shoulders Iran ...

Egypt... An ongoing power struggle is now being waged between the Moslem Brotherhood and the Egyptian Army. Gen. Kochavi said it was essential to see the full picture. In the recent election, a little less than 50% of Egyptian voters did not cast their ballot for President Mohammed Mursi. In the fact, the secular candidate Shawfik scored a conclusive victory in the more progressive parts of the country such as in Cairo and the Red Sea towns. Kochavi's conclusion: 'At this stage, there are two parallel heads running the show'. The bad news was that the rise of the Muslim Brotherhood has served as a tail wind for its Hamas brethern in Gaza and this was at the expense of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. On the plus side, there were also built-in restraints acting on President Mursi: the sagging economy, the bare majority of popular support and foreign factors such as U.S. and Western financial aid. (The recent bridge-building visit by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who was warmly received by Mursi although her motorcade was pelted with tomatoes by Islamist in the street, highlighted the current situation in Cairo today. Israeli officials welcomed Clinton's Cairo visit hoping it will consolidate the new Egyptian government's support for the Israeli peace treaty as its calling-card to the international community.)

And note this: since the upheaval in Egypt, Iran has made overtures to Cairo trying to extend its influence with the new order, however it has 'received the cold shoulder'.

Clinton's 'at the moment' ...

While Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah were fighting in Syria trying to save their ally Bashar Assad, they were also preparing for the day after. And Gen Kochavi added: Although Iran was feeling the mounting pressure of the latest international sanction it was not bowing'. Iran's nuclear weapons program is progressing unabated. That was all that was divulged about Iran from the closed-door session. After her good-will visit to Cairo, Secretary Clinton arrived in Jerusalem to declare: 'At the moment, the U.S. and Israel are on the same page on Iran'. Was this the telling phrase? Apparently it was. The U.S. has made good on galvanizing international oil and financial sanctions on Iran as well as bolstering its military presence in the Gulf region. But for Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak the question is whether it will actually stop Tehran. Gen. Kochavi has just said it hasn't.

David Essing

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