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U.S.- ISRAELI PACKAGE DEAL ON SYRIA & IRAN

 Are Israel's Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu & U.S. President Barack Obama Collaborating On New Strategy For Taking On Syria and Iran? Analyst David Essing sees signs the two new-found allies have agreed that Israel will tackle the clear and present threat of the barbaric Assad while the U.S. will continue to pressure Iran. 

 Israel's long distance call to Syria's President Assad...

Syrian President Bashar Assad

 For the second time in forty-eight hours, Israeli jets launched an air strike on Syria by long distance. According to U.S. officials quoted by the New York Times the targets were shipments of sophisticated Iranian Fateh 110 surface to surface missiles bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. This time the attack was launched in the strategic mountain region of Jamayra, north of Damascus. Chemical weapons research is conducted at the complex that also houses the headquarters of the Syrian Army's Fourth Division. A huge fireball was visible from Damascus in the early morning hours and subsequent explosions rocked the Syrian capital. The Fateh-110 is a powerful, accurate and mobile missile capable of reaching Tel Aviv with half a ton of explosives. Anonymous U.S. officials were quick to confirm that Israeli jets had indeed struck again at strategic targets inside Syria on the night of May 5th. Israel stayed mum. Since the Second Lebanon War in 2006, Hezbollah has flagrantly violated UN Resolution 1701 that prohibited its rearming in southern Lebanon. A new U.N. force was established to monitor the cease-fire agreement but it turned out to be flop. An estimated 80,000 missiles and rockets have flowed through Syria, which retired Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi called the 'logistics hub' of the evil axis with Iran and Hezbollah. In January, Israeli aircraft intercepted a truck convoy transporting sophisticated Russian SA-17 anti- aircraft missiles to Hezbollah inside Lebanon. At the time, former Defense Minister Ehud Barak told a closed door meeting of the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that the government had adopted a decision to act militarily to prevent any 'game changing weapons' from reaching Hezbollah from Syria. This policy has been reaffirmed by Israel's new government. So look for Israel to continue raiding any more arms shipments from reaching Hezbollah via Syria. The fact that Israeli aircraft have launched their surface to surface missiles from outside of Syrian airspace, apparently from Lebanon, has led to conjecture by Israeli expert Aharon Lapidot that the pilots performed a special technique using Israel's 'Popeye' cruise missile. 

 Half of Hezbollah's forces are now fighting rebels in Syria...  

Hizballah

 The fact that as many as half of Hezbollah's fighters are now deployed in Syria on the side of President Assad is a further inducement for the Syrian leader to transport the missiles into Lebanon. The Free Syria Army also charges that thousands of men from Iran's Quds Force, trained for foreign operations, are also fighting for Assad. (Both Hezbollah and the Iranians have purportedly participated in atrocities against Syrian civilians). On the other hand, Israeli intelligence services have also been monitoring developments in Syria and the moving down of Al Qaeda and other Jihadist fighters to the Israeli border on the Golan Heights. Although there have been several sporadic shooting incidents into Israel, the IDF has returned fire warning it will brook no mischief along the frontier. After U.S. and British intelligence confirmed an Israeli officer's statement that chemical weapons had been used, apparently by the Syrian army, Obama was on the spot for not acting after previously declaring that the use of chemical weapons would cross his 'red line'. Now that Israel has started bombing Assad targets, does this mean that Netanyahu is helping to bail out Obama? Not necessarily. It does mean that America and Israel have a joint interest in calling Assad to account and in Israel's case, preventing the leaking of chemical weapons and other 'game changers' to Hezbollah in Lebanon or hostile Jihadist forces who would have no compunction about using them on Israel. So although it may look as if Israel is acting as Obama's' sub-contractor in Syria this is not altogether the case. The U.S. President, Britain and Germany have stated clearly that Israel has the right to protect itself in light of the bloody deterioration in Syria. After backing Assad to the hilt with weapons and opposing sanctions, Russia has expressed concern over the Israeli air strikes.          

 After denying the first strike on the night of May 2nd, Assad could not ignore the fireball that lit up the sky of Damascus two nights later. The Syrian government issued a harsh condemnation warning that it would retaliate for any future attacks. Might Assad make good on his threat? Obviously this has to be taken into consideration by Israeli decision makers, and they feel the answer is possible but not probable - Assad has more than enough on his plate at present and knows that attacking Israel would spark an automatic response that would put paid to his regime. The Israeli decision adopted last January before the first air strike that intercepted a Syria truck convoy transporting SA-17 anti-aircraft to Hezbollah in Lebanon was based on the conclusion that allowing Syrian chemical weapons and advanced missiles fall into the hands of terrorists was far greater than doing nothing. Better to confront the danger now than wait until the enemies get their hands on them. In any case, Israeli intelligence has done a great job in identifying the Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah arms network.

 Is there a connection to Iran?...  

Iranian President Ahmadinejad

 Yes to some extent. It is fair to say there is an Israeli consensus that it will be more costly in blood and treasure to wait until Iran actually acquires nuclear weapons than to employ the military option to prevent it from happening. In fact, President Obama has recently said the same thing: "I will not permit Iran to go nuclear!" The difference between Israel and the U.S. is about what constitutes the red line that Iran must not cross. During his visit to Israel in March, Obama said for the first time: It would take a year or so for Iran to actually develop a nuclear weapon". However last November at the U.N., Netanyahu spelled out his red line for this spring or summer when he estimated Iran would produce sufficient 20% enriched uranium that could then be upgraded to 90% weapons grade. Looking at the calendar, there is a difference of about half a year or so between the two estimates. Couple that with Obama's warm statements in Jerusalem about Israel being the 'Jewish' state, a rejection of the Palestinian demand of a settlement freeze as a pre-condition for negotiations, plus a new arms deal, and now his support for Israel's pre-emptive strikes in Syria, and you have the makings of a current honeymoon between Obama and Netanyahu. But this begs the question of what Netanyahu has given in return. Note these excerpts from an exclusive by Julian Barnes in The Wall Street Journal of May 2. 

  • 'The Pentagon has redesigned its biggest "bunker buster" bomb with more advanced features to enable it to destroy Iran's most heavily fortified and defended nuclear sites".


  •  'Several times in recent weeks, American officials, seeking to demonstrate U.S. capabilities, showed Israeli military and civilian leaders secret Air Force video of an earlier version of the bomb hitting its target in high altitude testing and explained what had been done to improve it'.


  • 'The 30,000-pound Massive Ordnance Penetrator was presented as a weapon that could destroy the Fordow nuclear enrichment complex that is buried under a mountain near the Iranian city of Qom'.
Barack Obama talks with Benjamin Netanyahu at Ben Gurion Airport (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

In other words, Obama has been pulling out all the stops to convince Netanyahu: 'Yes we can, destroy Iran's nuclear sites if need be, but first give diplomacy a chance!' Coming up is the Iranian presidential election on June 14th.   Might it trigger a new round of protests in Tehran and other cities if students and secular Iranians see more ballot rigging such as in 2009? 

 Obama and Netanyahu apparently see eye-to-eye on Syria, and by the looks of it, may be much closer on their seven month disagreement over Iran and when the nuclear option should kick in.  

David Essing

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