Will the Americans attack Syrian Government forces? Will the British join them in such an attack? (It seems not.) Will the U.N. back them in such a move? How about the E.U.? If the Americans do attack, how will Assad react? Will he make good his threat to fire rockets at Israel, or to have his Hezbollah allies do so, from Lebanon? If he does so, will they be equipped with conventional warheads or Weapons of Mass Destruction? How will Israel react to such an attack? And how are we to understand Iran’s threat, if the Americans attack in Syria, “to leave Israel in flames”?
By the way – kudos to the E.U. and Russia for wanting to hold up any attack on Assad’s forces until the U.N. manages to verify who actually is responsible for the use of chemical weapons. Would that they displayed such circumspection when Israel is accused of such crimes!
If it comes to that – should the U.S. attack Syria (by which I mean Syrian Government forces i.e. President Assad), even if it should be proved that it was Assad’s forces who used chemical weapons against his own people? Why is it America’s business anyway? Why should the U.S. interfere in what is, in fact, a civil war? What good is likely to come out of it? Hasn’t the U.S. learned anything from the mistakes of Afghanistan and Iraq? All that is likely to happen is the replacement of a (more or less) secular anti-Western dictatorship with an Islamist anti-Western dictatorship.
Remember all the euphoria in the West over the so-called “Arab Spring”? It didn’t take long for that to degenerate into an Islamist Winter, with a democratically elected Muslim Brotherhood president in Egypt, who still enjoys considerable grassroots support, despite the disillusionment of large sectors of Egyptian society which has led to the present turmoil in Egypt. In Libya, the downfall of the dictator Muammar Gaddafi has led to the rise of Islamist militias and a worsening of the rights of women. In Iraq and Afghanistan there is complete chaos and the likelihood that, as soon as the Americans and British withdraw, Islamist groups will seize power. So, I ask myself – what is likely to happen if Assad is removed?
The Americans say it is not their intention to remove Assad, that this will be a “limited operation”. Well, we’ve all seen how “limited operations” tend to get drawn out and bogged down in the Middle East. And if the object of the exercise is not to remove Assad, then what is the point of an American attack? To punish him? To administer a slap on the wrist?
The Syrian government and its supporters, Iran and Hezbollah, are promising to retaliate against Israel if they are attacked by Western forces, claiming that the U.S. is merely doing Israel’s bidding. It reminds me of the story about the Polish landowner who discovered that his neighbour’s lackeys had attacked some Jews who were living on the landowner’s property, under his “protection”. In retaliation, he sent some of his own lackeys to “punish” the Jews living under his neighbour’s “protection”, sending him the message: “If you beat up my Jews, I’ll beat up your Jews”.
Meanwhile, Israel is being accused by both sides of meddling in the civil war. Assad and his allies accuse Israel of trying to topple his regime, whilst the rabid Israel-hater British MP George Galloway has even accused Israel of supplying the nerve gas used against Syrian civilians via Al Qaeda!!!
No, my friends, I kid you not. According to the arguably certifiable Galloway, it was not Assad’s forces who used chemical weapons in Syria (which, it seems to me, is, in fact, a distinct possibility) but the rebels – or rather, their allies Al Qaeda – and the chemical weapons, according to this nut-job, were supplied by Israel!
Now, I ask you – is it likely that Israel would supply one of her worst enemies with deadly chemical weapons which would , in all likelihood, at some stage be used on her?
On the other hand, we have no reason to support Assad, who is, as I said before, supported by Hezbollah and Iran. In fact, one is tempted to quote Shakespeare on this and say “A plague on both your houses”.
And yet, on the humanitarian level, one can’t help but pity the thousands of civilians caught up in the fighting, which is why, every day, we hear about more Syrian refugees crossing the border into Israel to be treated, free of charge, in Israeli hospitals.
What will happen if Syria does fire rockets into Israel? The past few days have seen long queues of civilians waiting to receive new gas masks (which, theoretically, are supposed to protect the wearer in the case of a biological or chemical weapons attack). On the TV, I see journalists interviewing people waiting in line, often for hours at a stretch, to receive the equipment which the Home Front Command has been urging them to collect for at least two years now, but which, being Israelis and therefore, certain that “everything will be okay”, they have neglected to do. I hate to admit this, but it’s hard not to feel smug. I collected mine months and months ago.
On the other hand, I’ve been reading up on chemical weapons and it appears that the most commonly used kinds can also be absorbed into the body via the skin. So, even if we’ve all got gas masks, their efficacy is likely to be limited. We can only be properly protected from the deadly effects of nerve gas, if the government issues us all with full HazMat suits.
But hey, not to worry! The pundits tell us that the likelihood of Assad or Hezbollah bombarding us with chemical weapons is, in fact, very low.
That’s good to hear, isn’t it? Only – how low is “very low”?
I ask because, you see, I’m just a lawyer. I’m not a political scientist, a military expert or a strategic analyst, nor do I pretend, like certain bloggers, to have any “highly-placed confidential sources” in the Israeli (or any other) government. (If I had them, I certainly wouldn’t blab about them and thereby risk exposing them.)
Sometimes, common sense is enough. And common sense tells me – this is the Middle East. Things rarely turn out as planned. Expect the Unexpected.
And, above all, don’t expect Common Sense.