There are some news sources, like the Jordan-based al-Bawaba, that are reporting today [see “Assad already using chemical weapons on civilians, according to activists”] that al-Assad regime forces “mixing chemicals that could be used for the lethal nerve agent sarin” and pointing to online videos that purport to show “the destruction caused by what they identified as chemical weapons”.
For the mullahs of Iran, there’s nothing going on in Syria that raises any out-of-the-ordinary concerns. See “For Iran, Unrest in Syria Is Noise, Not Brutal War” in yesterday’s New York Times:
“When Syria’s agricultural minister, Subhi Ahmad al-Abdullah, arrived in the Iranian capital for a visit last week, everybody involved stuck to a well-worn script. There were welcoming ceremonies, handshakes in front of cameras and tête-à-têtes on rococo chairs. Stern-faced Iranian and Syrian officials discussed “expanding economic and agricultural ties” and signed a contract for the joint production of a vaccine for foot-and-mouth disease. The unrest in Syria did not go unmentioned in the meetings, which were widely reported by Iranian state media. Iran’s vice president, Mohammad-Reza Rahimi, said Iran was confident of victory for the Syrian government forces, who, he said, were engaged in “sporadic fights with terrorists sent by regional countries. The upbeat ceremonies surrounding Mr. Abdullah’s visit illustrate how Iranian leaders perceive the bloody conflict that has engulfed their main ally in the Arabic world. While former Iranian diplomats, academics and analysts increasingly warn that President Bashar al-Assad’s government is on the brink of collapse, the country’s highest leaders insist the conflict is manageable and ultimately will be resolved to Iran’s advantage. Endless news broadcasts by Iran’s state television offer an ideological narrative in which Saudi Arabia and Qatar are doing the bidding of the United States and Israel, helping to arm foreign “terrorists” and sending them into Syria to punish it for having opposed Israel. War crimes committed by Syrian forces go unreported.”
To say that Israelis are not deeply worried about the threat from the country sitting on our northern border would be empty bravado. There is such a fear, and it has a solid basis. Even here, we have had occasion to blog about it several times. (See for instance “8-Dec-11: Syria: Terrible situation. Can’t get worse… can it?“, “8-Dec-11: So do the Syrians have poison gas?“, “16-Jun-11: Quote of the day: Violent repression, the Syrians and Washington” and others).
Which brings us to what can be done, and here we want to refer to an incisive op ed from today’s Washington Post, entitled “Watching Syria’s descent”.
The scariest thing about Syria, from the West’s point of view, may be the gap between the hair-raising scenarios senior officials are discussing about what may happen next and their limp strategies for preventing it. Inside the Obama administration, Syria is now likened by some to a second Somalia — only at the heart of the Middle East, and with the world’s third-largest stockpile of chemical weapons. One official recently described a near-term future in which the current, two-sided civil war breaks down into a free-for-all in which Sunni forces fight Kurds and each other as well as the Alawi remnants of Bashar al-Assad’s army; where the al-Qaeda branch known as Jabhat al-Nusra gains control over substantial parts of the country; and where the danger of chemical weapons use comes not just from the regime but from any other force that overruns a chemical weapons depot… So how to stop this? …As for the chemical weapons, the West’s hope is that Assad isn’t serious about using them, even though his forces have reportedly mixed the precursors of deadly sarin gas into bombs. But what if he does? President Obama warned again last week of “consequences” — but is the United States prepared to take quick military action in the event of a sudden chemical weapons attack? If not, how would the atrocity be stopped? [More]
So in the end, that’s the difference. A US and Western strategy for dealing with the mortal threat from Damascus by hoping the Syrians don’t have really bad intentions, versus an Israeli strategy that, at least on its face, identifies a “game changing” moment that presumably will lead to some kind of game-changing actions.