Latest update: September 3rd, 2013
Bar Ilan University’s Dr. Mordechai Kedar, a prominent Middle East scholar, believes that the chances of a Syrian attack on Israel are smaller than ever since it appears that President Obama is “trying to get out of his commitments.” He added, “I don’t see why the Syrians will want to get into trouble with Israel if the US will not attack Syria for the foreseeable future.” Kedar was referring to President Obama’s recent announcement that he is postponing an attack on Syria until he receives congressional approval. As a result of this decision, Kedar believes that Obama has undermined America’s credibility with rogue states such as Syria.
Kedar also sees as problematic Obama’s proposed limits on a Syrian attack, both in time and scope, since such limitations decrease the likelihood of success. “What happened in the whole world is the US credibility is much less than what it was before. The US commitment to stand with its allies is viewed in a much more problematic way. The US lost its credibility as an ally of Israel and Turkey,” Kedar stated.
With the Syrian media recently listing potential targets in Israel, Cyprus, and Turkey should the United States strike Syria, Kedar insists that the American government appears weak by not directly threatening the Syrian regime should they harm American allies. “Any blink on the American side is viewed as something that doesn’t help America. [Its] enemies learn that America talks in [an unconvincing] way. I’m afraid in the future nobody will take America sincerely.”
If rogue states like Iran and Syria no longer take the United States seriously, Kedar believes they will be emboldened to take actions that threaten global security, such as pursuing nuclear weapons programs and utilizing chemical weapons. “I have the impression that Israel sent the message to Assad that if he targets Israel, Israel will target his own private neck. At this phase, this is the only thing that will work with Assad. The only deterrence is telling Assad that if he attacks Israel, he is a dead man. This is the only deterrence he will take seriously,” Kedar emphasized.
While he believes the chances of a Syrian attack on Israel have decreased, Kedar warned, “If the US attacks Syria, there is a chance that Syria will retaliate against Israel, for Israel is viewed as more vulnerable than the US. No scenario should be overruled.” Nevertheless, Kedar does not see how Syria would profit from attacking Israel, especially with chemical weapons. “This scenario will not serve the Syrian regime. They are trying their utmost to prove they don’t use these weapons,” he added. “Using chemical weapons will expose them as the people that use chemical weapons. The Israeli citizens are equipped against chemical weapons and this is why the damage will be limited, so why shoot this bullet if this bullet can come back to them?”
With this in mind, Kedar emphasized that the security threat to Israel from Syrian missiles is far graver than that of Hamas’ rockets, since Syrian missiles are heavier and more dangerous. “Look, the Iron Dome cannot provide 100 percent protection. There is no 100 protection against missiles. They might penetrate the Israeli defenses. No place in Israel will be safe, because the Syrian missiles cover most parts of Israel.”
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About the Author: Rachel Avraham is a news editor and political analyst for Jerusalem Online News, the English language internet edition of Israel's Channel 2 News. She completed her masters degree in Middle Eastern Studies at Ben-Gurion University. The subject of her MA thesis was: "Women and Jihad: Debating Palestinian Female Suicide Bombings in the American, Israeli and Arab media."
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