Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Special Israel Project Briefing On Israeli Strike on Syrian Weapons Convoy

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January 30, 2012
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Israel Strikes Syrian Weapons Convoy, As Damascus Tests Israeli "Red Line" On Weapons Transfer

Anti-missile system
Ajvol / Wiki Commons 
A version of the advanced anti-missile system that Israel reportedly intercepted in a Syrian convoy bound for Hezbollah
Jerusalem, Jan. 30 – Israeli Air Force jets struck a weapons convoy traveling from Syria into Lebanon Tuesday, in an operation that appears to have been aimed at preventing the Iran-backed terror group Hezbollah from acquiring advanced SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles from the increasingly endangered Bashar al-Assad regime.

Israeli officials have been warning for months, and in increasingly explicit language, that Jerusalem will not allow the transfer of Syria’s advanced weapons, including and especially chemical and biological weapons, to terrorist groups. The strike this morning may indicate that Damascus is testing the so-called Israeli “red line” regarding such transfers.

As news of the operation began to emerge, The Israel Project was hosting a press briefing with a former top Mossad official on the risks posed by Syrian instability in general, by the transfer of advanced weapons to Hezbollah in particular, and on Israel’s approach to the new security environment.

Brig.-Gen Amon Sofrin (ret.) told the special briefing of foreign journalists that multiple sides in the Syrian civil war are trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. While the Al-Qaeda affiliated Al-Nusra Front terrorist group is battling to topple Assad, Hezbollah is fighting to prop up the Syrian leader. Part and parcel of the Syrian-Hezbollah alliance have been efforts by Damascus to facilitate the flow of arms from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
“Nasrallah is interested today to remove to Lebanon today everything that he can that is under his custody. Everything that is on Syrian soil in the understanding that Syria is going to tear [itself] apart – they are losing control,” Sofrin explained.

“We are now looking very carefully to see (if there are) some convoys coming out from Syria to Lebanon transferring weapons systems and maybe some other things as well, by which I mean chemical weapons,” Sofrin said. “It (the warhead) can be suitable for the Scud missiles and can be mounted on them and this is something we are looking very carefully at.”
Sofrin emphasized Jerusalem’s commitment to maintaining its “red line” and preventing the transfer of chemical weapons to terror groups.
“I think that if we have solid evidence shared by our own partners all over the world that chemical warheads are being transferred from Syria to Lebanon, to the Hezbollah, I think that no one will condemn Israel for trying to prevent it,” he said.

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NOTE: Here are some fuller quotes by Brig.-Gen Amon Sofrin (ret.) during the special Israel Project briefing referred to above [DA]:
  1. On the Israeli "red line," under which Jerusalem has committed to preventing the transfer of Syria's nonconventional weapons either to Hezbollah deliberately or to opposition forces capturing Syrian arms caches. The Syrian nonconventional arsenal is considered the largest in the world:

    "I think that if we have solid evidence shared by our own partners all over the world, that chemical warheads are being transferred from Syria to Lebanon, to the Hezbollah, I think that no one will condemn Israel for trying to prevent it."

    "The first one is called Sarin... [a] nerve gas. And the second one, which is more frightening for us and more, let’s say severe with its consequences, is called VX, and this one is lasting. Meaning... it stays on the ground on every place it is being launched to, for many, many hours and many days."

    "About quantities in Syria, there are lets says hundreds of warheads, I don’t know the right figure, but we are speaking about hundreds."

  2. On the potential for WMD transfer to Hezbollah, which would take advantage of Syrian-Hezbollah weapons ties going back decades:

    "Hezbollah. Because first of all they possess the launchers and the missiles, and they can mount a chemical warhead on top of one of the missiles, something that the Salafists in Syria doesn’t have so far. So the main concern so far is Hezbollah."

    "Should Assad decide his regime is at its end, he could think, 'If I go down and I leave my chair, at least one of the heritage I will leave will be that Hezbollah will have capability to hit Israel very bad. Is it something that you can rule out, I can't.”

    "The Syrians have been transferring a lot of new weapons systems to [Hezbollah]... It began when Hafez Assad was alive... but he limited the amount and the types of weapons systems transferred to Hezbollah."

    "If we fail to prevent... (inaudible) from Syria to Hezbollah, I mean chemical warheads, then we have to build up a new equation of deterrence against Hezbollah and to make it clear to Hezbollah that if you are going to make any attempt to even think about using it, the price will be very very high and very painful."

  3. On the potential for WMD capture by Syrian opposition forces, which are increasingly controlled by Al Qaeda-linked elements:

    "[The jihadists are] Salafists who believe in the jihad way, and this is the flag and they are fighting the Alawites in Syria in order to tear down this current regime and replace it in something that is going to be more in the spirit of Islam or (inaudible) in the wind or spirit of Al- Qaida... Ayman al-Zawahiri, the leader of Al-Qaida, has called all the jihadists in the world to participate in the world in Syria and to take active part in tearing down this regime."

    "The possibility that armed groups like the jihadist would take advantage of the situation and operate against Israel and suddenly the Golan Heights will become another engagement theatre, for non-conventional irregular war, and the fact that possible leak of other weapons, falling down to the jihadists or to Hezbollah makes it very complicated for us to predict what will be the strategy vis-a-vis Syria over the next year.”

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