I saw this bizarre headline on my Twitter feed a couple of hours before I went to bed last night. I would normally have just shrugged it off as another hysterical ‘blame the Jews for all the world’s evils’ rhetoric that is worryingly becoming more prevalent today. Yet remembering the recent sickening media photos of Syrian civilians, allegedly victims of a chemical weapons attack by Syria’s brutal President Bashar Assad, I stopped and took notice – not least because the story was shared by two of Israel’s own popular newspapers – The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz. These reports were fresh as I wrote last night and not yet reflected in other media by the time I turned out the light and hit the sack.
It seems that ‘former Bush Administration official’, retired Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson has claimed publicly that the alleged use of chemical weapons that made global headlines recently may be a ‘false flag operation’ by Israel to implicate the Syrian President (i.e. that it was Israel that actually used the weapons on Syrian civilians) – something I find preposterous. Col Wilkerson also went on to say that considering the ‘flaky’ evidence, the use of chemical weapons could just have easily been the work of the Syrian opposition as well as the obvious culprit, Assad.
The introduction of weapons of mass destruction into the conflict has raised the stakes all round in the unfolding events in Syria and there is much scrutiny both in Jerusalem and in Washington of the ‘red line’, which US President Obama said should not be crossed for risk of drawing American intervention by which he is reported to have been referring to the use of chemical weapons as a trigger for a robust US response.
As I have written about before, the turmoil of the ‘Arab Spring’ has backed Israel into a precarious position with destabilisation on virtually all its borders. Egypt to the south has a new radical Islamist and anti-Israeli government in place and civil unrest between secularists and Islamists is heated and bloody. To the north, Iranian-backed Hezbollah – Israel’s arch enemy – is highly active in Lebanon, which is also beginning to suffer the effects of the Syrian civil war to the east as refugees flee across the border taking with them the Sunni-Shi’ite inter-Islamic feuding that is at the root of so much of the conflict across the Islamic world we are witnessing. Only Jordan among Israel’s direct neighbours remains relatively calm at present, but not for long I forecast.
What interests me even more about the reporting in both Israeli papers is an implied insight into the on-going deep rift that remains between the present American and Israeli administrations as was accidentally leaked to the world’s media in what they thought was a private conversation between former French President Sarkozy and President Obama. While Col Wilkerson is not an official spokesman for the Obama Administration, it is clear from the reporting in the Israeli media that they view his comments as indicative of the gulf that now exists between Israel and its biggest- some would say only – global sponsor.
The US and Israel are already at odds over how to handle the potentially vastly greater theat to world peace posed by Iranian nuclear ambitions. Israeli Premier, Benjamin Netanyahu has already made it clear that his Government is prepared to make a preemptive strike on Iran before Iran has the capabilities to strike Israel, an event that would by default drag America into the conflict as Israel’s chief ally. I believe that what we are seeing taking place in Syria now, including this strange issue of chemical weapons will have far reaching effects on the looming Iranian stand-off. Israel is being drawn ever into the Syrian conflict. There have already been reports a few months back of Israeli airstrikes into Lebanon on military convoys from Syria allegedly supplying Hezbollah with weaponry. Within the last day or so Israel has openly admitted that it has now made similar airstrikes into Syria itself from Lebanon to target Hezbollah-bound military convoys. As such, this is not an earth-shattering event in the Syrian saga. Turkey has done similar along Syria’s northern border when it too felt threatened. Key to the current episode is how President Obama handles the situation. His words that he will commit America to (long-overdue some would say) intervention should chemical weapons be used are increasingly viewed as shallow and even lacking substance in Jerusalem. Israel has remained as patient as it has to be in the always critical glare of world opinion but ever vigilant of events on its very borders and has now seen fit to intervene more than once. The danger is that Israel will get dragged in further, which President Assad would no doubt welcome so that an Arab world, hitherto critical of him, would forget their differences in temporarily uniting against the Jewish state.
President Obama is challenged with having to make clear to the world (as it is not just the Israeli press that is asking but even our own British media too), whether he is a man who will stand by his word and what exactly his word means. There is much speculation and criticism in his own media that his Administration is now attempting to blur what that red line he spoke about actually meant. If he fails to act decisively now, when it comes to dealing with Iran the Israelis will be even less inclined to wait upon faltering and flaky US resolve but to take the initiative whatever the consequences.
I awoke this morning to the news (still breaking as I write) that overnight Israel’s Air Force has attacked targets they say were military research centers in the Syrian capital, Damascus and so in a trice the stakes in this war are raised even higher. We await the fall-out but I am reminded again of things I’ve researched on concerning the city of Damascus itself, which has a very dark, ancient and still unfulfilled Biblical prophecy over it that I’ve been pondering about blogging on for some time…