JERUSALEM – Israeli commentators warned last night of a devastating Israeli blow against Syria should it carry out threats being voiced in Damascus to retaliate against Israel for any American strike on Syrian territory.
"The Israeli Air Force could relatively easily change the status quo in the Syrian civil war [in the rebels’ favor]," said Ehud Ya'ari, a leading commentator on Channel Two.
Military Affairs correspondent Ronnie Daniel said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would probably be unable to remain in power after such a blow. This makes it unlikely that Syria would attempt to fire missiles into Israel, with chemical warheads or without. "They would probably opt for terrorism along the border or elsewhere in the world," he said.
However, the threat of missiles could not be entirely dismissed, said the correspondent.
A member of the Syrian Ba’ath Party national council, Halef al-Muftah, said Monday that Syria regards Israel as being "behind the aggression, and therefore it will come under fire" should the United States attack.
"We have strategic weapons [a reference to long-range missiles] and we can retaliate," he told Sawa Radio. "Essentially, the strategic weapons are aimed at Israel."
"If the U.S. or Israel err through aggression and exploit the chemical issue, the region will go up in endless flames, affecting not only the area’s security, but the world’s," said Al-Muftah, until recently an aide to Syria’s propaganda minister.
In another interview with an Iranian Arabic-language channel, al-Alam, al-Muftah said the United States is unable to attack Syria because it knows that Syria’s retaliation will be directed at Israel, which, he said, pulled America’s strings.
Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told the Associated Press that strikes against Syria would trigger "chaos" and threaten world peace. Iranian officials have sounded similar warnings.
Israeli experts believe the blow likely to be directed at Syria by the United States and perhaps other Western countries will be powerful but a one-time affair intended to punish, not to overthrow, the Assad regime.
Israel's Channel Two earlier reported that the chemical shells that killed hundreds of Syrian civilians last week were fired from a military base in a mountain range outside Damscus where Syria’s Fourth Armored Division is headquartered. The division is commanded by Maher al-Assad, brother of President Assad.
A high-level Israeli delegation arrived in Washington Monday for talks with American officials on the Syrian situation, among other subjects. National Security Adviser Yaakov Amidror heads the Israeli delegation, while National Security Adviser Susan Rice heads the American team. The two countries hold such strategic talks every few months.