December 4, 2012 (TSR) – An Israeli bid to secure Jordan’s consent to bomb Syria’s arsenal of chemical weapons recently failed due to the latter’s fear of a Syrian backlash, according to an American monthly.
The Atlantic magazine report, citing intelligence officials “in two countries,” said that the Israeli request was communicated at least twice in the last two months via Mossad officials dispatched to Jordan’s capital of Amman by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
In those meetings, the Israelis reportedly presented the Jordanians their plan to strike “many of Syria’s chemical weapons sites,” but the Jordanians have thus far declined to give the green light.
“You know the Israelis. Sometimes they want to bomb right away, but they were told that from the Jordanian perspective, the time was not right,” an intelligence source told the magazine published Monday.
The report comes amid mounting concerns that Syrian President Bashar al-Assad could possibly use chemical weapons against rebel forces closing in on Damascus.
On Monday, an American defense official disclosed that the U.S. and Western intelligence agencies have spotted activity in Syrian chemical weapons facilities in recent days, indicating that the Syrian government is potentially readying to use such weapons as a measure of last resort.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday issued an explicit warning to Assad to refrain from using chemical weaponry against the opposition.
“I want to make it absolutely clear to Assad: The world is watching,” Obama told a gathering of biological, chemical and nuclear weapons proliferation experts in Washington. “The use of chemical weapons is totally unacceptable and if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences. ”
According to The Atlantic, while Israel — gravely concerned that chemical weapons may reach Lebanon’s Hezbollah — can attack the Syrian sites without Amman’s “permission,” it has sought approval due to the possible repercussions of such an attack on its neighbor to the east, the second Arab state with which it signed a peace agreement and maintains close cooperation on security matters.
“A number of (chemical weapons) sites are not far from the ( Syrian-Jordan) border,” an intelligence source told the magazine. “The Jordanians have to be very careful about provoking the regime and they assume the Syrians would suspect Jordanian complicity in an Israeli attack.”
While Jordan, which is currently sheltering tens of thousands of Syrian refugees who fled the civil war in their country, is mulling whether to approve a strike, both American and Israeli drones are conducting routine flights that monitor the chemical sites, the report said.
Syria not to use “chemical weapons” against its own people in any case
The Syrian Foreign Ministry stressed Monday that Syria will not use chemical weapons, “even if they existed,” against its people under any circumstance.
The ministry’s statement came in response to the recent remarks made by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who warned Monday Syrian President Bashar al-Assad not to use chemical weapons and said the United States was prepared to act if he ignored the warning.
“Syria has repeatedly stressed to the American side directly, or through the Russian friends, that it will not use such weapons, even if they existed, against its people under any circumstance,” the ministry said, adding that Syria is defending its people against terrorism linked with al-Qaida “and supported by known countries, the foremost of which is the United States itself.”
The ministry said the United States is known for fabricating such issues as it did in Iraq before the 2003 invasion.
It called on the United States to stop fabricating such claims that aim to mislead the public opinion in America and the world and distract attention from its own involvement in the Syrian crisis by political, financial and logistical support it provides for the armed groups.
Earlier in the day, Clinton said the use of chemical weapons ” is a red line for the United States,” adding that “I am not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad administration has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice it to say we are certainly planning to take action if that eventuality were to occur.”
Russia: West has exaggerated chemical weapons threat from Syria
The West is aware that its’ claims about the threat from the Syrian regime’s chemical weapons does not stand up to scrutiny, the Russian government charged today.
Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov declared that there had been an exaggeration of the threat faced by Turkey to justify Nato’s deployment of Patriot missile batteries and the move will end up adding to the tension in the region; “any such deployment is creating the risk that these arms will be used” he maintained.
Speaking at a ministerial meeting of the Alliance in Brussels, Mr Lavrov insisted that “as soon as we get these rumours [about chemical weapons] we engage in constructive demarche; when we get confirmation that nothing of that type is happening we share this information with our American colleagues.”
Mr Lavrov, who had, alongside President Putin, held talks with the Turkish leadership, said that Moscow respected Turkey’s right to self-defence and Russia would not make a formal objection about the stationing of the Patriot system. However, his statements directly contradicted the stance of the US, UK and Nato, which maintain that a desperate Assad regime may use weapons of mass destruction against its enemies.
Barack Obama had warned President Assad that “the world is watching” and “if you make the tragic mistake of using these weapons, there will be consequences and you will be held accountable.”
British foreign secretary William Hague echoed: “We are worried about Syria’s chemical weapons, more so in recent days for the same reason the US is worried. We have sent a clear message to the Syrian regime that the use of such weapons will not be acceptable. That is not to say, of course, that what they are doing now is acceptable.”
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stated: “Twenty-eight Nato foreign ministers unanimously agreed to express their concern at reports that the Syrian regime may be considering using chemical weapons, this would be contrary to international law and there would be an immediate reaction from the international community.”
Tonight Nato formally agreed to deploy Patriot batteries. Mr Rasmussen stated “We say to anyone thinking of attacking Turkey ‘don’t even think about it.’”
Mr Rasmussen had called Mr Lavrov 48 hours after Turkey, as a member state, submitted the request for Patriot deployment on 21 November. He has, he said, repeatedly stressed to the Russian foreign minister that the stationing of the system was a defensive and not offensive move and there were no plans to set up a ‘no fly’ or a ‘buffer’ zone keeping out Syrian forces.
Some Russian officials remain unconvinced. “With a bad winter and 50,000 refugees stuck on the Syrian side of the border there may well be calls for a buffer zone. Then the West can say that the Patriots just happen to be there. We know their range [around 70 kilometres] will be adequate to enforce this.”
However, there are signs that the Russians may be distancing themselves from Mr Assad while pointing out their concern about what may follow after the regime’s collapse.
Speaking in Istanbul, President Putin said “We are not lawyers for the Syrian leadership’s actions; we are concerned with other things, namely what will happen in the future”, before adding – alluding to the lawlessness which followed the overthrow of Col Gaddafi in Libya – “We don’t want the recurrence of the mistakes made in the past.”
Fyodor Lukyanov, the editor of a Russian foreign affairs journal and influential think tank with Kremlin connections reported a visit by senior Russian officials to Damascus during which they found President Assad to have given up hopes of defeating the revolution and his own survival.
“His mood is that he will be killed anyway. If he will try to go, to leave, to exit, he will be killed by his own people, if he stays, he will be killed by his opponents. He is in a trap. It is not about Russia or anybody else. It is about his physical survival” said Mr Lukyanov.
Meanwhile the bloodletting continued in Syria with fighting across the country. The official television channel claimed that 29 students and a teacher were killed in a rebel mortar strike on a school 25 kilometres from Damascus. An education ministry official said later that the death toll was 13 students and one teacher.