By Yoni Hirsch and Israel Hayom/

While the U.S. administration has officially adopted the
position that the Syrian regime used chemical weapons and has declared publicly
that it will provide the rebels with military aid, it appears that behind-the-scenes
preparations are still being made for a much larger move.

Click photo to download. Caption: Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose regime has used chemical weapons against rebels, the U.S. acknowledged last week. Credit: Fabio Rodrigues Pozzebom/ABr via Wikimedia Commons.

Israel, Jordan, and the U.S. are jointly planning an
attack aimed at destroying the unconventional weapons stockpiles in Syria, Time magazine reported over the weekend.

According to the report, which was based on interviews
with senior Israeli military and intelligence officials, such an attack would
follow several scenarios, one of which is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s
removal from power, either if he is killed, flees the country or simply
disappears. These scenarios, according to the Israeli sources, would prompt the
allies to attack the estimated 18 depots and other sites where weapons of mass
destruction are stored. Search-and-destroy operations would also reportedly be
called into action if the weapons appeared to be on the cusp of falling into
the hands of Islamist rebels.

The Israeli officials, however, stressed that it had not
been decided whether Israeli or U.S. forces would act, or who would do what,
according to the Time report. But the
U.S. plans, said the Israeli officials, call for deploying ground forces in
addition to the airstrikes, to assure that the chemical and biological
components are neutralized.

The report of such a plan comes even though U.S. President
Barack Obama has said on several occasions that he did not foresee a situation
in which U.S. soldiers would be sent into Syria.

One senior Israeli intelligence official told Time that even though the U.S. waited
before adopting the Israeli position that the Syrian regime used chemical
weapons, cooperation between Washington and Jerusalem never ceased.

“We have our cards on the table with the Americans for a
long time. They’ve had all this information,” the intelligence official said.

“Things are happening behind the scenes,” another Israeli
official told Time. “Things are
really happening.”

The Israeli officials pointed to the U.S. stationing of
F-16 fighter jets and Patriot missile batteries in neighboring Jordan earlier
this month, ostensibly for a joint military exercise (“Eager Lion”) set to take
place next week, as “a clear, purposeful, presence of a strike force near the
border of Syria.”

“I think it’s a message, a clear message,” the official
told Time, adding that the move was
also meant as a message to Iran. “It’s only a short leap to the Gulf,” the official

However, one of the Israeli officials emphasized that any
military operation including Israel would be met with intense opposition by
moderate Middle Eastern countries, like Jordan and Turkey.

“If this [attack operation] is to hold water, this cannot
involve Israel,” the Israeli official told Time.

The Pentagon on Saturday confirmed that Defense Secretary
Chuck Hagel approved a Jordanian request to keep some of the F-16s and Patriot
batteries in the kingdom at the conclusion of the joint Eager Lion exercise.
According to the Pentagon, “The U.S. has a long history of partnership with
Jordan and is committed to its security.”

Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon, …read more


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