As Israel continues to debate whether to act in (or on) Syria – for the moment, it’s “watch and wait” – Shlomo Brom, a retired Israeli brigadier general who headed the army’s strategic planning division, emerges as a voice of reason, warning against an Israeli air strike on Syrian chemical weapons facilities.
Ehud Barak, the Israeli Defense Minister, visited the occupied Golan Heights on Thursday to remind the world just how vulnerable Israel is to the developments in neighboring Syria and the outcome of the 17-month uprising. Standing at an elevated position in the hills, Barak noted that he could see the conflict on just the other side of the border. He warned of a potential flooding of refugees, now mostly heading to Turkey to Syria’s northwest and to Jordan to Syria’s south, into Israel via the Golan Heights. And he once again sounded the alarm bell over components of Syria’s chemical arsensary getting into the wrong “rogue” hands. That, again, has prompted discussions in Israel on whether Israel’s air force should attack Syrian installations, a move that could backfire for a number of reasons.
A number of international news outlets in Israel quoted Shlomo Brom’s opposition to such moves and to the mounting fear rhetoric. In an effort to counter the populist trend in Israel that often succumbs to talks of “pre-emptive” strikes, it is worth highlighting some of Brom’s comments.
There is no way of destroying all the stockpiles, and an attack may end up releasing some of the poisonous material and could cause very large collateral damage. When you attack such installations, you also give different forces exactly the opportunity to get their hands on what is left.
In many cases, the weapons are not really usable. You need knowledge, you need systems, to use it.
It is important to keep in mind these points as Israeli hawks make an argument for a potential attack on Syria to prevent the proliferation of its materials.