Israeli investigative journalistRonen Bergman has
published a comprehensive historyof
“the Israeli-American efforts to penetrate the Assad regime.”
The reports details several subterfuges, sabotages, and assassinations in Syria that arose as a result of Israeli intelligence.
It also explains when and why Syria decided to build a huge chemical weapons arsenal.
In 1990 the Syrian regime of Hafez al-Assad became impressed with the “American mighty war machine” after the Syrian 9th Mechanised Division joined (but did not fight with) the U.S.-led coalition forces against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in the Gulf War, Bergman writes.
Assad subsequently concluded that America’s military prowess implied that Israel also had much better weapons than Syria and the gap couldn’t be closed in the near future, according to a series of high-level 1991 meetings intercepted by Israeli intelligence.
Thus, Assad decided to invest in a powerful missile arm — a division of the air force, but under his direct command and led mainly by loyal Alawites like him. Assad also decided that the missiles that the arm deployed would be tipped with lethal chemical warheads.
The investment in missiles was based on the assumption presented by Assad at the meetings that the Syrian air force was not capable of penetrating Israel’s air defenses, but showers of missiles laced with chemical warheads could do so.
Bergman, citing Israeli intelligence, writes that Syria began producing missiles with the help of North Korea as well as chemical warheads for Scud missiles with the assistance warheads Soviet Union, China, and Czechoslovakia.
At the same time the Assad regime was buying chemicals from private individuals and companies in Western Europe and Japan.
By the time Bashar al-Assad succeeded his father in 2000, Syria was well on its way to amassing what is considered the third-largest chemical weapons stockpile in the world (behind the U.S. and Russia).
“If the Syrians dare to touch their chemical weapons and aim them at us or at innocent civilians, I have no doubt that the world as well as Israel will take decisive and immediate action,” Peres said.
That “decisive action” now hinges on the “nightmare” process of securing and destroying Syria’s massive arsenal.
Business Insider Emails & Alerts
Site highlights each day to your inbox.