Observers are calling attention to additional dimensions of a speech given Wednesday by Israeli Air Force Chief Amir Eshel. Eshel’s statements received wide attention for his evaluation that Russia would soon provide advanced S-300 anti-aircraft systems to Syria, undermining any future Western efforts to degrade the Bashar al-Assad regime.
If the regime does fall, Israel may be forced to act in the immediate aftermath of the regime’s collapse:
“If Syria collapses tomorrow we could find ourselves very quickly inside this cauldron, and on a very large scale, because this enormous arsenal is parked there, just waiting to be looted, and could be turned (against Israel),” he told the Fisher Institute for Air & Space Studies near Tel Aviv.
“We may find ourselves having to take action, on a very broad scale, within a very short period of time,” Eshel said. “It does not mean we will act, but that we have to be ready to.” He assumed fighting could escalate to include attacks on Israel by Hezbollah and by Iran, which backs Assad as well as the Lebanese militia, and that the air force may have to employ “the full spectrum of its might”.
The general has extensive experience on the latter front. He piloted a Douglas A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft during Israel’s 1982 war in Lebanon, led an air squadron in the country’s 16-day Operation Grapes of Wrath against Hezbollah in 1996, and was the IAF ‘s Chief of Staff during the month-long Second Lebanon War in 2006, also against the Iranian-backed terror group.
Eshel also outlined ongoing Israeli efforts to enforce Jerusalem’s dual red line, both against the transfer of advanced weapons to the regime’s Hezbollah allies and against the seizure of those weapons by the regime’s rebel opponents:
Israeli forces have bombed Syria to destroy what Israeli officials say are Hezbollah supply routes for Iranian weapons. Israel’s air force chief said on Wednesday that Israel was prepared to attack Syria to keep weapons out of the hands both of Hezbollah and of Sunni militants if Assad were to fall. “If Syria collapses tomorrow, we will need to take action to prevent a strategic looting of advanced weaponry,” Major-General Amir Eshel said.
[Photo: Israel Defense Forces / Flickr]