With the emphasis on a U.S. strike dissipating in the wake of Russia’s actions on Syria’s behalf, is it now possible that Bashar al-Assad will create “linkage” between Syria and Israel and emerge from the last two weeks stronger than ever?
According to a column by Chemi Shalev in Haaretz, there now exists the possibility that Assad may copy the way Hussein linked Iraq and Israel following his withdrawal from Kuwait and use such a link to garner support in “the Arab, Muslim, and Third World.”
Hussein did this in the late 1990s when he compared his withdrawal from Kuwait with Israel’s withdrawal from Palestinian territories.
Now Shalev believes the opportunity exists for Assad to use the same kind of argument to link his arsenal of chemical weapons–a “Poor Man’s Atomic Bomb”–to Israel’s arsenal of nuclear weapons.
On this point, Russian President Vladimir Putin has already shown the way by making the connection between Syrian chemical weapons and Israel’s nukes. Speaking on September 10, Putin said, “It is well known that Syria has a certain arsenal of chemical weapons and the Syrians always viewed that as an alternative [response] to Israel’s nuclear weapons.”
Alternatively, Assad could “[demand] that Israel also be compelled to ratify the Chemical Weapons Convention, which it hasn’t, and to join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation treaty as well.”
Put simply, Assad has multiple opportunities to come out of this quagmire looking better than ever in the Arab world. In the short term he is no longer looking at war with the U.S. but at the opportunity to rebuild his image, and the image of his regime, abroad.
Follow AWR Hawkins on Twitter @AWRHawkins.