"That's the bottom line of several serious studies of Syria's weapons program, done over the past few years by American and other experts. As a study published by the European Union's non-proliferation consortium in July 2012, concluded, 'Syria's CWs are not tactical or battlefield weapons, but rather a strategic deterrence against Israel's conventional superiority and its nuclear weapons arsenal.'
"While Israeli leaders have always portrayed their country as an embattled David, confronting an existential threat from an Arab -- and now, Iranian -- Goliath, Syria's perspective has been totally different. As the rulers in Damascus have seen it, Israel, thanks to its sophisticated industrial base, and unwavering financial and political support from the United States, has been able to develop by far the most powerful military forces in the region -- with its own nuclear trump card.
"The Syrians, on the other hand, have suffered one humiliating setback after another, from the failure to defeat Israel in 1948, to Israel's on-going occupation of the Golan Heights, which they took in 1967, to Israel's repeated forays into South Lebanon. The Syrians, however, came to realize they could never equal Israel's military might. They opted instead for a practical alternative: chemical weapons. If not strategic parity, CW would at least give Syria, if the chips were down, a fearful enough weapon to brandish against Israel's nuclear capabilities."
An Israeli Edge
So, Syria's tentative agreement to relinquish its chemical weapons represents another strategic victory for Israel, even as U.S. politicians and pundits keep their blinders in place whenever it comes to addressing or even acknowledging Israel's fearsome WMD arsenal.
And, to make sure that Syria divests itself of its chemical weapons, the Obama administration now has some new political and diplomatic options. It could push a binding UN resolution that could include punishment of Syria if it is deemed in breach of its commitment to relinquish its CW, much as President Bush advanced his Iraq War plan behind the cover of counter-proliferation resolutions approved by the UN Security Council. Syria might find it as difficult to prove the negative -- that it no longer possesses chemical weapons -- as Iraq did in 2002-2003.
As the UN maneuvering plays out, the Obama administration also could continue pushing for a congressional war authorization arguing -- as Bush did on Iraq -- that having a club in the closet is necessary to keep Syria and Russia honest.
Adding to the irony, Secretary of State John Kerry was back in Washington on Tuesday telling a House committee that the Obama administration would not tolerate any "delay" or "avoidance" in implementing the Russian plan. "We're waiting for that proposal, but we're not waiting for long," said Kerry.
Those were words that George W. Bush could have spoken in persuading Sen. John Kerry to vote for the Iraq War.