Chris Mitchell

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On the Brink of War: Jerusalem Dispatch: August 31, 2013


Quiet fell on Jerusalem like the dew this Shabbat. But the stillness masks the rumble of war shuddering throughout the Middle East. Five U.S. destroyers with hundreds of Tomahawk cruise missiles ply the waters of the Eastern Mediterranean ready to launch those missiles at Syrian military installations.  Those launches could be hours or days away. 

 

On Friday, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry pledged any such attack will "… not involve any boots on the ground. It will not be open-ended. And it will not assume responsibility for a civil war that is already well underway. The president has been clear: Any action that he might decide to take will be a limited and tailored response to ensure that a despot’s brutal and flagrant use of chemical weapons is held accountable."

 

But the question many ask here is "What consequences could "a limited and tailored response" reap? 

 

Would Syrian President Bashar al-Assad make good on the threat of a Syrian official who warned"… if Syria is attacked, Israel will also be set on fire. …"

 

Would Iran join in Syria's promised conflagration against the Jewish state?  

 

Many analysts here in Israel believe retaliation by Assad against Israel is remote. After all, the reasoning goes, he can ill afford drawing Israel into the conflict. Suicidal. However, it's the Middle East and many unexpected things can happen. 

 

Despite the statements by Kerry and Obama that these attacks will be "limited and targeted," they don't know what will happen. The law of unintended consequences might kick in. 

 

Colonel Danny McKnight, a veteran of the "Black Hawk Down" fiasco in Somalia, said on Fox News that Assad "… may even shoot back at us and if he shoots at a ship, kills Americans on a ship, are we now not in a war we shouldn't be in?"  Will Assad somehow be able to reach those destroyers? 

 

What will happen?  No one knows. 

 

No one disagrees on the horror of the chemical attack that killed more than 1,400, including more than 400 children. What many disagree on is whether this possible strike telegraphed days in advance will be the right response or the wrong one. 

 

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, warned air strikes “would not be militarily decisive, but it would commit us decisively to the conflict.”  

 

If America is committed "decisively" to Syria's civil war, who knows where that road leads. 

Print     Email to a Friend    posted on Saturday, August 31, 2013 3:13 PM



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