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Monday, December 3, 2012
Israel Asked Jordan for Approval to Bomb Syrian WMD Sites

Israel Asked Jordan for Approval to Bomb Syrian WMD Sites
By Jeffrey Goldberg Dec 3 2012, 7:54 AM ET The Atlantic
http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/12/israel-asked-jordan-for-approval-to-bomb-syrian-wmd-sites/265818/

Anxiety is increasing about the prospect of a desperate Bashar al-Assad
using chemical weapons against his rapidly proliferating enemies. Secretary
of State Hillary Clinton warned Assad that such chemical weapons use would
cross a U.S. red line: "I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we
would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has
resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people. But suffice to
say we are certainly planning to take action."

This new level of anxiety was prompted by reports that Assad's forces have
been moving chemical weapons, according to David Sanger and Eric Schmitt in
The Times. They report that one American official told them that "the
activity we are seeing suggests some potential chemical weapon preparation,"
though the official "declined to offer more specifics of what those
preparations entailed."

The U.S. is not the only country worried about the possible use of chemical
weapons. Intelligence officials in two countries told me recently that the
Israeli government has twice come to the Jordanian government with a plan to
take out many of Syria's chemical weapons sites. According to these two
officials, Israel has been seeking Jordan's "permission" to bomb these
sites, but the Jordanians have so far declined to grant such permission.

Of course, Israel can attack these sites without Jordanian approval (in
2007, the Israeli Air Force destroyed a Syrian nuclear reactor), but one
official told me that the Israelis are concerned about the possible
repercussions of such an attack on Jordan. "A number of sites are not far
from the border," he said, further explaining: "The Jordanians have to be
very careful about provoking the regime and they assume the Syrians would
suspect Jordanian complicity in an Israeli attack." Intelligence sources
told me that Israeli drones are patrolling the skies over the Jordan-Syria
border, and that both American and Israeli drones are keeping watch over
suspected Syrian chemical weapons sites.

He went on to provide context of the Israeli request: "You know the
Israelis -- sometimes they want to bomb right away. But they were told that
from the Jordanian perspective, the time was not right." The Israeli
requests were made in the last two months, communicated by Mossad
intermediaries dispatched by Prime Minister Netanyahu's office, according to
these sources. (I asked the Israeli embassy in Washington for comment on
this, but received no answer.)

Jordan and Israel closely cooperate on security matters, and Jordan itself
has become a hub of anti-Assad activity. Sources told me that the U.S.,
Jordan and their Arab Gulf allies have established a "war room" coordinated
by the Jordanian General Intelligence Department (GID), which is organizing
efforts to screen Syrian militants for jihadist sympathies, and to provide
those without jihadist connections or proclivities with training and
equipment. The "war room" was established in part to counter the influence
of Turkish and Qatari supporters of more religiously militant anti-Assad
fighters. Jordanian intelligence is also concerned about the Syrian regime
infiltrating sleeper agents into the main Syrian refugee camp in Jordan near
Zaatari, and into Jordanian cities, which are already temporary home to tens
of thousands of refugees.

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