DEBKA: A new US-led contingency headquarters for joint US, IsraelU, Jordanian and Turkish operations will go into action inside Syria if any or all these allies should come under chemical or biological attack. Agreement to establish this headquarters was finalized at the talks US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel held with visiting Israeli defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon Tuesday, March 5.
DEBKAfile’s military sources report that Hagel spoke of a chemical war in Syria in terms of an imminent and realistic eventuality. Washington expected the Syrian rebels close to al Qaeda to initiate this type of warfare and the Syria army to fight back in kind. Such an exchange could quickly spill over the Syrian borders to its neighbors, it was likewise predicted.
The abduction of 21 UNDOP Filipino UN observers Wednesday, March 6, by the Islamist Martyrs of the Yarmouk, is now seen as tying in closely with the next plans of the Islamist militias of the Syrian rebel force, headed by Jabhat al-Nusra, which are to cement their grip on the Syrian Golan, eastern Syria and the Upper Euphrates, where the important towns of Deir Azor and Abu Kemal are situated.
Therefore, the parties involved in their release refute the optimistic accounts of the blue-helmeted hostages’ early release issuing from Damascus, UN headquarters in New York and Middle East capitals.
By strengthening their holdings in eastern Syria, the Islamist militias believe they would pave the way for the creation of an al Qaeda-dominated territorial entity, the first of its kind, ranging from the eastern outskirts of Damascus to the northern approaches to Baghdad.
Jabhat al Nusra, al Qaeda’s most effective combat force in Syria and Iraq, is determined to go through with this plan, even if it necessitates fighting with the chemical or biological weapons they have managed to get hold of.
The kidnappings of UN observers have attracted worldwide attention and put the Islamist camp now dominating the Syrian rebel movement on the map as a force to be reckoned with and respected – internally and internationally.
The US defense secretary warned his Israeli visitor that the intelligence data reaching him indicates that al Qaeda and its affiliates will prefer multiple chemical attacks inside Syria and across its borders for greater effect, rather than aiming for single targets. Each of the victimized countries will then have to decide whether to react at once, or wait for the member-governments under the new headquarters to get their act together for a collective response.
Our military sources add that the new headquarters places under one roof the American, Israeli, Turkish and Jordanian counter-WMD commands operating separately since last year in Tel Aviv, Ankara, Beirut, Amman and areas abutting Syria.
According to those sources, although US defense spending cuts have held up the overhaul and refitting of the USS Harry S. Truman carrier and its strike force and their departure for the Middle East, the ship and its air combat unit are nonetheless on standby for deployment in the event of chemical warfare raising its head in the Syrian conflict.