High Confidence? Low Probability? Israel Hints it Would Hit Back Hard if Syria Attacks Israel

Worldwide audiences on Friday noticed that when the Obama Administration issued some declassified intelligence — to prove that Syria’s regime used chemical weapons to kill over 1,400 people (on August 21) — America’s intelligence community was said to have “high confidence” that the information is accurate.

That is one small step below complete “confirmation.”

Assad, If Stupid Enough to Hit Israel, May Not Get a Chance to Wave Goodbye

Here is a parallel phrase used by Israeli intelligence officials: There is a “low probability” that Bashar al-Assad’s regime will immediately retaliate — after a U.S. strike on Syrian targets — by attacking Israel.

Syria does have thousands of missiles that could conceivably threaten every region, corner, and strategically important site in Israel.

But, as one Israeli official put it: “There is no logic, based on his logic, for Assad to do so.”

Israeli officials including Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ya’alon already warned that if Israel is attacked, then its response would be — to put it mildly — forceful.

Our assessment: If Assad is stupid enough to do it, Israel — unlike the U.S. — would hit the highest-level regime targets, including the presidential palace in Damascus. The Israelis would try to eliminate Assad and/or to topple him.

Israeli intelligence also estimates that Hezbollah — bleeding from its involvement in the civil war in Syria — would not dare to fire missiles from its launchers in Lebanon into Israel.

Yet the term “low probability” nowadays provokes sometimes cynical and emotional responses in Israel. The Jewish state is preparing to commemorate — in two weeks (according to the Jewish calendar) — the 40th anniversary of the outbreak of the Yom Kippur (October) war. On Judaism’s holiest day, Syria and Egypt staged a coordinated surprise attack — and in the war that ensued, 2,700 Israelis lost their lives.

The day before the infamous attack of October 6, 1973, Israeli intelligence’s official assessment (revealed in the post-war finger-pointing investigations) was that the chance of a war breaking out was: “low probability.”

So to be on the safe side, Israel’s air force, air defenses, special forces, and intelligence assets are on alert. And some Israelis have stood in long lines to receive their government-issued gas masks.

August 31, 2013

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