Some of Israel’s top defense officials are already willing to wager the results of the forthcoming elections in Syria. “Syrian President Bashar Assad will get about 70% of the votes,” one high-ranking Israeli defense official told me this week. Those more inclined to joke add that the difference between the customary results of elections in Syria, whereby the president usually rakes in 98% of the votes, and the next results expected is that those who will not vote for Assad this time have either been killed or wounded.
On a more serious note, however, after more than three years of bloody civil war, even Assad and his associates understand that yesteryear’s traditional results, which reflected 100% support for the president, belong to a bygone era. “This time [the Syrian regime] will have to demonstrate a democratic game, or at least go through the motions,” Israeli intelligence officials monitoring Syria have said. As for Assad’s fate, there are no more disputes in Israel. Everyone understands that in the short run, and perhaps in the medium term as well, Assad is here to stay in one form or another.
Although the election is a matter of humorous wager, when it comes to weightier topics, the Israeli defense establishment has a few surprises lying in wait. Of late, there have been quite a number of reports suggesting that the removal of chemical weapons and materials from Syria has been sluggish and unwieldy and that Assad continues to hold on to large parts of his chemical capability. Allegedly planning to conceal them, he hopes to keep some “residual chemical capability” for D-Day. Israel thinks otherwise, however. […]