From a hilltop in Israel, the view of Syria does not show the war that has been tearing up the neighbouring Arab country for a year and a half.
Yet the potential far-reaching – even global – effects of that unpredictable conflict are making Israelis and others very nervous.
On top of this, Syria’s friend Iran has escalated the anti-Israel rhetoric lately, and Israel has been talking more about striking at Iran – while making sure everyone has protection against a feared chemical attack.
Analyst Yossi Melman said: “The talk of the town at every street corner in Israel is ‘Will Israel bomb and when?’ And the emphasis in on when.”
The analyst is talking about the Islamic Republic of Iran – Islamic but not Arab – a significant regional power broker with a strong military. The countries of the Arab Spring have their hands full reorganising themselves internally.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whatever difficulties he has to cope with at home, this week again hit on his steadfast theme comparing Israel to a cancer, which he says Westerners introduced into the Islamic world.
Ahmadinejad said: “You’re after a new Middle East. So are we. The new Middle East will certainly be formed, but with the grace of God and help from nations, the new Middle East will bear no trace of Americans or Israelis.”
President Barack Obama on Monday directly threatened to use force against Syria if it unlocks unconventional weapons.
However, just as when Bush and Blair in 2003 said they had to stamp down on weapons of mass destruction and attacked Iraq, the intelligence about Syria’s stockpiles is incomplete. According to some reports, the Assad regime has five chemical or biological production factories, and more than two dozen storage sites.
Washington has been clear it will act to prevent radical forces tied to terrorist groups from winning control of these war-grade poisons.
How closely Assad listens to Obama is open to speculation. One year ago Obama urged him to step down.
David Friedman, an expert in chemical and biological weapons, named a group which ignores the Americans: “I’m more pessimistic about the possibility that these munitions and weapons would fall into the hands of the Hezbollah. This case will really be a great challenge for Israel.”
Some sources say Syria may have the largest chemical stockpile in the Middle East.
The militant group Hezbollah receives support from Syria and Iran.