He seemed like a rather decent person. After all, he was an eye doctor, and how could a “gentle” doctor pose a threat to human life? After Obama was elected to the US presidency in 2008, Assad’s wife, Asma, even spoke of inviting the Obamas to Damascus. Certainly no one expected Bashar Assad to turn against his own people, and indeed the whole world. The Cairo Review of Global Affairs asks this question: “How did Al-Assad the unassuming ophthalmologist morph into Al-Assad the authoritarian butcher?”
The turning point, says David Lesch, of Yale University, was his survival of a dual onslaught: the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the killing of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005. Both of these incidents brought international pressure to bear on Damascus, with thinly veiled threats of regime change. But Assad survived these episodes, and this, according to Lesch, gave rise to his hubris. Then, after his “re-election” in 2007, Assad figured he was riding high and could do anything.
As of this writing, Assad and his loyal armies have killed more than 40,000 Syrians. So far only one or two other countries have been directly involved-mainly Turkey-but likelihood of the Syrian revolt spilling over to surrounding countries is growing by the minute. Most people know about Assad’s chemical weapons. Not everyone may be aware that Russia has just supplied Assad with long-range cruise missiles. This may be in response to the fact that American, Dutch, and German Patriot missiles landed in Turkey on December 5.
Within hours of the Patriots reaching Turkey, Russian warships put into Syria’s Tartus port. According to Debkafile, aboard were 300 Russian marines. But in addition to the fighting men, they also delivered a “fearsome weapon” for Assad’s army and a game-changer in the Syrian conflict: 24 Iskander 9K720 cruise missile systems, designed for theater level conflicts. The Debka article says that while NATO unpacked the Patriots in Turkey, a dozen mobile batteries, each carrying a pair of Iskander missiles, were fixed into position opposite Turkey, and another dozen, opposite Jordan and Israel. Russian missiles were also pointed at US military targets.
“So while the West was gripped with alarm over Assad’s…sarin gas shells and bombs, and gearing up for missile attacks on Turkey, the Russians were injecting into the Syrian war field the most sophisticated weapon of death thus far.”
According to Debkafile, the West and Israel have no answer for the Iskander’s hypersonic speed of more than 1.3 miles per second with a 280 mile-range and a 1,500-pound warhead which destroys targets with pinpoint accuracy. It is also nuclear-capable. (However, my grandson and I have just done some online investigation, and we found that America’s LGM30-Minuteman, which is an ICBM, has a much higher speed, and is capable of “answering” Iskander’s threat. (U.S. Air Force official website, http://www.af.mil)
Russian President Vladimir Putin had promised two US presidents, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, that the Iskander would not reach the hands of Syria or Iran. However, it appears now that once the Iskander is in Syria, the missile will soon reach Iran. Having said that, it is interesting to note that the name “Iskander” is the Persian version of “Alexander,” the famous Macedonian general who conquered the entire Middle East and even reached the borders of India.
By giving Assad the Iskanders, Moscow has placed itself firmly in the Tehran-Damascus-Hizbullah camp, whereas President Obama, on the other hand, is carefully holding back from an unreserved commitment to the Syrian rebels. What this all portends should soon be clear.
What does all of this mean for Israel? Briefly, the weapons capability of one of Israel’s closest (in distance) neighbors has now been raised to a very high threat level. It may be that Israel is rapidly approaching the point where only God can rescue her from her enemies.
“God is known in Judah; his name is great in Israel…. His dwelling place also is in Zion. There he broke the flaming arrows, the shield and the sword and the weapons of war” (Psalm 76:1-3).