by Herb Keinon
Photo: Baz Ratner / Reuters
Israel asked Jordan on a number of occasions "permission" to bomb Syrian chemical weapons sites, The Atlantic reported Monday, citing intelligence sources in both countries.
According to the report, Jordan turned down requests a number of times in the past two months, saying "the time was not right." Jordan is reportedly wary of allowing Israel to bomb the sites in Syria, fearing a military response on Jordanian territory. "A number of sites are not far from the border," the report quoted a foreign source as saying.
"The Jordanians have to be very careful about provoking the regime and they assume the Syrians would suspect Jordanian complicity in an Israeli attack."
The official added: "You know the Israelis -- sometimes they want to bomb right away. But they were told that from the Jordanian perspective, the time was not right." The sources said the Israeli requests were communicated through Mossad intermediaries dispatched by the Prime Minister's Office. The Israeli embassy in Washington did not respond to a request for comment on the issue.
Israeli officials did not comment on the report, although one source said Israel has "been talking with relevant parties" about the Syrian chemical weapons issue. He would not specify whether Jordan was one of those countries.
The source said Israel has been saying for months that it was concerned about the possible transfer of Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons – the third largest in the world – to "unsavory actors" such as Hezbollah, Hamas or al-Qaida. He said Israel "reserves the right to preempt" if this is done.
"This is not just Israel's interest, but the joint interest of the international community as well," he said.
The report in the Atlantic followed a New York Times report indicating that Western intelligence officials have noticed new worrying signs of activity at chemical weapons sites in Syria. The Syrian regime is "doing some things that suggest they intend to use the weapons," one American intelligence official told the Times, adding, "It's not just moving stuff around. These are different kind of activities."
The officials were unsure of Syria's intentions regarding the work at the chemical sites, but said it is possible Damascus is preparing to use chemical weapons as a last-ditched effort to defeat rebels, according to the report.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded to the Times report saying the United States is planning on taking action should Assad use his significant chemical weapons stockpile against his own people. "I'm not going to telegraph in any specifics what we would do in the event of credible evidence that the Assad regime has resorted to using chemical weapons against their own people," Clinton was quoted by The Washington Post as saying Monday in Prague. "But suffice to say we are certainly planning to take action."
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