Senior Israeli officials confirm: Netanyahu met Jordan king for secret talks on Syria chemical weapons
Report in Al-Quds Al-Arabi follows early December article in Atlantic claiming Netanyahu has asked Jordan for permission to attack Syria's chemical weapons facilities.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting in Jordan with King Abdullah II, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported Tuesday.
Senior Israeli officials speaking to Haaretz confirmed on Wednesday that the meeting took place. According to the report, the meeting focused on the possibility that Syrian President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons against rebels in the ongoing sectarian conflict raging in that country.
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reported in The Atlantic earlier this month that Israel has asked Jordan twice in the last two months for a green light to attack chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent representatives of the Mossad intelligence agency to Amman twice already, to coordinate the matter with the Jordanians and receive their "permission" for the operation, Goldberg wrote.
The Jordanians, however, responded negatively to the request and refused to grant their approval. American officials quoted in the article said the Jordanians told Israel the "time was not right" for such an action.
Goldberg wrote further that while Israel could carry out an operation of the kind without Jordan's approval, they were worried about the repercussions it could spark.
Arab media outlets recently reported that the Jordanian army has declared a state of emergency, and that its troops have been issued gas masks in anticipation of chemical weapons being employed by the Syrian regime near the border. Although this report remains unconfirmed, senior Jordanian officials emphasize that they warned the world that the Syrians might use such weapons last year, and that such an eventuality will require the swift intervention of Western powers, since, according to the Jordanians, no nation in the region, including Israel, can overcome Syria's chemical weapons arsenal.
In addition to the concer over Assad's use of chemical weapons, senior Jordanian officials warned last week that Syria may devolve into a "black hole that sucks Jihadists from around the world." They claim that despite their warnings to Western nations and Israel against this expected development in their strife-ridden northern neighbor, advanced weaponry continues to flow into the hands of Salafist and Jihadist organizations who are gradually taking over the rebellion against the regime of Bashar Assad.
The Jordanians fear that with the collapse of the current Syrian government, this weaponry, together with the experience gained by the Jihadists, will be aimed toward other targets in the region - particularly Jordan and Israel. The Jordanians saw the first signs two months ago when their intelligence service caught a cell of 11 Jordanian Salafists who had assembled in Syria and were planning, under the aegis of Al-Qaida, to attack shopping centers and Western embassies in Jordan.
Jordan is working toward the integration of all minorities in the leadership of the rebellion (including Alawites not related to the Assad family), in order to ensure a balanced future government of Syria and to avoid a slide into Jihadist chaos.