It's not just the Israelis who are pressing for military action against the Syrian regime -- Turkey is also fed up with the seeming futility of international diplomatic action. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said yesterday that Ankara would join an international coalition against Assad even if it was not authorized by the U.N. Security Council.
"We have been waiting for more than two and a half years now for the U.N. Security Council to act," said a Turkish diplomat. "All the red lines have already been crossed -- over 100,000 people have died, millions of people are displaced.... [T]his last chemical attack was the last straw that made it obvious to us that the international community can no longer afford to wait."
The Security Council has been paralyzed on Syria since the beginning of the conflict, as Russia and China have vetoed any resolutions targeting Assad. For the Turkish government, enough is enough. "From now on, a failure of the Security Council to act will no longer provide a shield for the Assad regime," the diplomat said. "After this recent chemical attack, we find ourselves in a different place -- the international community's conscience has been shocked."
To be sure, it's far from clear that Turkey's tough talk will amount to concrete action. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been calling for Assad's ouster for nearly two years -- but hasn't mounted any strikes into Syria. Turkey's primary military response to the chaos in Syria has been to open its territory to the flow of weapons and goods to the rebels in northern Syria, and to ask the United States to deploy Patriot missile defense systems along the Turkish-Syrian border for use against a potential Syrian strike into Turkish territory.
The final partner in this troika is Saudi Arabia, a veteran of the anti-Assad cause -- but one that has not always used its clout effectively. A recent Wall Street Journal article detailed how Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan has revived the kingdom's anti-Assad effort, which includes a clandestine joint operations center in Jordan, run with the CIA, that trains moderate Syrian rebels in the hopes they will one day be able to capture Damascus. According to Sen. John McCain, he saw "a dramatic increase in Saudi involvement, hands-on, by Bandar."
The members of this anti-Assad coalition are not only bound together by their hatred of the Syrian regime -- and moral outrage over its use of chemical weapons -- but also their mutual antagonism toward its most important ally, Iran. Support from the Islamic Republic and its Lebanese client, Hezbollah, have helped Assad regain the initiative against the rebels in recent months. But it has also led Iran's enemies to increasingly see Syria as the theater for a proxy war against its regional influence.
"I'll be very blunt: An Iranian victory in Syria is a major strategic catastrophe from the point of view of Israel, and I think from a Western point of view generally," said Yaari. "In spite of the fact we have our doubts about the nature of the future regime in Syria, Israel's attitude is that the devil we don't know is preferable to the devil we know."