Russian President Vladimir Putin is the only person who can now avert a US strike on the regime of President Bashar Assad, a respected former head of the Israeli army’s Military Intelligence hierarchy said Friday, speaking immediately after US Secretary of State John Kerry set out America’s evidence of Assad’s use of chemical weapons to kill 1,429 Syrian civilians.

Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, the former IDF Military Intelligence chief, also said that President Bashar Assad has spent the past few days moving sensitive military equipment to schools and universities, and taking all precautions to ensure he and his regime survive an anticipated limited US-led strike.

Were Putin to offer to take Assad’s chemical weapons out of Syria, said Yadlin in an Israeli Channel 2 news interview, “that would be an offer that could stop the attack.” It would be a “genuine achievement” for President Barack Obama to have ensured the clearing out of Assad’s capacity, and that would justify holding fire, said Yadlin. For Putin, such a deal would also keep the US from acting militarily in a state with which Russia is closely allied.

“Any other reason [for the Obama administration to now abandon a resort to force] would destroy the credibility” of the US internationally, Yadlin said. “Because if he cannot act against Syria, what does that say to Iran” as it closes in on a nuclear weapons capability?

Unfortunately, however, said Yadlin, America’s public indication that it is planning only a limited strike would make Assad disinclined for any such deal.

Russian President Vladimir Putin (photo credit: AP/Lehtikuva, Kimmo Mantyla)

Russian President Vladimir Putin (photo credit: AP/Lehtikuva, Kimmo Mantyla)

Assad has utilized the past few days to ensure that the “narrow” strike Obama is publicly contemplating will do minimal damage to him and his regime. If the US indeed fires an anticipated 50 or so Tomahawk missiles, “Assad will come out of his bunker, smiling that he’s survived this.”

Only if it was clear to Assad that the US was ready to fire 250 or 300 missiles, and leave Assad without an air force, and with no chemical weapons industry, reducing his advantages in the civil war and drastically weakening his prospects of survival, might such a deal be potentially appealing, Yadlin said.