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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Syria's war preparations continue

Defense News Weekly reports from Damascus that Syria's preparations for war include both an offensive and a 'defensive' contingency. The offensive contingency is in the event that the Chinless Ophthalmologist chooses to attempt to re-take the Golan and the 'defensive' contingency is in case the US or Israel attacks Iran. Apparently, Syria does not expect Israel to attack it first.
In early June, Syrian President Bashar Assad banned many Syrians who work in Lebanon from leaving the country to go to their daily jobs. Syrian analysts say this indicates that Assad may want to call up reserves within hours if war breaks out.

Assad has also begun encouraging people to move into villages in the Syrian part of the Golan demilitarized zone, which is patrolled by United Nations peacekeepers, said Emad Fawzi Shueibi, director of the Center for Data and Strategic Studies in Damascus.

Also in early June, Damascus removed all checkpoints to the area, allowing free access. Driving to Al-Quneitra, the provincial capital of the Golan on the Syrian side, which once required permission from military intelligence, has become easy for anyone living in or visiting Syria.

Syrian analysts see this as an attempt by Assad to build up the civilian population and infrastructure in the disputed area, allowing the launch of a resistance movement and guerrilla attacks on the Israeli forces that occupy part of the Golan. The idea is to duplicate the pattern in south Lebanon, where Hizbollah’s actions forced Israeli troops to withdraw in 2000.

“Iran and Hizbollah have been trying to convince Assad for the past two years that the only way to force Israel to quit Golan would be through resistance operations, and it is believed they have succeeded,” one Syrian analyst said.
Assad is making a serious mistake. Israel held onto southern Lebanon as a buffer zone against terrorists. It never claimed southern Lebanon as part of Israel, it had and has no territorial designs on Lebanon, and it never brought Israelis to live in southern Lebanon. The Golan Heights is part of Israel by law. More importantly, Israelis are overwhelmingly opposed to giving the Golan to Syria, even in exchange for 'peace.' In addition to its strategic topography, the Golan is a major source for Israel's water supply. And unlike (unfortunately) Judea and Samaria, the Golan is definitely part of the Israeli national consensus both left and right. Israel will not just pack up and give him the Golan like Ehud Barak did in southern Lebanon. That is true because of the reasons I cited above, and because most of the country now realizes that fleeing from southern Lebanon was a mistake.
“President Assad said in his speech something very important, and that is ‘Golan will return to Syria very soon,’ which indicates that he is now willing to pursue alternatives other than peace talks,” Shueibi said.

But the speech also was taken as an indication that the Syrian leadership is bracing for an attack. Shueibi said Assad and his lieutenants are waiting to see whether the Bush administration changes its Middle East policy after U.S. commanders in Baghdad deliver a much-anticipated report in September.

“The Syrian leadership believes that the U.S. has lost the fight in Iraq and President [George W.] Bush will either admit his failure and withdraw from Iraq, or will try to escape reality by pushing the situation toward further escalation and spark a new war in the region,” he said.

One Syrian defense analyst said if Iran is attacked by U.S. or Israeli forces, Tehran expects Syria to attack Israel.

“That’s what Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad meant when he said in a recent speech that if Iran was attacked by the U.S., Syria will be the first line of defense,” the analyst said.


“The level of threat perception in Syria is very high at the moment, and the regime feels it is targeted by the U.S. and Israel,” said Samir Taqi, general coordinator of the Orient Center for Studies, a Syrian Foreign Ministry think tank. “We fear that Washington could encourage Israel to attack Syria as part of a broader military action that would include Iran.”

Syrian officials have been anxiously watching frequent Israeli military maneuvers in the Golan Heights, land taken from Syria by Israel in the 1967 Six-Day War.

“The Israelis want a war on Syria and Hizbollah to avenge their defeat last summer and to regain their deterrence posture,” said Shueibi. “Syria is getting prepared.”
I believe that Syria's perceptions are wrong and that Israel has no intentions of attacking unless attacked. Although there are actions I would like to see Israel take that are short of all-out-war, I would be shocked if they happen. The scenario I see as most likely after a Syrian effort to re-take the Heights would be a Syrian attack on Israel in response to an American or Israeli attack on Iran. And that scenario is not likely this summer. But that seems to be the scenario that the Syrians are emphasizing:
The Syrian Armed Forces number about 650,000 troops, including 354,000 reserves. They are equipped with fairly old Soviet-era tanks, artillery, armored cars and warplanes that would be no match for those of the Israel Defense Force in a conventional war.

Taqi said Syria took an important lesson from last summer’s war between Hizbollah and Israel: The Israeli rear is vulnerable to long-range artillery rockets. Hizbollah fired some 4,000 rockets in 33 days of intense fighting that battered the Israel Defense Force and damaged its ability to deter others.

One Syrian defense official said Syria would avoid a direct, classic war with Israel, seeking instead a guerrilla conflict on the front lines while firing rockets and ballistic missiles at strategic and civilian installations.

Syria has Soviet-made SS-21 missiles and has built a large arsenal of Scud ballistic missiles, the D variant with a 700-kilometer range. Syria also builds artillery rockets of various calibers ranging from 122mm to 240mm, and has bought other types from Russia and Iran with ranges up to 200 kilometers.

“The next possible Syrian-Israeli war will be more like a war of cities rather than battles on fronts or in the fields,” the Syrian defense official said. “It’ll be a war of attrition that Israelis are not good at.”
While it won't regain them the Golan, Syria is probably right that Israel is vulnerable to long-range missiles. That's not because the IDF has not internalized the lessons of last summer's war. It's because the political echelon doesn't have the willpower to unleash the IDF and let it do what has to be done. The Olmert-Barak-Livni government and their leftist friends don't believe in the justice of Israel's cause. The Olmert-Barak-Livni government is too worried about what the world will think of us and too busy plotting ways to give away the Land of Israel to order the IDF to take the actions that need to be taken.

And so, as the Assad dictatorship fires up the engines of war, Olmert, Barak and Livni continue to fiddle. And soon, unfortunately, if there are no new elections first, Israel may God forbid burn.


At 5:48 PM, Blogger Dave in Pa. said...

Carl, I hope your prediction is wrong...but fear that it is right.

BTW, you might want to read the very pertinent articles "Mahmud Ahmadi-Nejad’s Council of War" and "The Terror Puzzle", at Northeast Intelligence Network. The URL is www.homelandsecurityus.com/

(If an American may throw in his two cents, I think it' a **** shame that Netanyahu isn't PM now, with a conservative Cabinet, rather than the failed PM Olmert & crew. I think that Netanyahu would have the intellect and moral courage to see and do what has to be done sooner rather than later.)

At 7:57 PM, Blogger Sakthi said...

Syrian president's recent moves seems to be he's getting ready for the war, but it won't give any solution or end to the conflicts between the countries. I pray for no-war, not only in Syria but all over the world...
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