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Syrian President Bashar Assad Photo: AP
Syrian President Bashar Assad Photo: AP
 
 

Another Yom Kippur?

Assad advocates diplomatic talks, yet evidence shows he is preparing for war

Guy Bechor
Published: 06.03.07, 19:21 / Israel Opinion

The UN Security Council's decision to establish an international court to try Basher Assad and his relatives for the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri has made the Syrian government frantic.

 

This development may come at Israel's expense, as within the battle for his survival Assad may embark on a war against Israel sooner than expected.

 

It's difficult not to notice that the Syrians are heading for war since they are convinced that Israel has lost its former "killer instinct" and fears a conflict. The Syrians followed the suicidal attitude that prevailed here following the Second Lebanon War with gaping mouths. They view the public criticism prevalent in the Israeli press and culture, as well as the Winograd's Commission's testimonies, as their strategic assets.

 

As a result of the last war they understood that there is no need for a large ground force, but rather, missiles aimed at dense Israeli population centers. For the past two years the Syrians have been engaged in massive acquisitions from Russia. In the past they owed some $11 billion to the Russians, yet in 2005 the Russians erased part of the debt and the rest was covered by the Iranians.

 

Syria began equipping itself with advanced anti-aircraft missiles in order to crush our Air Force, anti-tank missiles - as the last war demonstrated that our armored corps weren't prepared - and cruise missiles against our Navy.

 

The Saudi London-based daily al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that Syria has completed the deployment of Chinese C-802 cruise missiles, which

it acquired from Iran, and that the deployment of its Air Force has also been completed. Russia has expressed its willingness to also sell the Syrians its most advanced 280 kilometers (174 miles) range Iskander missile, more than enough to strike at any destination in Israel. Each such missile features an optical GPS navigational system that allows operators to guide missiles to their targets.

 

Wide-scale exercises

Two additional developments of concern occurred recently: Al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that as of May the Syrian army has been engaged in a series of wide-scale military exercises. In 1973, as it may be recalled, these exercises turned out to be a de facto attack. Even the Israeli ambassador to the US, Salai Meridor, has officially confirmed that Syria has significantly boosted its military presence on the border with Israel. "Since the Yom Kippur War Syria hasn't deployed such a significant number of forces on the border," he said.

 

What can Israel do in face of these alarming developments? As the IDF has lost its power of deterrence, it must be reinstated, post haste. Israel must make it clear that if Syria launches a surprise assault, it may signify the end of Assad's regime. These moves must be coordinated with the US in order to place the option of an American-Israeli alliance on the table. As it may be recalled, large American forces are stationed on the Syria-Iraq border.

 

In addition, the positive relations between Israel and the Turkish army should be taken advantage of so that Assad will understand that in the event of a surprise assault he would have to confront forces on the Turkish border as well.

 

And finally, we should explain to the world that this is how Assad is fooling Israel and the world: He advocates diplomatic talks, yet evidence shows he is preparing for war.

 

 

 

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