Photo: Niv Calderon
Guy Bechor
Photo: Niv Calderon

Assad got the message

Deterrence reinstated on the Golan; rules of the game have been reset

Hizbullah's success in paralyzing the north of Israel for over a month last summer left Bashar Assad with his mouth agape: He, with his lack of experience, saw this as proof that Israel could be defeated. This is why Assad has expedited Syria's rearmament campaign in the past year.


Assad thought that in times of need he could reach some kind of victory over Israel by also paralyzing it through rocket fire, and in so doing would bring the issue of the Golan Heights on to the international agenda, getting it back "honorably" as one who did so through an impressive military maneuver.


The establishment of the international tribunal into the murder of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, set to commence shortly, is of great concern to Assad, as it poses an existential threat to him personally and to the minority Alawite regime that he heads. As it is the way of the Syrians to extinguish fires by creating even greater ones, Israel justifiably feared that Syria was preparing for war before being blamed for the Hariri murder.


The welcome outcome to these warnings was that the IDF significantly boosted its preparedness level on the Golan Heights. We all read about the series of large-scale exercises the army carried out on the Golan. These public exercises were welcome, and they should be continued, because they led to an important development. The Syrians have been deterred. Deterrence has been reinstated. The rules of the game have been reset.


Israel made it clear to the Syrians that if Assad thinks that an attack on its sovereignty would be a walk in the park and that Israel would suffice with the hesitant responses that characterized the last war, it is mistaken. The IDF is an army positioned at the gates of Damascus, and not the other way around.


Barak's arrival also helped

Hence, the implications of an attack on Israel could spell the end of the minority Alawite regime in Damascus; Israel will never agree to pay the price that Lebanon is paying for Syrian subversion rampant there.


We can assume the Syrians got the message. They understand messages such as these - this is how they think and conduct themselves. There is also no doubt that the arrival of a serious defense minister who is closely familiar with the Syrians and their ways has also contributed to the force of the message.


The discourse in our media as to the Syrians' intentions also added to the dimension of deterrence, because if the Syrians were considering a surprise element as they did in 1973, there will be no element of surprise here either way.


The risk of war with Syria has been reduced in the short term but has not disappeared altogether. We will have to examine it in the coming months as the Syrians' bolstered supply of missiles is certainly of concern and should be of concern to all those seeking peace in the Middle East. Deterrence, it should be remembered, must also be maintained.


This is the power of deterrence, and this is the Middle East. In other words, those who think that talk about war is harmful discovered that it was actually beneficial. Words have power in our region, and I wish that this had been the way things were done against Hizbullah following the abduction of our two soldiers last year. Perhaps, this way the last war could have been prevented.



פרסום ראשון: 08.02.07, 13:59
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