Posted by Joshua on Wednesday, June 13th, 2007
Sarkozy Invites Hizbullah and Begins "Engaging" Syria. From Jerusalem Post (Thanks K)
In a significant diplomatic shift, French President Nicolas Sarkozy will invite Hizbullah to take part in a conference on Lebanon scheduled for later this month in Paris, and begin "engaging" Syria, The Jerusalem Post has learned.
New French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has invited delegates from across Lebanon's political and religious divide to the conference aimed at quelling Lebanon's violence and political strife.
In another sign that France has decided to step up its involvement in the Middle East, Sarkozy is to meet Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas in Paris on Tuesday.
Regarding Syria, diplomatic sources in Jerusalem said France had let Damascus know it was willing to reengage with it, but that it would not in any way back down from its firm support for an international tribunal to try suspects in the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri, or from its demand that Damascus "keep its hands off" of Lebanon.
"The tribunal is established and is behind us," a senior French Foreign Ministry official told the Post from Paris. "There is an understanding between the US and the UN Security Council. The tribunal proposal has passed, in the form of Resolution 1757, so the question will not be raised between us and Hizbullah, or with anyone else."
Hariri and 22 others were killed by a bomb attack in Beirut that many believe was orchestrated by the Syrians. Sources in Jerusalem said there was a great deal of concern among Syrian officials close to President Bashar Assad that they would be implicated by the tribunal, and that Assad was very keen on getting the tribunal squashed.
Hariri was a close friend of then-French president Jacques Chirac, and his assassination put Franco-Syrian relations into a deep freeze.
The view in Jerusalem is that Sarkozy wants to bring about a gradual thaw in the ties, in order to play the "honest broker" and stabilize Lebanon. The conference in Paris, according to this assessment, is part of this effort.
The invitation to Hizbullah largely puts an end to hopes articulated in Jerusalem after Sarkozy's election victory that he might be persuaded to place Hizbullah on Europe's list of terrorist organizations, a position that was opposed by Chirac.
"The objective is to restore confidence between parties. We have the opportunity to end the conflict, and not talking to them [Hizbullah] would mean neglecting the Lebanese political situation, where Hizbullah is an important component," the French Foreign Ministry official said. The official also said that even though the "guest list" had yet to be finalized, Hizbullah would definitely be there and involved in the negotiations.
Asked if the France was concerned about international criticism for inviting Hizbullah, which Israel, the US and a number of other countries consider a terrorist organization, the official said the priority was Lebanon's stability, not France's image.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem said they were not surprised by the invitation to Hizbullah, and that it must be seen within the context of Paris's decision to invite all the major players in Lebanon to the conference.
Lebanon has faced a political deadlock since November, when six pro-Syrian ministers quit the cabinet, charging it was violating the power-sharing arrangements drawn up after the 1975-90 civil war. The current wave of violence between Fatah al-Islam, a Palestinian group with suspected al-Qaida and Syrian ties, and the Lebanese army has not let up since it began on May 20.
France's readiness to engage Hizbullah politically was foreshadowed by remarks Sarkozy made to the Post in a pre-election interview, when he said it would be counterproductive to place Hizbullah on the EU's terrorist list, but that if Hizbullah wanted to be treated as "the political party that it claims to be, then they must act us such."
France, along with other EU nations such as Sweden, Greece and Spain, have long argued against placing the Islamist organization on the list, saying that it also has a legitimate political component, and that it would be a mistake to delegitimize a movement that provides political representation for a large and growing segment of Lebanon's population.
"We are for the disarmament of Hizbullah. We were the first to support UN Security Council Resolution 1559, and for years we have been trying to turn them into a purely political entity," the French official added. Resolution 1559 called, among other things, for Syria's withdrawal from Lebanon and the disarmament of the armed militias there.
Former French ambassador to Syria Jean-Claude Cousseran organized the Paris conference after meeting with several Lebanese political figures in Beirut last week.
Both Lebanon Prime Minister Fuad Saniora's Future Movements party and Hizbullah welcomed the French proposal. Hizbullah MP Hassan Hobballah told the Lebanese press, "We will deal positively with any initiative from any friendly or brotherly state that attempts to help Lebanon out of its crisis," but stressed that the solution to the unrest in the country must be based on the participation of all Lebanese political groups.
Hizbullah has 13 deputies in the Lebanese Parliament, but is widely seen as a rogue faction trying to take over the legislature from within. The Hizbullah lawmakers have blasted Saniora's government for not granting them important cabinet positions, and have accused the government of trying to squeeze them out.
Among those expected to attend the Paris conference will be representatives from pro-Syria Michel Aoun's opposition Free Patriotic Movement, who indicated at a meeting with Kouchner in Paris on May 28 that he would respond favorably to the proposal, as well as a delegation representing pro-Syria Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri.
Asma Assad, the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar al Assad speaks about her project to empower rural communities to BBC's Lyse Doucet. (5 Minutes)
Counter-terrorism analysts Bilal Y. Saab and Magnus Ranstorp, from the Brookings Institution and the Swedish National Defence College respectively, have just released a study on the threat that al-Qaeda poses to the strengthened United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).
T_Desco adds these links:
Reports outline details of alleged terror plot
‘Operation 577′ called for large bombings, assassinations of key political and religious figures
Fatah al-Islam militants were planning a string of terrorist attacks throughout Lebanon, including attacks on UN offices, large-scale bombings and assassinations, in a plot known as “Operation 577″ which was revealed during interrogations of arrested Fatah al-Islam members, London-based Arabic daily Al-Hayat said on Monday.
Citing Lebanese security sources, Al-Hayat said the goal of the plot was to lay the foundation for an “all-Sunni emirate in North Lebanon.”
Sources told the newspaper that Al-Qaeda fighters from Iraq made their way to Lebanon through Syria and vowed to conduct a series of terrorist attacks across Lebanon, while Fatah al-Islam leader Shaker Youssef al-Abssi pursued his expansion plans in the North.
The pan-Arab daily said while Abssi counted on Al-Qaeda mercenaries to join the fight on his side, those same members “let down” Abssi, “because they did not show any sort of cooperation during the continuing fighting between the army and Fatah al-Islam.”
Al-Hayat added testimonies of arrested Fatah al-Islam fighters revealed Abssi’s intention to launch more attacks against the army which would have a “larger and more violent scope.”
Testimonies of fighters made available to Al-Hayat showed that Abssi’s plan was “doomed to failure because of several factors on the Lebanese as well as Palestinian levels.”
The same testimonies said groups such as Hizbullah and Amal, in addition to secular Palestinian factions such as Fatah and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command, “would not tolerate movements such as Fatah al-Islam expanding and invading their territories.”
Local daily Al-Mustaqbal, which is owned by the Hariri family, said Operation 577 aimed “in its preliminary stages” to hit Christian targets.
The group has been blamed for twin bus bombings in Ain Alaq in February which killed three people and wounded more than 20 others.
The operation also plotted the assassinations of Christian political and religious figures such as Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Sfeir, MP Butros Harb – a candidate for the presidency – and March 14 Forces MP Hadi Hobeish, Al-Mustaqbal said.
The plot also included attacks on the UN headquarters in Beirut, as well as on the defense and interior ministries and the Phoenicia InterContinental Hotel, the daily said.
Al-Mustaqbal also said that the Islamist group “planned to launch attacks on the Chekka tunnel linking Beirut to Tripoli, with the aim of cutting off the North and proclaiming an Islamic state there.”
Later on Monday, judiciary sources told The Daily Star that Military Investigative Magistrate Judge Rasheed Mezher questioned 11 Fatah al-Islam suspects Monday after having interviewed nine last week. During preliminary investigations, suspects said the “mastermind” of the terror operation was a Lebanese citizen who fled to Syria after the Nahr al-Bared clashes erupted.
The Central News Agency reported Monday that various diplomatic missions in Lebanon “likely to constitute easy targets for terrorist attacks,” such as Western embassies and UN centers, “have doubled security measures in their surroundings.”
The Daily Star, Al-Mustaqbal
“Citing ministerial sources, An Nahar said Ahmed Merhi, a Lebanese recently detained in Ashrafiyeh, had confessed that he was a “servant” and that he had been receiving instructions from Syrian officers.
The sources said Merhi had also admitted to “organizing Fatah al-Islam activities” in Lebanon and to recruiting young men from Syria and Iraq to join the terrorist group.
Merhi said the recruits were smuggled overland from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria.”
The following is the most detailed account I have seen so far of how Fatah al-Islam came into being:
“Soon after arriving in Lebanon, al-Absi spread out his growing recruits to other Palestinian camps — about 120 in Beirut’s Bourj el-Barajneh, 60 in Beddawi in the north and 150 in Nahr el-Bared.
Abu Mohammed and another Fatah Uprising official, Mahmoud Doulla, told The Associated Press that their leaders were so impressed with al-Absi’s selfless dedication to the Palestinian cause that, at first, they ignored warning signs of other trouble.
“We weren’t of the same ideology,” explained Abu Mohammed. “They followed a more puritan kind of Islam, you can say fanatic Islam. … They were ready to kill disbelievers.”
Their politics also seemed contradictory to Fatah Uprising’s. Abu Mohammed and Doulla said they were concerned when they noticed al-Absi and his men showed hostility toward Syria and its regime as well as toward Lebanon’s Shiites and the militant Shiite group Hezbollah — all allies of Fatah Uprising.
When Fatah Uprising officials in Lebanon alerted their superiors in Damascus that al-Absi’s men “were behaving strangely,” they were swiftly dismissed and told the group was in Lebanon for the “struggle” and to fight the “Zionist enemy,” said Abu Mohammed.
He said at the start, only 20 Fatah Islam men were based in the Shatilla camp, but during last summer’s Hezbollah war with Israel, their numbers had risen to about 100.
Al-Absi’s relationship with Fatah Uprising showed its first public sign of cracks last Nov. 23, when Palestinian and Lebanese security forces raided an apartment occupied by his gunmen in the Beddawi camp in northern Lebanon.
In the ensuing battles, a Palestinian security man was killed and two of al-Absi’s militants were wounded and handed over to Lebanese security by the camp’s Palestinian security. Al-Absi was angered that Fatah Uprising did not protect the men or protest their handover to Lebanese authorities.
On Dec. 5, Fatah Uprising leader Saeed Moussa ordered al-Absi and his fighters to leave his group’s bases in the Shatilla and Bourj el-Barajneh camps. Al-Absi withdrew to Beddawi.
In a new ultimatum three days later, Abu Moussa gave al-Absi 24 hours to leave Beddawi.
“Where am I going to take 400 men in 24 hours? Throw them in the sea?” Abu Mahmoud quoted al-Absi as telling a Fatah Uprising official. Other Palestinians confirmed the remark.
The following day, al-Absi seized Fatah Uprising positions and weapons in Nahr el-Bared, where he had regrouped his fighters — and he announced the creation of Fatah Islam.”
Captured militant reveals plot against UN, diplomats
Suspect admits fatah al-islam planned attack on downtown beirut hotel hosting top officials
A recently captured Fatah al-Islam militant confessed to Lebanese authorities that his group planned to attack UN officials and foreign diplomatic figures, a security source told The Daily Star on Friday. The militant, Mohammad Merhi, admitted during interrogation that Fatah al-Islam had aspired to attack a downtown Beirut hotel hosting UN officials and other diplomatic figures, added the source.
The source also said that a Saudi national named Abu Talha planned and financed the operation, while adding that Talha had traveled to Lebanon to provide Fatah al-Islam with instruction and funding, before leaving for Iraq through Syria.
Additionally, a judicial source told AFP on Friday that “in the course of interrogations, some members of Fatah al-Islam confessed that one of the principal aims of their group was to militarily attack the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL).”
The judicial source said the militants spoke of being “indoctrinated” to oppose Christians, depicted as Crusaders. The militants were also taught to oppose others considered to be “infidels,” a category including Shiites and leading Sunni MPs, ministers and senior officials.
The judicial source added that, in the view of Fatah al-Islam, “Lebanon’s political system, as well as anyone who participates in it, is ungodly. It is just, from a religious point of view, to fight the participants.”
Military Investigative Magistrate Rashid Mezher is expected to interrogate Mohammad Merhi’s brother Ahmad next Tuesday. Ahmad Mehri is a key member of Fatah al-Islam.
“Ahmad Merhi’s testimony will be of the highest importance, as he maintains a relationship with Syrian intelligence services,” the security source said.
The Daily Star
Perhaps this is just my impression, but it seems that Mohammad Merhi wasn’t aware of his brother’s alleged links to Syrian intelligence… Some may also remember that according to the first report by An-Nahar (based on a “reliable source”, of course…) Ahmed Merhi had “turned in to the Syrian intelligence a ranking Saudi member of al-Qaida known as Abu Talha” in exchange for being offered a safe heaven before miraculously returning to Lebanon just one week later…
Meanwhile, As-Safir reports that Investigative Magistrate Mezher was unable to question Ahmed Merhi because the latter had to be transferred to a hospital.
Al-Akhbar on the Merhi brothers and alleged links to Syrian intelligence.
Syrian Qaeda-inspired group warns Lebanese government to lift siege of Fatah Islam
A Syrian Al Qaeda-inspired group on Tuesday warned of attacks on Lebanese interests and citizens if the country does not lift its siege of militants barricaded inside a Palestinian refugee camp.
In a Web statement, the group Tawhid and Jihad in Syria promised its support for Fatah Islam, the militant group holed up in the camp. The Tawhid and Jihad leader, Abu Jandal al-Dimashqi, met with representatives from Fatah Islam recently, the statement said.
“We warn the Lebanese government that its vital interests, officials and sons living in Syria (sic; t_d) will be moving targets for us if it does not lift its siege of the camp,” said the statement, posted on a Web forum where militant groups often issue messages.
Tawhid and Jihad in Syria first became known in November, when its former leader Omar Abdullah clashed with Syrian security forces and blew himself up on the border with Lebanon.
Al-Dimashqi then issued a May 28 audiotape claiming to be the group’s new leader and calling on Syrians to kill Syrian President Bashar Assad and on other Arabs to topple their leaders as well.
“Tawhid and Jihad” — Arabic for “monotheism and holy war” — is a name used by several groups apparently inspired by Al Qaeda — though their actual links to Osama bin Laden are not clear. Al Qaeda in Iraq formerly went by the name. The most prominent militant group in Syria is known as Jund al-Sham, but it is sometimes called the Jund al-Sham for Jihad and Tawhid. …
See also this report by As-Safir.
Norman adds this article in Arabic. Diyyar writes that a US military delegation composed of Generals and others visited Damascus last week. Plans are being established for a Madrid II conference later this year.
الماضي الاخبار السياسية
معلومات عن التحضير لمؤتمر مدريد الثاني خلال شهري أيلول وتشرين الأول القادمين
كشفت معلومات لصحيفة الديار اللبنانية إن “وفد أميركي رفيع المستوى زار سورية الأسبوع الماضي ،هو الأكبر منذ العام 1990, ويضم كبار جنرالات الجيش الأميركي, ومسؤولين في وزارة الخارجية ورؤساء مراكز الدراسات ، للقيام بمباحثات شاملة مع مسؤولين سوريين تتعلق بالشؤون السياسية والاقتصادية والعلاقات بين البلدين”.
واعتبرت سورية زيارة عدد من أعضاء الكونغرس الأمريكي الجمهوريين والديمقراطيين, وعدد من المسؤولين الأوروبيين إلى دمشق في الأشهر الماضية “فشلا لسياسة العزل” حيث شهدت العلاقات السورية الأمريكية توترا منذ غزو العراق عام 2003, كما رفضت الإدارة الأمريكية فتح حوار مباشر مع سورية.
وأفادت المعلومات إن “المنطقة تتحضر لمدريد 2 خلال شهري أيلول وتشرين الأول في حضور الدول الراعية لعملية السلام، بما فيهم روسيا والمفوضية الأوروبية لبحث عملية السلام على المسار السوري – الإسرائيلي، في ضوء قناعة أميركية بأن المحاور الفلسطيني ما زال عاجزا عن خوض غمار عملية السلام والالتزام بوعوده، وهذا ما يستدعي تحريك عملية السلام السورية – الاسرائيلية”.
وتوقفت مفاوضات السلام بين سورية وإسرائيل في كانون الثاني عام 2000 بسبب الخلاف على الوصول إلى مياه بحيرة طبريا الإستراتيجية ورفض الرئيس الراحل حافظ الأسد الإقرار بالخرائط التي قدمها إليه بيل كلينتون الرئيس الأميركي الأسبق في قمة جنيف من عام 2000
(From THE WALL STREET JOURNAL) (Thanks Ehsani)
By Jay Solomon
WASHINGTON — As the Bush administration strives to ward off another summer war in the Middle East, it is being forced to balance the potentially diverging interests of two of its most important allies in the region, Lebanon and Israel. Both countries are locked in standoffs with Syria over its alleged role in arming and funding militias that threaten their borders and internal security. But Lebanese and Israeli leaders are exploring what may be conflicting strategies to counter the Syrian threat, U.S. and Middle Eastern officials say.
In recent months, Beirut, with Washington’s support, has used diplomatic, military and legal means to directly challenge Syria’s influence in the region. Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, however, is under growing pressure from his military and intelligence services to embrace recent peace overtures made by Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Any direct Israeli engagement with Damascus would require at least tacit U.S. support, Arab diplomats say. To date, the White House has worked to isolate President Assad internationally because of his government’s support for militant groups like Hamas and Hezbollah and its alleged role in destabilizing Iraq and Lebanon.
Over the weekend, Israeli officials confirmed that Mr. Olmert’s government has put out feelers to Mr. Assad, through third countries, about pursuing the peace track, but has yet to receive a positive response. “The problem is that the Syrians are not ready . . . to negotiate directly with Israel,” Deputy Prime Minister Shimon Peres told reporters in Jerusalem yesterday. “They want to do it through the United States.”
How Washington navigates the competing interests of its two allies with respect to Syria could have a major impact on its ability to prevent another major regional clash after last summer’s war between Israel and the Lebanese militia Hezbollah.
“If the U.S. decides it’s going to the mat to secure Lebanon, then this will have huge implications on the Syrian-Israeli front,” says Daniel Levy, a former Israeli peace negotiator who is now a scholar at the New America Foundation, a Washington think tank.
“If something blows up between Syria and Israel,” he added, it will probably be tied to “events inside Lebanon.”
Last summer, the White House was viewed as squarely backing Israel in its weeks-long attacks against Hezbollah, which included extensive bombing of southern Lebanon and parts of Beirut. This summer, Washington is viewed as tilting toward Lebanon and supporting its desire to pressure Damascus to stop exerting influence inside Lebanon.
“The Bush administration has to be firm on Lebanon,” says Emile El-Hokayem, a Middle East expert at the Henry L. Stimson Center, another Washington think tank. It is seen as “its biggest success in the region,” he says.
The Bush administration regards Lebanon as central to its effort to promote democracy in the Middle East. A pro-Western government swept to power there after the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri sparked protests that led to the end of Syria’s long military occupation of Lebanon.
Even so, Washington is likely to continue to face troubles balancing its desire to support both Lebanon and Israel. U.S. lawmakers and independent
policy groups such as the Iraq Study Group, headed by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, have pushed the White House to convene a regional peace conference that includes Syria and Iran to address broader Mideast issues. But while the U.S. has begun engaging in regional talks on Iraq, the discussions haven’t turned toward Lebanon and Syria.
The U.S. also is engaged in a wider initiative with Arab countries to kick-start Palestinian-Israeli peace talks.
U.S. diplomats fear that Damascus could demand that it regain some of its once-strong influence inside Lebanon in return for helping assure peace with Israel.
Lebanon’s security has been inextricably linked to Israel’s over the past five decades. Palestinian militant groups targeting Israel had based themselves inside Lebanon during the 1970s and 1980s, leading to raids and invasions by Israel. More recently, Hezbollah has emerged as a military force on Israel’s northern border, a situation that led to another invasion by Israel last summer.
Washington’s views toward Beirut have also changed, especially after street protests there in 2005 forced Syria to withdraw its remaining forces from Lebanon. The Bush administration seized on the election of Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora months later as a symbol of what it described as a democratization wave sweeping the Middle East. After last summer’s war, the White House made stabilizing the Lebanese government a cornerstone of its Middle East strategy.
This policy has increasingly placed the Bush administration on a collision course with Damascus. Late last month, the U.S. pushed through the United Nations Security Council an international tribunal to try suspects in Mr. Hariri’s assassination. Damascus has denied any involvement in Mr. Hariri’s murder, but has refused to cooperate with U.N. investigators.
In recent weeks, Lebanese and U.S. officials have alleged that Syria is backing Sunni and Palestinian militant groups inside Lebanon in a bid to
undermine Mr. Siniora’s government. Clashes between the Lebanese army and two militias, Fatah Islam and Jund al-Sham, near the cities of Tripoli and Sidon have left hundreds dead. Lebanese and U.S. officials say Syrian-backed militias have also infiltrated near to the Lebanese city of Kozhaya in the Bekaa Valley.
Syria denies it has been supporting the unrest. But the Bush administration is significantly increasing military aid to Lebanon’s army to help it crush the militias, earmarking nearly $250 million for that purpose this year, up from $40 million last year. The U.S. and Lebanon are also in talks to find new ways to secure the porous Syrian-Lebanese border and prevent the infiltration of more militants and arms.
Mr. Assad’s government has said any international-monitoring presence on its border would be viewed as a hostile act, a statement that raises the potential for an escalation of tensions.
The increasingly confrontational stance taken by President Bush and Lebanon toward Syria could have repercussions on Israel and the on-again, off-again Mideast peace talks. In recent weeks, U.S. and Israeli officials said they have detected a growing Syrian military presence along the disputed Golan Heights region, which Israel seized from Syria during the 1967 war.
These officials said they believe Damascus has significantly upgraded its military capabilities in recent months through the purchase of Russian and
Israeli and U.S. officials are seeking to reconcile these seemingly aggressive activities with repeated overtures from Mr. Assad to engage in peace
talks with Mr. Olmert’s government. One theory is that Syria’s leader’s saber-rattling is intended to jump-start talks over the future of the Golan
Heights. Another is that Syria is working with Iran to deter moves that aren’t in their interests in Lebanon, and to discourage possible U.S. or Israeli
strikes on Tehran’s nuclear facilities.
A U.S.-Israeli strategic dialogue scheduled for later this month in Washington is expected to focus on Syria’s peace overtures.
Mr. Olmert is expected to come under increasing pressure from elements inside the Israeli Defense Forces and Military Intelligence to engage Damascus in a peace dialogue to diminish the chances of another summer war. Israeli officials say the country needs to reduce the growing threats on its borders, including Hamas in the Gaza Strip and West Bank, Hezbollah on its northern border and now Syria across the Golan Heights. Last summer’s war failed to dismantle Hezbollah’s military capabilities.
Many regional analysts express skepticism that any Israeli-Syrian peace talks would bear long-term dividends. For one, Syria is seen as having significantly less influence over Hezbollah and other militant groups fighting Israel than it did before its 2005 withdrawal from Lebanon, when Damascus in essence ran Beirut. Analysts argue also that Mr. Assad is unlikely to jeopardize his military alliance with Iran in a bid to achieve peace with Israel.
Farid Ghadry Speaks in Israeli
George Ajjan on Ghadry's visit. A must read. Humorous and gives plenty of background.
‘Don’t make peace with despotic Syria’, Sheera Claire Frenkel, THE JERUSALEM POST Jun. 10, 2007
Entering into peace negotiations with Syrian President Bashar Assad would mean condoning dictatorships across the Middle East, Farid Ghadry, the exiled leader of Syria’s opposition Reform Party, said Sunday.
“Peace with Syria is important, but peace with Assad would be a disaster,” said Ghadry during a conference at the Harry Truman Research Institute for the Advancement of Peace at the Hebrew University. “Don’t make peace with a dictator, or you will send a message to 19 million Syrians that you don’t care about their freedom and their liberties.”
Israel should “be patient and wait for Syria to become democratic” before beginning peace negotiations, said Ghadry…
Israel: War or Peace with Syria
There is something going on, and I don't know who is behind it. The same rhetoric that appeared in 1996 is showing up again in many places…….
"The tension has generated much speculation about whether Syria might be considering military action to force the stalled political process forward.
"In recent days, after a series of ominous Syrian troop movements in Lebanon and on the Golan, and after a no less ominous escalation of hostile rhetoric between the two countries, Netanyahu and Assad are both beginning to exercise caution."
Of course what started these rumors? A right-wing Mossad embezzler.
In August 1996, Gil reportedly told the Mossad that Syria was planning a lightning strike aimed at recapturing part of the Golan Heights from Israel.
11 years later:
"Israel is concerned that Syria might initiate a surprise attack in an effort to make rapid but limited gains on the Golan. The goal would be to capture a small piece of territory that could serve as a catalyst for a diplomatic process that would result in an Israeli withdrawal from the Golan Heights."
Of course Peretz is not saying this, he says Syria is in a defensive posture.
"Defense Minister Amir Peretz also spoke at the base Tuesday and said that there is no indication that Syria, Israel's northern neighbor, is interested in engaging in war with Israel, as some recent reports have suggested. Peretz expressed his hopes that the verbal escalation between the two countries will not evolve into an armed conflict. "IDF is continually training and I hope the Syrians won't misinterpret that," he said."
It is amazing how this keeps popping up. There are powerful people that can put in media articles this bogus idea to once again stall any effort for Syria to regain the Golan. And it isn't anyone in the government of Israel that I know of, though there probably are a few of them.
Anyway, that is the number one issue facing Syria/Israel right now. And it has nothing to do with reality. I think the military is too partied out from their haflaat to spring any kind of suprise.