Ray Close on the Mysterious Israeli Air Attack on Syria

Ray Close, who was CIA Station Chief in Saudia Arabia for many years, sent around these musings on the Israeli raid on Syria. He gave me permission to post, but did warn me that Juan Cole has also posted it.

Here is Ray Close's analysis.

This is my Monday morning (speculative) analysis of the mysterious Israeli air attack on Syria on September 6, 2007 (with due thanks to others who have contributed their wise perspectives):

1.  The Israelis offered us intelligence that Syria is beginning to develop a nuclear capability based on North Korean technology.  They urged the US to cooperate with them in mounting a military attack to destroy the Syrian site.  The advantages of this action, as presented to the Bush administration with great urgency by the Israelis, would be:

     a. To preempt a new and dangerous violation of Israeli and American proliferation red lines before the Syrian program gets too far along (citing the Iranian experience for justification);

     b. To intimidate and embarrass Syria; throw a scare into Iran; and restore Israel's deterrence credibility.  (The historic examples of dramatically successful and awe-inspiring Israeli operations at Entebbe and Osirak, among others, still have great psychological and emotional impact.)

2. The more cautious and thoughtful members of the Bush administration opposed offering Israel the full participatory collaboration of the United States on the grounds that:

     a. The Israeli intelligence in this case was not entirely persuasive, recalling instances of flawed intelligence of similar origin that misinformed some key US actions before and during the Iraq war;

     b. If covert US-Israeli collaboration in this operation (technically an act of war) were actually proffered, this would eventually become known. The accuracy and authenticity of the Israeli intelligence on which the operational decision was justified would (in the absence of more credible supporting evidence from independent US sources), become the subject of heated public debate all over the world, and opponents of the Bush administration would argue with potentially devastating effect that this was final proof that Bush neocons have continually (in fact, going back many years) been duped by deliberate Israeli disinformation operations aimed at scaring America into adopting a policy of more overt and aggressive military cooperation with Israel;
    
     c. Even if the Israeli intelligence were finally revealed to contain some credible evidence of Syria's long-range ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons and of North Korea's culpability in abetting those plans, the revelation of US-Israeli covert military collaboration against Syria at this critical time would, over the short term, endanger George W. Bush’s desperate hopes of achieving some dramatic diplomatic successes before the end of his administration —-  most importantly with respect to North Korea and next month's planned Middle East Peace talks here in the US.

3.  Ongoing heated arguments within the administration over whether or not to coordinate US and Israeli actions and reactions in this instance have been won, at least temporarily, by the side that gives higher priority to preserving and sustaining the diplomatic efforts, on the grounds that short-term progress in both the North Korean and Israeli-Palestinian situations should trump, at least for the time being, the acknowledged high value also attached to the more aggressive alternative measures  urgently and vigorously advocated by the Olmert government in Israel and by Israel’s supporters here in the United States.

4.  There are undoubtedly some Democratic notables, in key Congressional positions of leadership and on the electoral hustings, who have been officially briefed (or who have been independently informed by interested third parties) of the whole set of considerations outlined above, and who have, for reasons best known to themselves, decided to support the more cautious objective of  keeping this potentially explosive issue under wraps for as long as possible.  (I don't discount at all the possibility that some support, probably in the form of technical intelligence, was nevertheless indeed provided to the Israeli planners by the US before or during the bombing operation. That just qualifies as a small skeleton in the closet compared to the backlash we would suffer for active operational collaboration in such an undertaking.)

Personally, I believe that the most persuasive reason for studied silence on this subject, on the part of both Republicans and Democrats, is the reluctance (call it fear) of individual politicians that they might be put in a position of appearing to criticize Israel for poor judgment (or even deliberate deception), and thereby appearing to oppose intimate collaboration with Israel  (yes, even in acts of illegitimate preemptive military action) against "supporters of terrorism".

I iwould add the following personal comments to my analysis of the situation:

Having dealt with Arabs for more than fifty years now, often in situations very similar to this one,
I have no trouble understanding why the Syrian reaction to the Israeli bombing attack last month has been carefully muted.  Asad cannot afford a military confrontation with Israel at this time.  His air force and army could be effectively wiped out by the IDF in a few hours.  And he has no desire to broadcast the fact that his air defense forces (some of which, I am told, consist of very expensive new ground-to-air rocketry purchased from Russia but not yet operational) were impotent to respond in the face of such a deep and brazen Israeli penetration of the Syrian motherland. It would be plainly foolhardy for the Syrians to attempt confrontation with the IDF when their military establishment is in such a parlous state as it is today.  I therefore find it perfectly understandable that Asad has chosen not to fly off the handle over this incident, and why his Arab neighbors and supposed brothers in arms have likewise decided that the better part of valor is to pretend they haven't noticed.

I recall in the period right after the 1973 Yom Kippur War, when I was in liaison with the Saudis, that the Israeli Air Force used to make frequent very low level runs over the Saudi airbase at Tobuk, in the northern part of the country.  As they skimmed the "deck", they would drop empty fuel tanks on the runways, near where the Saudi fighter planes were lined up, just to remind those on the ground that the empty tanks could very easily have been 500-pound bombs.  It was nothing more than an arrogant demonstration of contempt for Saudi impotence.  It worked.  The RSAF never fired a shot, and never scrambled a single interceptor.  They would complain to me, and I would duly forward their protests to CIA HQS. We never got even a polite acknowledgement back from the Israelis, who, in their arrogance, were no doubt cynically amused.  So I can easily imagine Bashar al-Asad's decision to play this current incident in a very low key!  It is not a mark of cowardice, but of realism and prudence.

Similarly, I recall when Prince Fahd bin Abdal Aziz called me to a meeting very late one evening in the early days of the 1973 war and asked me to send an urgent personal message from him to Richard Nixon informing the president that he had felt obliged to contribute a brigade of Saudi troops to the Golan front to support the Syrian offensive there, but that he had personally instructed the commander of the unit not to fire a single shot.  That, Fahd told me with considerable emotion and obvious sincerity, was his solemn promise to his American friend. Again, prudence, wisdom, and desire to maintain a traditional and mutually valuable relationship —  motives that were not, I regret to say, received in Washington with the respect and appreciation that they deserved.

Ray Close

Comments (27)


1. Akbar Palace said:

Professor Josh,

Please give Ray Close a warm welcome from yours truly: a rare American Zionist admirer of his.

Please remind Ray that we, American Zionists, are equally perplexed about Israel’s lack of “polite acknowledgement” and their appalling “arrogance” (where they were undoubtedly “cynically amused”). Just a thought, but perhaps the arrogant Israelis may have been too busy fighting for their lives to send Mr. Close and his Arab hosts the minimum box of Swiss chocholates and Cuban cigars.

Perhaps the Israelis can make up for this faux pas next month in Annapolis? Who knows?
____________________

Delving deeper…

…become the subject of heated public debate all over the world, and opponents of the Bush administration would argue with potentially devastating effect that this was final proof that Bush neocons have continually (in fact, going back many years) been duped by deliberate Israeli disinformation operations aimed at scaring America into adopting a policy of more overt and aggressive military cooperation with Israel…

Ray,

The “heated public debate” started on 9-11-01. Part of that “debate” got GWB re-elected as he beat John F. Kerry. I’m afraid the big-bad neocons didn’t “dupe” anyone. For it wasn’t the neocons that brought down 2 skyscrapers and 4 commercial airliners. No “Israeli disinformation operation” I’m aware of came CLOSE to “scaring America into adopting a policy of more overt and aggressive military coopeeration with Israel” than your friendly 15 Saudi jihadists and their 4 accomplices.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/September_11%2C_2001_attacks

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October 16th, 2007, 12:45 am

 

2. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ok, so Asad’s army is only good for internal oppression. As Close says, it would be annihilated in a few hours by Israel.

How then can Syria or Iran retaliate against Israel if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities? Syria will be destroyed and I am sure the Iranians would not want that for their allies. Or maybe Iran is planning for Syria what Syria planned for Lebanon?

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October 16th, 2007, 12:56 am

 

3. Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Israeli air strike on Syria, Canadian intervention, War, Diplomacy, and Trade Unions « Report on Positivity said:

[…] Roundup of Analysis and Investigative Articles: Israeli air strike on Syria, Canadian intervention, War, Diplomacy, and Trade Unions Posted on October 15, 2007 by Nima Maleki Ray Close on the Mysterious Israeli Air Attack on Syria. Ray Close, who was CIA bureau chief in Saudia Arabia for many years, sent around these musings on the Israeli raid on Syria. This is my Monday morning (speculative) analysis of the mysterious Israeli air attack on Syria on September 6, 2007 (with due thanks to others who have contributed their wise perspectives): 1. The Israelis offered us intelligence that Syria is beginning to develop a nuclear capability based on North Korean technology. They urged the US to cooperate with them in mounting a military attack to destroy the Syrian site. The advantages of this action, as presented to the Bush administration with great urgency by the Israelis, would be… (Syria Comment) […]

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October 16th, 2007, 1:45 am

 

4. swerv21 said:

anotherisraeliguy:

they’d have hizbullah fire missiles back into qiryat shimona this time from north of the litani. The idf would have a much harder time, see pat lang’s ‘tabbouleh line revisited’ if you can dig it out of the archive somewhere.

there would be a loss of planes over iran and an intolerable harassment of civilians with ha rockets. israel would eventually make out ok, but, alas, not the politicians who ordered the attack.

someone did a study, somewhere, at some point, looking at idf vs palestinian losses in conflict relative to isreali public approval. grisly business, these studies. they found that, consistently, causualties had to favor the israeli’s 1 to 10 for the public to support the conflict. definetely sure that the israeli public isn’t sitting around keeping score while under fire, or anyone else for that matter, and it is a weird thing to look at. nevertheless, it seemed to be eerily consistent.

the numbers always get cooked, of course, by both sides. but im fairly sure that last summers war dipped below that threshold.

it is unlikely that iran or syrian can win, in the final analysis. but they can make sure that it is a painful enough mess that no israeli politician, or even military figure, survives the aftermath.

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October 16th, 2007, 2:28 am

 
 

6. Nour said:

AIG,

You’re always itching to “destroy” other countries. I guess last year’s war in Lebanon must have had a tremendous effect on your psyche and you are desperately hoping for another chance to destroy something so that you can ease your pain. This is exactly the Israeli attitude. Keep up the good posts.

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October 16th, 2007, 4:13 am

 

7. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Swerv21,
If Hizballah fights Israel from north of the Litani under Syrian instructions, the Lebanese will eat them alive. They are under pressure not be puppets for foreign regimes as is and are losing legitimacy by the day. But hey, if Hizballah want to trash Lebanon, we can’t do anything about it. Last time 1000 rockets landed in Kiryat Shmone. So what? The long term influence on Israel was marginal if non-existant. As to what happened to Lebanon…

And your math is dead wrong. Israelis are willing to make a sacrifice for a good goal. In the six day war about 800 Israeli were killed, 5.5 times more than the Lebanon war. Nobody complained. It is not the number of enemy causalties that matter. What matters is whether the war was essential and fought to the best of the nation’s ability. That is why a well planned war in Iran, even if there are Israeli casualties, will not mean the end of any politician necessarrily.

But checkout: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uselections08/hillaryclinton/story/0,,2191830,00.html

The equation is simple. Either Clinton gets elected or a Republican gets elected. In any case, Israel will not be fighting this war alone. The Americans will take on Iran and we can devote our full attention to Syria and Hizballah should they decide to do anything (which I seriously doubt, but one needs to be prepared anyway).

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October 16th, 2007, 4:14 am

 

8. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,

Not at all. Should diplomacy fail, I advocate a strike solely at the Iranian nuclear facilities. Hopefully (and most likely), the Iranians will not respond, just like the Syrians did not respond, and that will be the end of that.

No country will be destroyed. Please do not misrepresent my intentions. Was Syria destroyed because its nuclear plant was taken out? Of course not. The same will happen with Iran.

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October 16th, 2007, 4:18 am

 

9. Enlightened said:

AIG said;

“How then can Syria or Iran retaliate against Israel if Israel attacks Iran’s nuclear facilities? Syria will be destroyed and I am sure the Iranians would not want that for their allies. Or maybe Iran is planning for Syria what Syria planned for Lebanon?”

The answer, to your question is, does the Israeli leadership have the fortitude and will power to find out? Time will tell. When the planners do their assessments on what are acceptable Israeli civilian casualties and what they are prepared to accept, then you might have your answer.

An attack is not the answer, a comprehensive peace is!, with a nuclear free weapons zone in the ME!

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October 16th, 2007, 4:21 am

 

10. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Enlightened,

Peace is built on trust. There is no trust. You don’t trust us and we certainly don’t trust Syria and Asad. And we especially don’t trust the racist, antismetic and genocidal ayatollahs and their lapdog Nejad.

Israel is full of shelters, unlike Arab countries. The building codes require it. Check out how few Israeli died from Saddam’s scuds (if my memory serves me right only one from a heart attack related to the scud attack).

Once the attack on Iran begins, Israel will order all its citizens into shelters. The Syrians will either attempt to shoot all their scuds immediately or won’t do anything. They won’t get a second chance. The scud launchers are easy pickings from the air. Israelis will weather this strike in their shelters and then get on with the business of systematically bombing Syria. Of course, it is most likely that the Syrians are not suckers and will not risk their country for Iran.

Oh yes, Hizballah may send another 1000 katyushas to Kiryat Shmone. If they think that is useful, who are we to disagree with them?

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October 16th, 2007, 4:35 am

 

11. Enlightened said:

AIG:

“Peace is built on trust. There is no trust. You don’t trust us and we certainly don’t trust Syria and Asad. And we especially don’t trust the racist, antismetic and genocidal ayatollahs and their lapdog Nejad.”

Indeed peace is built on trust, war has condemned those living in the ME in a living hell (our family was lucky to get out in my grandfathers generation), can you imagine if in the past sixty years all this effort has been directed towards development for a better future in the ME, instead of resources devoted to war, what a waste of sixty years!

What has Egypt and Israel got out of its peace?

Unfortunatley AIG the ME will need a generation in the future, to finally stand up and say enough of this b…t , it wont happen in yours and my time, only when the collective memory of hatred begin to subside on both sides!

In any event keep clamouring for more war, then it will happen far quicker

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October 16th, 2007, 4:50 am

 

12. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Enlightened,

The 60 years in Israel have not been wasted. Israel is on par with european countries in development. Israel is among the world leading innovators. Israel has a vibrant high tech economy. Israel is a liberal democracy. It is the Arabs that have wasted 60 years. You have only yourself to blame.

Israel by having peace with Egypt has made it unlikely that it will have to fight a multi front war. It also divided the Arab world. not a great deal, but still not bad.

I am not clamouring for war. There will be no war if Syria does not react to the attack in Iran by attacking Israel. I would much prefer that Iran stop enriching uranium. I do not even insist on regime change in Iran. But I, and most Israelis, will not accept a nuclear Iran without doing our utmost to stop it, including a military strike.

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October 16th, 2007, 5:10 am

 

13. Nour said:

AIG,

Do you think that other countries have the right to have a peaceful nuclear program? Are they allowed to benefit from nuclear energy? Or is that a luxury available only to certain countries? Iran has every right to carry on a peaceful nuclear program, and Israel is certainly the last country to speak, as it currently possesses over 300 nuclear warheads.

As for Israel’s advancement, let’s not forget that Israel benefits from free access to western and US technology, while other countries of the region are absolutely banned from developing. The US will always accuse Syria, Iran, or any country attempting to develop its industry, of working to produce WMD’s or some other lame excuse in order to justify attacks and sanctions that will keep said country from advancing in any way.

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October 16th, 2007, 6:27 am

 

14. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,

Keep faulting others instead of finding fault in yourself.
It is not the US that has hindered the Arab advance. It is a lack of democracy and your education systems.

Who is stopping the Arabs from developing software? No one. Who stops the Arabs from developing tele-communications equipment? No one. Why was the Arab extension for windows developed in Israel and not in an Arab country? You tell me.

Sure, Iran is entitled to a peaceful nuclear program. But why wouldn’t Iran accept the compromise in which it builds an enrichment plant in Russia? That would have been the best of both worlds. Once they rejected this plan, it is clear that the Iranian intentions are not peaceful.

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October 16th, 2007, 1:49 pm

 

15. Nour said:

AIG,

I do fault us for a lot of things. But the fact remains that much of the technology out there is not allowed to reach our nation, and I know that for a fact. The US has placed sanctions on Syria for decades and does not allow any potential for advancement there. In fact, even recently the US blocked attempts by European and American companies from signing contract with Syria to train people in management. In addition, it has blocked sales of electric generators, planes, and plane parts to Syria. This is in addition to the normal everyday blockade the US imposes on Syria. So please try your propaganda elsewhere.

Regarding Iran’s nuclear program, why should they have their plant in Russia when they are attempting to build their own nuclear energy? This is nonsense. The fact remains that there is no evidence of an Iranian nuclear weapons program, and the US is only using it as an excuse to justify its boneheaded policy of regime change across the region.

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October 16th, 2007, 4:06 pm

 

16. ausamaa said:

If those guys keep untill this day and age DENYING that they stole Palestine, evicted and killed and improsined a whole nation to established their own state of Milk and Honey there, WOULD anyone WIN an “argument” with them over minor military or technical matters? Either their Blinders are contiuously on, or, they are the impersonification of Gobbles. So why wast time arguning with over gray things when they keep insist that White is Black?

It could be fun, but not that much fun!

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October 16th, 2007, 4:17 pm

 

17. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,

Excuses, excuses. A very small part of the technology out there is not allowed to reach Syria. Most of the technology is out there to understand and use if you have an open society targeted at education.

Your backwardness is solely your fault for tolerating a dictatorial regime.

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October 16th, 2007, 4:26 pm

 

18. Nour said:

AIG,

Dictatorial regimes have in the past progressed and advanced, so the issue isn’t the system of government. I believe Hitler’s Germany was probably the most technologically advanced country in Europe and the Western world. The Soviet Union was pretty advanced technologically, although its Socialist system devastated the economy.

The fact is that the US does NOT allow much of the technology to reach us. Again, I am not saying we have no fault in this, for we surely do. But to claim that everything is easily accessible to us and we’ve chosen not to access it is utter nonsense. Many democratic countries out there are still poor and underdeveloped; why do you suppose that is? Because for some odd reason they have chosen not to develop their countries?

Israel has had free access to all US and western technology. There are no sanctions, blockades, or restrictions on Israel. This is not the case with us, and you know it. If we are to build factories, we need the machines to make the products we desire, and those machines are not sold to us. If we need power generators to keep up with the rise in demand for electricity that comes with development, the US will block any such sales. If we work on research and development in certain fields, the US will claim it is to produce WMDs and impose sanctions on us. Our struggle to advance is much tougher than Israel’s as we do not have open access to any technology in the western world.

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October 16th, 2007, 5:48 pm

 

19. Nour said:

Aussama,

These people are fighting a war against us, and part of that war is propaganda and PR. They must make us look evil, incompetent, backwards, etc. so that we always have a negative image around the world. On the other hand they must make themselves look like victims, heroes, intelligent, advanced, democratic, etc. and maintain a positive worldwide image. All that while they purposely carry on a war aimed at keeping us underdeveloped and backwards, for they do not want any potential long term threat to their artificial entity on Palestinian land. I feel it is our job to confront all their claims and accusations as much as we possibly can.

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October 16th, 2007, 5:51 pm

 

20. ANALYSIS: A former CIA officer’s speculations on the Israeli attack on Syria said:

[…] On the mysterious Israeli air attack on Syria By Ray Close, Syria Comment, October 15, 2007 […]

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October 16th, 2007, 5:55 pm

 

21. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,

Syria is very good at producing one thing: Excuses.

Hitler was in power only from 1933 to 1945, and the German technology is not a product of the Nazi regime. It is a product of the scientific revolution that is associated with democratic norms. Scientists must be allowed to freely exchange information and to disagree with each other for science to advance. That is the cornerstone of why science and democracy are related.

Would the US stop Syria if it developed video games?
Would the US stop Syria if it developed prodcutivity software?
Would the US stop Syria if it developed better telecommunications equipment?
Why did Syria never insist in being an active part of the Russian aero-space program?

I can fill 100 pages with questions like these.
In the end, all you are supplying are lame excuses. I do not know all that is wrong with Syria. I don’t know anything about your education system. But one thing I do know. Your lack of democracy and openness is at the core of your backwardness.

In 48 Israel and Syria were on par economically. Now, the average Israeli is 6-7 times richer than the average Syrian. And it is not because there is something special about Israel or Israelis. It is simply because Syria has mishandled its human potential.

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October 16th, 2007, 6:03 pm

 

22. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Nour,

No one makes you look backward. You are backward. Just look at the UN development reports. Being backward is not evil. Not acknowledging that your backwardness comes from the dictatorial regime is evil.

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October 16th, 2007, 6:05 pm

 

23. Nour said:

AIG,

Again, I am not clearing us of any blame for our current situation; I think there has to be a lot of changes on the social and political level. But please do not come here and convince me that the US has not been fighting us and keeping us down.

In fact, the US has fought every serious secular intellectuals attempting to bring true renaissance to Syria and the region. Many of them have been assassinated with US approval. The US also continues to arm, support, and fund insurgent groups, and to threaten consistently with regime change, in order to keep the country unstable and force the regime to take harsher measures to protect itself.

As for technology, you are either completely oblivious to reality are are deliberately feigning ignorance in order to justify your argument. All technology is interrelated and connected. No one is stopping us from making video games, but we are not allowed to have the technology and the resources to build anything that might allow us to make video games. The US has put a ban on anything coming into our country that may help us advance, all in the name of fighting terror and prohibiting the building of WMD’s.

The issue is not specifically video games or computer software. The issue is to take away any potential long term threat. An industrialized and highly advanced Syria is a serious threat to Israel and to US plans in the region.

And please stop telling us that we have tolerated dictatorial, oppressive regimes. We have struggled for years and years against dictatorships and many of our people who were true leaders of that struggle were tortured, assassinated, imprisoned, etc. However, the US has always SUPPORTED those actions precisely because it did not want to see us advance.

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October 16th, 2007, 9:21 pm

 

24. swerv21 said:

Israeli Guy:

I think you’ve done a pretty good job here. You’ve managed to parry three or four arguments pretty convincingly and you’ve managed to do it credibly and without alienating everyone reading it.

I’d just add a couple more cents:

Two assumptions underly your answer about hizbullah. one, that the lebanese could or are willing to confront them with force. this will be in one of two forms, militia’s or the lebanese army. i don’t see how either one of these can be a credible deterrent against hizbullah. i don’t see the lebanese army as a body that is willing or able to take on hizbullah forces. that leaves sunni extremists, druze and/or christian militias. it is possible that some of these elements might be willing to take on ha north of the litani, but it remains to be seen.

the second assumptions is that a) the israeli political elite is able to mobilize sentiment that there is a war with an entity that is truly an existential threat to israel and that a conflict with iran at this time would be the only way to adress it. this is certainly conceivable, but whether the olmert government is able to do this is certainly an open question.

b) that the electorate of an industrially advanced nation, such as israel, is able to tolerate sustained heavy causualties without definitive results over an extended period of time. certainly we are seeing that america’s appetite for this is limited, israels might not be, but it depends on how much the public is willing to back the government. olmert was in a much better position to pull this off last year than he is now.

the other cent:

i spent most of chidhood spending summers in syria with family. in many ways it is a backwards place, no question. i really used to dislike that about it when i was a kid.

assad senior was a very shrewd man and a survivor. he was a brilliant tactical thinker, but strategically weak. he miscalculated backing the soviets but was able to regain some posture when he backed the gulf war.

his son was played a losing hand and has held on so far, but he displays none of his fathers brilliance. i would probably credit his sister for some of the better moves he has made.

syria is a backwards place. when i was young, most of the countryside had no electricity. i remember getting dressed for bed in my grandmas house by the light of a hurricane lamp. she had a coal burning stove for heat in the winter. all of the tractors were russian made.

in syria, many of my cousins don’t have a job, or the work is very slow. people hang out with their families a lot, talk a lot sh*t, drink matte and eat pumpkin seeds. people walk across town to the market. there aren’t a lot of fat people.

its backwards, and the syrian people and government have failed to get with the program. still, to put it really crudely, ill take a lean syrian over a fat saudi. for all the ‘progress’ everyone else has made, what has it gotten us? global warming? cell phones? internet porn? diebold electronic voting machines? i know… paris hilton news instant messaged out to you anywhere on the planet.

syria is definetely backwards. i used to hate that about it. now, im a little more content to let it be.

not trying to argue the point, just thought id a little bit of a different perpective. in israel, people look back to the early kibbutzim with a kind of heroic nostalgia. to me, syria is like some weird ass arab kibbutz that you can never leave.

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October 19th, 2007, 1:57 am

 

25. AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Swerv21,

Interesting prespective. I guess if people chose the “simple life” and it is not forced unto them, there is nothing bad about it. Kind of like the Amish in the US I guess.

Out of curiousity, how do your cousins get by without working? And if they had a chance, would they leave Syria?

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October 19th, 2007, 3:01 am

 

26. swerv21 said:

perhaps like the amish. or conservative communities anywhere. hasidic jews even perhaps.

in terms of work, im not sure. its been a while, and i was never really clear on the details. ive got a couple of cousins that are fairly well connected and rather entreprenureal. they work their asses off but they tend to move in some pretty exclusive circles.

big family on both sides.

some have little businesses, a restaurant or something. and they are fairly busy.

and some have some kind of nominal goverment job. or at least they used to. they kind of go somewhere a couple of times a week and like, im not really sure, clerk, or sit there, or whatever. and it goes into the books as employment. but they don’t do anything.

a couple of other ones mind a family business. an electricity supply shop, a shoe store, a furniture shop. they sit around all day, the radio is on. friends stop by and drink coffee, shoot the merde.

pretty sleepy. like some parts of italy, or mexico.

some of them would leave. some have and couldn’t take it. the family and community ties are a major thing. most of my cousins tend not to be political. maybe they just had it surpressed out of them. but it is kind of old hat to them, the regime etc. the important thing in their life is family, above all else. again, as a westernized visitor, i must have a distorted view. but this is my impression over many years.

when they leave, and they are out on their own and there is no larger family unit to connect back to, they find their entire frame of reference is missing. and so they invariably tend to go back.

there are some exceptions, but it seems to me that it was my fathers generation that was more willing to strike out. perhaps due to the extreme poverty.

this is why i question whether a westernized conception of democracy is truly the right thing for people in this area. if it can not somehow integrate these familial, and by extension, inevitably tribal notions into a political structure then it could not possibly work. people refer to the rulers as ‘beit al assad’- the house of assad. not just the rulers family but, by extension, all of the families who are part of the patronage network. this is critical, not just as a political construct, it gets to the very identity of who people believe themselves to be.

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October 19th, 2007, 3:25 am

 

27. reader of newspapers from afar said:

swerv21,

Thank you for the last couple of comments you wrote. It made all the time I’ve spent following this blog worthwhile.

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October 19th, 2007, 4:20 am

 

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