“Syria and Israel: The Changing Military Balance and Prospects for War,” by Cordesman

Syria and Israel: The Changing Military Balance and the Prospects for War

Anthony H. Cordesman

Washington, DC, August 20, 2007- Syria and Israel: The Changing Military Balance and the Prospects of War

Anthony H. Cordesman

The political and military relations between Syria and Israel continue to remain strained, and there have been reports that both nations may be heading towards a new round of fighting on the Golan. The Golan has been the scene of recent military exercises by both sides, and is the most likely contingency in the event of a conflict.

The attached report is a rough working draft of an analysis of the trends in the Israeli-Syrian balance, and in each country's military forces. It examines the prospects for a future Syrian-Israeli war, and focuses on characteristics of a potential conflict in the Golan region.

The conduct and aftermath of the 2006 Second Lebanon War between Israel and Hezbollah had a significant impact on the military strategies of both Israel and Syria. The report details how these and other events have affected recent military developments in Damascus and Jerusalem, and offers a comparative perspective on recent defense and military planning in the two states.

In addition, the report presents a comparative analysis of the land, air, and naval military forces of Syria and Israel. It also discusses comparative military expenditures the trends in arms imports, including the most recent arms transfer agreements between the two states and outside powers.

It is being circulated in draft form both to provide background for media and other analysts, but also to obtain comments, suggestions, and corrections. Your suggestions and comments will be much appreciated, and incorporated in future updates. Please email them to Anthony H. Cordesman at acordesman@aol.com

To find the full Report Click Here (fixed!)

http://www.csis.org/media/csis/pubs/070815_cordesman_israel_syria.pdf

Comments (23)


1. annie said:

Dear Josh,
Something is wrong with the link.
WELCOME TO OU EXCHANGE! it says

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August 20th, 2007, 8:00 pm

 
 

3. Joseph said:

When I click on the link, it requires some password. How do I gain access to the report?

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August 20th, 2007, 8:55 pm

 

4. Steve Townsend said:

Yes, I get the same problem. Whether I click on the link for this page for from the email that was sent out I get taken to the OU Exchange page and I’m asked to log on.

It would be a big help if the whole article was on a Joshua Landis page.

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August 20th, 2007, 10:31 pm

 

5. Joshua said:

It is now fixed. Sorry all. Joshua

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August 21st, 2007, 2:26 am

 

6. annie said:

Josh, could you, if possible, take the word israel out of the name of the file ? I cannot upload it.

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August 21st, 2007, 6:55 am

 
 

8. norman said:

Annie,
Click on midleast then on experts then on cordsman , you will find his article.

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August 21st, 2007, 1:54 pm

 

9. Observer said:

This comment from an Israeli political scientists sums it up nicely on the political side

Mid-East Peace Conference Under the Shadow of the Iraq War

By: Alon Ben-Meir

It appears that the Bush administration’s proposed Mid-East peace conference may not be held before November 2007 — a relatively long time from now considering the volatility of the region, especially the ever deteriorating situation in Iraq and the deepening Fatah-Hamas conflict. Holding such a conference during the current turmoil would seem to jeopardize any prospects of achieving even a modest success, that is, unless the administration abandons failed policies, embraces the Arab Initiative, and has all participants commit in advance to a negotiated set of principles.

Everyone knows that Saudi Arabia’s participation is of paramount importance if only because it is a leading Sunni state. But Saudi participation is far more significant as it would signal a break with the past (the Saudis have never officially sat down with the Israelis) as well as lend greater credence to the conference and to any commitments made there. Even more significantly, Saudi Arabia is the author of the Arab Initiative, which calls on Israel to return the territories captured in 1967 in exchange for a comprehensive peace. The Arab Initiative is critical because it is exactly that: an Arab, not an American Road Map, not a Clinton plan, and not any other peace proposal from outside the Middle East. Because they are the authors of the Initiative, the Saudis’ presence at the conference will likely engender wider Arab public support than the conference would otherwise attract. This is why the administration must officially embrace the Arab Initiative, thereby not just giving the Saudis a compelling reason to be at the conference but by this, providing an opening for them to assume a leading role in the peace process. The Saudi presence is also necessary since without a collective Arab will, as enunciated by the Initiative and the cover it provides, no effort will be successful in overcoming Islamic Arab militancy and no negotiation will lead anywhere. For any positive outcome to be possible, the Arab states need to work in concert, which makes the Initiative indispensable.

Although the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be the conference’s focus, the administration must also make sure that countries in conflict with Israel, Syria and Lebanon in particular, are both present and solicited to present their positions and demands. The administration’s policy toward Syria is a failed policy because it has impeded rather than helped move the peace process forward.

Syria is the key to a peaceful Middle East, and it is high time for the administration to shift from a policy of regime change in Damascus to one of constructive engagement with Syria. Only at the negotiating table will the administration be able to determine the seriousness of Syria’s repeated peace overtures. It is not entirely implausible that Damascus and Jerusalem could agree on a joint declaration accepting the principle of exchanging territories for a normal peace in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242 and commit to a political solution to their conflict. But before any of this can occur, the administration must give Israel the green light to pursue the Syrian track. Without Syria’s full participation, the conference is doomed from the outset.

As things now stand, Hamas will not participate in the conference, and while it may be useful in the short run for the administration to demonstrate that moderation pays by rewarding and empowering Mahmoud Abbas, Hamas cannot be wished away. Whereas it is a given that the envisioned Palestinian state must comprise the West Bank and Gaza, any negotiated declaration of principles between Israel and the Palestinians needs also to have a wide Palestinian appeal. Since Hamas is not expected to reform itself anytime soon, is unlikely to die a natural death, or be forcefully dismembered, it can be made to lose popular support only if the declaration of principles deals with fundamentals such as, borders, a general outline of a resolution to the refugee problem, and solid plans for Palestinian economic progress. In sum, in order to erode Hamas’ position the Palestinians need to see a very real and compelling vision of a two-state solution. The Arab Initiative can play a significant role here by making it abundantly clear to Hamas that peace with Israel is the only real option. If Saudi Arabia, along with Egypt and Jordan and other moderate Arab states are joined by Syria, Hamas will be largely isolated politically and increasingly lose public support. To hammer this point home to Hamas, the administration should insist that any declaration of principles be put to a national Palestinian referendum in the West bank and Gaza and then provide the means, including gathering international support, to conduct such a referendum whatever the circumstances. If the leaders of Hamas resist, they will have to be faced down. Hamas must understand its options in advance, but a referendum could also give Hamas a face-saving way out.

After nearly five years of war in Iraq, one would hope that the administration has finally moved beyond the futility of having believed that the Arab-Israeli conflict could be resolved by removing Saddam Hussein from power. It would also be helpful if the President has understood that the conference he has called will produce nothing if he continues to rely on policies that have not moved the peace process forward. The next couple of months will show whether Mr. Bush is serious about advancing the Arab-Israeli peace process or is merely using the conference to distract public attention here and in the Middle East from a disastrous war that has cast such an ominous cloud over the entire region.

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August 21st, 2007, 5:48 pm

 

10. Alex said:

And I will highlight a part of Alon’s article above for my friend Majhool : ) who believes that the Syrians are fools for thinking they can play the game with the the big boys, the moderate Arab regimes! … like Jordan.

Syria is the key to a peaceful Middle East, and it is high time for the administration to shift from a policy of regime change in Damascus to one of constructive engagement with Syria. Only at the negotiating table will the administration be able to determine the seriousness of Syria’s repeated peace overtures. It is not entirely implausible that Damascus and Jerusalem could agree on a joint declaration accepting the principle of exchanging territories for a normal peace in accordance with UN Security Council Resolution 242 and commit to a political solution to their conflict. But before any of this can occur, the administration must give Israel the green light to pursue the Syrian track. Without Syria’s full participation, the conference is doomed from the outset.

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August 22nd, 2007, 1:37 am

 

11. Majhool said:

Deaf people dialog:

Majhool: I Ask the Syrian leadership to enhance its accountability and legitimacy. I wish Assad commited to that in his speach.

Alex: Regime change is an American conspiracy

Majhool: Regime change?!! I am not calling for a regime change.

Alex: “Syria” did not kill Hariri…

Majhool: Who mentioned the Hariri? Speaking of Hariri, Syrian leadership abused/mismanaged its stay in Lebanon.

Alex: According to my polls 99% of the Syrian people love Bashar..

Majhool: they do? Anyways, this is not the topic, Basically I would like to see the rule of law back into effect in Syria.

Alex: There is hatred among the different Syrian communities.

Majhool: you just said, 99% love Bashar? Besides if that’s the case who’s to blame? The government , no?

Alex: Al shark- Al-Awsat and Saudia Arabia are spreading lies.

Majhool: Who?!! let’s stick to the subject. I think Syria’s interest are better served if the Syrian regime was to share power, even gradually, and capitalize on its marginalized human capital.

Alex: you love the Saudis and want to hurt Syria..

Majhool: That’s not what I am saying

Alex: Read this book ( ABCDE…… )Bush wants to…

Mahjool: Stop!! my aspirations has nothing to do with Bush, Jordan, Saudia Arabia.. I seek improvements in Syria.

Alex: you have to be positive when you deal with the government.

Majhool: I am positive. I just have demands.

Alex: for the regime people are Hasharat “insects” who are you to demand?

Majhool: A Syrian citizen?

Alex: you are a Jordan lover, aren’t you

Majhool: No I am not. It just hurt to see them ahead of us, let’s say in education.

Alex: you are just with regime change, admit it.

Majhool: I am not. I am with the lifting of emergency laws. For example.

Alex: : we are not ready

Majhool: they have been telling us that for the past 40 years!!

Alex: we need more time

Majhool: Who are we?

Alex: them, I meant.

Majhool: shouldn’t be about us?

Alex: you are with bush aren’t you, your heart beats with joy every time “Syria” takes a beating.

Majhool: what do you mean by Syria, we or them?

and it goes on and on.

Alex, eshta2nalak

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August 23rd, 2007, 3:50 am

 

12. Bakri said:

Bravo Majhoul ,this what we call in philosophy a socratic(plato)dialogue

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August 23rd, 2007, 4:05 am

 

13. Alex said:

LOL

Majhool … very entertaining except that the funniest parts are completely out of context 🙂

But going back to today’s topic, I have a clear question and I hope you have a clear answer that a person who has hearing difficulties like me can hear well.

Do you agree with Alon Ben Meir that Syria is THE key to the success of all peace initiatives in the middle East (and therefore Syria is relevant and successful in its regional policies) or do you believe the Saudi version as expressed by the young and restless editor of Asharq, Mr. Tareq who wrote yesterday about the way he sees Syria’s position in the region today:

Damascus…Roaring or Moaning?

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August 23rd, 2007, 5:06 am

 

14. fadi said:

a well-made article…but it lacks reliability as the sources of these militery figures cannot be verified. i wish the writer mentioned the psycological and internal factors which affect the result of a possible war between the two countries…all syrian generals will escape after the first shot…just like iraq….all the talk about military in this case is useless….

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August 23rd, 2007, 12:59 pm

 

15. Majhool said:

Alex,

1) being relevant in regional politics does not necessarily correlate to the well being of the nation.
2) The regime’s wins in the regional arena could defiantly be inline with people’s interest. For example (the circumcision of any possible American occupation). These wins are welcomed.
3) On the other hand, losses sometimes are inline with people’s interest, for example the forced pull-out of Lebanon and the forced opening the economy. These losses are also welcomed.
4) It’s very true, that the great powers (GP) are after the Syrian elite, and that the Syrian elite is trying hard to reconcile their interests with the GP (similar to how Egypt is today & how Syria was in the 90s). It does not take a genius to realize that the GP don’t give a damn about the nation’s interest. And why should they?
5) Reconciling the interests of the elite and the GP is very dangerous if done at the expense of people interest.
6) To circumvent any future reconciliation of that nature, The Syrian elite need to be governed by the nation’s interests. This require at a minimum rule of law, accountability and legitimacy. This is lacking, and hence you have someone like me having such Demands.
7 objective evaluations of elite’s intensions is not possible unless person A is willing to be accountable. The elite continue to resist any accountability. I will cite the president speech as an example
8) I continue to be a firm believer that the “struggle” for improved legitimacy and accountability must continue and should not slow down under any circumstances. prompting status quo and unconditional support of the regime ( Alex’s position) all to the benefit of the elite will come and bite us sooner or later.

Was that clear enough?

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August 23rd, 2007, 6:20 pm

 

16. Kamal said:

Thanks Majhool. Your analysis is well-reasoned and sound, politically and morally. People like yourself give me hope for the future of Syria, Lebanon and the Middle East.

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August 23rd, 2007, 6:44 pm

 

17. Alex said:

Majhool Al-Atrash, : )

I explain a million times that I do not advocate unconditional support for the regime, and I even sent you a link to some extreme regime criticism I wrote in a big newspaper.

And I supported your list of improvements … but I explained that it will take time to start (not much good will come this year).

And you did not answer the question… you gave me the obvious part that you do not support a US invasion of Syria. I am talking about the more controversial part … Syria’s strength vs. the “moderate Arabs” … is Syria big enough to play against them or not? .. do you subscribe more to the opinion of the editor of Asharq AL-Awsat (Syria is weak and cornered) or to that of Alon Ben Meir (Syria is the Key to all solutions in the middle East)

Can I have a simple answer? … please try not to take another detour through your list of obviously desirable objectives.

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August 23rd, 2007, 9:47 pm

 

18. Kamal said:

> I even sent you a link to some extreme regime criticism I wrote in a
> big newspaper.

Alex, I missed this. Could you repost, if you don’t mind?

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August 24th, 2007, 12:05 am

 

19. Majhool said:

Alex , first don’t forget that we “benhabbak” lol

First of all, I like my new last name “Al-Atrash” it brings to my mind great classics sung by Asmahan, and Farid Al-Atrash. Not to forget the famous Druze Leader.

I will answer your question clearly but in return I will ask you to answer my question(s) clearly.

You say that you don’t advocate unconditional support for the regime.. This means that your current support of the regime is indeed conditional.

1. What are those conditions one which you base your current support? Are they a set of goals/benchmarks? What are these goals/benchmarks? How do you monitor the regime’s progress ?

You criticism is only what it is, merely a criticism to enhance Syria’s official rhetoric necessary to enhance Syria‘s regional role ( but is that really to the benefit of the nation?). What are your systematic-type changes that you would like to see to give the regime your support?

Now to answer your question:

It does not take a genius that Syria has always been relevant in regional politics. It was the case under Assad Sr. and it continues under Assad Jr. Assad Sr. has scored many wins in the past. Assad Jr. took some beatings recently however he is still relevant. Will he always be relevant? This has to do with many factors. It has to do with attitude of the future American administration, American-Iranian relations, etc..

Relevancy is not necessarily good for the nation. One can be the biggest gangster in a neighborhood and still be relevant. And that really is the spirit of my previous post. Many argue that Syria’s relevancy was achieved on the expense of the nation’s interest. For example, Syria welcomes 1.5 million Iraqi refuge only to be relevant and not out of love to the iraqi and always on the expense of the average Syrian.

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August 24th, 2007, 1:53 am

 

20. Majhool said:

Alex,

One last question, you said you ARE NOT with unconditional support. but left the status quo part. are you with the status quo in terms of current political system, and the situation of freedoms, rule of law, ligetmacy, etc? are you with/against? those who call for political reform? or do you consider them to be traitors an want to hurt Syria and hence are your enemies?

Merci

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August 24th, 2007, 2:13 am

 

21. Alex said:

Majhool beik,

YOu finally answered my question .. but really finally. Only when you said:

“Relevancy is not necessarily good for the nation. One can be the biggest gangster in a neighborhood and still be relevant. And that really is the spirit of my previous post. Many argue that Syria’s relevancy was achieved on the expense of the nation’s interest. For example, Syria welcomes 1.5 million Iraqi refuge only to be relevant and not out of love to the iraqi and always on the expense of the average Syrian.”

So you (and “some”) believe that Syria is THE BIGGEST GANGSTER in the middle East today, and not Saudi Arabia, Iran or Israel or the United States… not Jumblatt and not Geagea.

And that’s where there is a big problem my friend. The majority of Syrians do not think so. They think that their country is much more on the side of good, or at least common sense, than any of the others.

As for your question to me: I am with the status quo for now … yes. Because unlike you I think for now (not always) the regime is right in spending most of its energy on regional conflicts…

If they all want to play big roles in Syria’s neighborhood, then Syria will have to do some pushing.

Read my post few months ago… and look at the cartoon from today’s Al-Hayat.

The situation is not sustainable for too long. One or two of the forces will have to go away … this is the story this year. Everything else is a sideshow.

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August 24th, 2007, 6:39 am

 

22. Alex said:

Kamal,

I prefer not to link it here. But Majhool can tell you that my comments (which he read) were very harsh… almost rude.

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August 24th, 2007, 7:03 am

 

23. Majhool said:

I never said “Syrian is the biggest gangster” i think that was your subconcious telling you that to justify your accusations. I answered your question when i said “yes Syria is relevent”.

I repeat for the million times, relevancy is not necessarly for the good of the nation especially when its achieved the expense of the people.

you keep avoiding my question…. What are those conditions one which you base your current support? Are they a set of goals/benchmarks? What are they? How do you monitor the regime’s progress ?

Finally, Your pools,percentages, does not mean anything. Syrians are not free people to voice their openions. this is not the US and you are not the gallop. plus you are an advocate for the status quo and with the supression of freedoms so you should not cite the people as an excuse. akher hammak.

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August 24th, 2007, 7:36 am

 

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