"An Israel-Syria deal is strategically vital for both," by Shlomo Ben-Ami - Syria Comment

“An Israel-Syria deal is strategically vital for both,” by Shlomo Ben-Ami

An Israel-Syria deal is strategically vital for both
Shlomo Ben-Ami
6 June 2008
Daily Star

Beirut — The resumption of peace talks between Israel and Syria after eight years of saber-rattling is not a diversion from the political troubles of Israel's lame-duck prime minister. Nor are the talks a Syrian ploy to avoid facing a Lebanese-international tribunal on the assassination of Lebanon's former prime minister, Rafik Hariri. An Israeli-Syrian peace deal is strategically vital for both sides, and both sides know it.

The two major formative experiences of Syria's Baath regime have been Hafez Assad's loss of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war with Israel, and the loss of Lebanon by his son, Bashar, who was forced to withdraw his army under irresistible American-led international pressure. Recovering the Golan and protecting Syria's vital interests in Lebanon are not only major strategic concerns for Syria's president; they are also crucial to the regime's drive for national legitimacy, and to Assad's assertion of his own leadership.

Peace with Israel is not Assad's priority. Rather, it is the prerequisite without which superior goals – rapprochement with the United States, legitimization of Syria's special status in Lebanon, and avoidance of a potentially devastating war with Israel if the Golan Heights are not recovered by peaceful means – cannot be attained. Indeed, the regime has hinted that it may be willing to compromise on the issue – the delineation of the 1967 border along a tiny piece of land on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee – that wrecked the negotiations eight years ago.

An Israeli-Syrian peace is a weighty strategic necessity for Israel, too. The complexities of the threats to Israel are such that a possible confrontation with Hamas in Gaza might trigger a flare-up with Hizbullah in Lebanon. Such a war could be won only by the total destruction of Lebanon by Israel's air force. In that case, Syria would likely seize the opportunity to break the deadlock over the Golan Heights through a military move that could develop into a massive war of missiles targeting Israel's vulnerable home front. And Iran, in its drive to protect its nuclear program from an Israeli-American attack, might be very active in supporting this ominous scenario.

Admittedly, the strategic conditions in the region are far more complex today than they were eight years ago, when Israel's requirements for a deal with Syria focused mainly on security arrangements on the Golan Heights, and on Syria using its leverage in Lebanon to permit an Israeli settlement with that country. Syria's alliance with Iran was not a major issue.

Syria's subsequent forced withdrawal from Lebanon was not good news for Israel. In the last round of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks eight years ago, it was clear that a deal with Syria would automatically pave the way to a settlement with Lebanon, and an end to Hizbullah's threat to Israel's northern border. Today, peace with Syria might facilitate an Israeli peace with Lebanon down the road, but that will not be an automatic outcome. Indeed, while Hizbullah prospered under Syrian occupation, it never reached the extraordinary political power that it has today.

Nevertheless, peace with Syria could be a major building block in a wider Israeli-Arab settlement, and consequently of a more stable Middle East, though it is unrealistic to expect that Syria would automatically sever its special relationship with Iran in exchange for the Golan Heights. These are peace talks, not a defense treaty, and Syria would not abruptly disengage from its Iranian friends. But good relations between an Arab state at peace with Israel and Iran are not necessarily a bad thing. Syria's stance might limit, rather than extend, the reach of Iran's strategy of regional destabilization.

As always, much will depend on America's readiness to move away from military solutions and rigid ideological imperatives and instead embrace the pragmatic culture of conflict resolution. A US-backed Israeli-Syrian peace could transform the strategic environment, potentially drawing other Middle East spoilers into a system of regional cooperation and security.

Shlomo Ben-Ami is a former Israeli foreign minister who now serves as the vice president of the Toledo International Center for Peace. He is the author of "Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy." THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndica

Comments (86)


Qifa Nabki said:

Not related, but hysterical:

Sayyed Hasan speaking about John Bolton

June 6th, 2008, 12:22 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Does Syria possess any SAM systems that could shoot an Israeli fighter out of the sky?

I mean today’s fighters, not the ones used in the 70’s.

If so, have they ever been set off by IAF fly-overs, in Lebanese airspace?

June 6th, 2008, 1:15 am

 

Enlightened said:

QN:

There were reports a few weeks ago that the Syrian Defense minister was in Moscow with a $5 billion checkbook and guess what was on his shopping list?

These sales reportedly include S-300 advanced multi-target anti-aircraft-missile systems, long-range MiG 29SMT fighter jets, two Amur-1650 submarines, and Iskander high-precision short-range missiles.

The S-300 has been on the Syrian shopping list for a long time and can threaten targets within Israel.

The current missiles within Syria’s arsenal that proved very deadly in the 73 war (40%) of Israeli planes shot down are ineffective against current Jamming techniques employed by the IAF, and the use of flares.

The S-300 can effectively target 29 planes simultaneously and engage 12 planes at once, if the Russians approve this sale, it might shift the balance of power slightly, but it is no panacea.

What is worrying from the Syrian perspective, is the air defences have proved in effective against Israeli flyovers ( The president palace was buzzed a few years ago and a sonic boom was heard), I don’t think its a personnel issue, what they have in their hardware is old and innefective.

Hezbollah has in its arsenal now shoulder held strelets that are very effective against Helicopters and low flying aircraft up to a 7km range.

No arms manufacturer will sell The Lebanese state anti aircraft missiles, the state has been trying since the early seventies to acquire them as Amine Gemayel hinted a few days ago. It amazes me that no Syrian/Lebanese defense treaty ever addressed this issue.

June 6th, 2008, 2:33 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Enlightened,

Interesting. So you are not just a bloodthirsty southerner… you are a bloodthirsty southern arms dealer.

😉

Thanks for the info.

June 6th, 2008, 2:47 am

 

Enlightened said:

Yes!

You remember that Film starring whats his name…….

War Lord ( a pun) no I mean Lord of War!

I was asked to star in this film based on my life as a bloodthirsty arms dealer who got his start in the Lebanese civil war. After my earlier life as Adnan Khashoggi , I realised I was too too ugly for this business and morphed into Nicholas Cage.

June 6th, 2008, 3:04 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I actually hope the Syrians buy the Russian systems. The regime will just go bankrupt faster. The problem with all these systems is that they have acquisition radars. You take them out or force them to shut off and the system is worthless. 1982 anybody?

The Lebanese should not waste their money on sitting ducks and worthless defense systems.

June 6th, 2008, 3:46 am

 

Majhool said:

AIG,

Got a question: why don’t Israeli politicians declare that “Golan shall not be retuned to Syria unless Syria becomes “democratic”

By Democratic I mean representative and accountable

BTW,

I just read your post on Creative Syria and I find it to be fantastic. You have echoed the views that most of my Israeli friends have (unfortunately). We need to better understand (not necessary accept) the majority view in Israel in order to resolve this issue.

June 6th, 2008, 5:57 am

 

Innocent_Criminal said:

Enlightened

There were reports that Syria had the S-300 a while back already. But there are many versions so maybe you’re talking about a new one?

As for the Iskander this is purely a defense system. Which only poses moderate threat to attacking Israeli war planes. Guess the Syrians are trying to avoid other embarrassing events without the need to retaliate. Unfortunately they are stuck with only one key defense strategy which is to continue developing ground-to-ground missiles to threat Israel’s “existence” in a doomsday scenario which is not an ideal option considering that Israel would nuke the hell out of Syria in retaliation.

As for your query about Lebanon acquiring air defense systems I think the Israelis drew a red line for the Syrians in 80’s that they cannot give the Lebanese army these capabilities. Hell even the Syrians couldn’t do anything with their SAM batteries in 82 so anything they’re willing to give to Lebanon will probably be more inferior so what’s the point? That said there were reports that HA were acquiring sophisticated SAMs from Iran http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,20025299-23109,00.html

June 6th, 2008, 6:38 am

 

Zenobia said:

I don’t think that is AIG’s post on Creative Syria. I think that is a different person. It’s the first Israeli Guy, isn’t it? AIG is the ‘another” Israeli guy.

and, btw, isn’t that a rather ridiculous idea: tell Syria it must become democratic and they can have the Golan back>?
kind of like telling Syria to break all relations with Iran, and it can have the Golan. Not realistic at all.

June 6th, 2008, 6:39 am

 

Majhool said:

Hey Zen,

I am not advocating this condition (to be democratic) I just want to know whether or not this condition is endorsed by Israeli politicians.

Having said that, could you please elaborate on why you think that this notion is not realistic? it would embarrass the regime if Israel declares that it would not hand off the Golan to any dictatorship regime in Syria. and they can blame it on Israel’s need to secure a lasting peace with the people of Syria as apposed to the regime of Syria. I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

AIG,

was it you?

June 6th, 2008, 6:50 am

 

Zenobia said:

IT IS AIG who touts the democracy thing all the time as if this is going to save the day.

but, I am certain the Israeli politicos are NOT in favor of a democratic process for precisely the reason that you discounted recently in the responses to Hind Kabawat’s piece – that elections might very well bring islamic leadership, and the Israelis think this is potentially much worse for them than a tame dictator.

and, since we are on a post concerning the views of Slomo Ben-Ami, I will provide a little relevant quote on this matter from his extremely excellent book “Scars of War, Wounds of Peace”.
He says (page294-295) :
“The Palestinian case is one more reminder of an important fallacy to which Mr. Bush has subscribed. The real, and certainly the immediate, choice in the Arab world is not between dictatorship and democracy but between secular dictatorship and Islamic democracy. With the collapse of the Palestinian Authority into lawlessness and banditry, and the shattering by Israel of Arafat’s secular apparatus of government, it was the Islamic option that was gaining ground and filling the vacuum in the Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Authority and Mr. Arafat’s personal rule were clearly being displaced in the hearts and minds of the Palestinian masses by the fundamentalist Hamas.”

and I think Ben Ami would say that similarly, Israel would not want to make the same mistake by taking down the secular rule in Syria and championing for democracy.

June 6th, 2008, 6:55 am

 

Majhool said:

Zen,

I am not trying to proof a point here, but just like I am close to Marxists and Syrian nationalist I am also close to some MB sympathizers. It might be surprising to you if I tell that that they have no problem in making peace with Israel. MBers are not Taliban.

besdies, the Muslim Brotherhood would not stand a chance if moderate Sunni leadership was allowed to function in Syria. Sympathizing with MB is only a radical reaction to being denied a share in power.

June 6th, 2008, 7:05 am

 

Enlightened said:

Innocent Criminal: (Good to hear from you!)

You are right there are many versions, the one I am talking about is this version:

The S-300PMU2 Favorit variant is a new missile with larger warhead and better guidance with a range of 200 km, versus the 150 km of previous versions. Unveiled at the MAKS’97 exhibition in August 1997, it represents a thorough modification of the S-300PMU1. The first tests were performed on 10 August 1995 at the Kapustin Yar firing range. One new element is the entirely new 96L6E autonomous mobile radar, which works in conjunction with the 83M6E2 control post and S-300MPU2 launchers. The new 48N6E2 missile, developed by MKB Fakel, weighs 1,800 kg, and is 7.5 m long and 0.5 m in diameter. After a cold start in the upright position with help of a catapult, the 48N6E2 accelerates up to 1,900 m/s in 12 sec time, and then approaches the target from above. The 48N6E2 differs from the older 48N6E in having a new warhead specially designed for destroying ballistic missiles, with a warhead weight of 145 kg versus 70-100 kg.

The S-300PMU2 Favorit can engage targets flying from 10 m to 27 km above the surface at a speed of up to 10,000 km/h. It is claimed that it has a kill ratio ranging from 0.8 to 0.93 against aircraft and from 0.8 to 0.98 against Tomahawk-class cruise missiles.

The S300 in the Syrian arsenal is very antiquated and was sourced in the early eighties after the Isareli invasion of Lebanon. If my memory serves me correctly 83 Syrian Migs were shot out of the sky.

“Hell even the Syrians couldn’t do anything with their SAM batteries in 82 so anything they’re willing to give to Lebanon will probably be more inferior so what’s the point?”

——————-

The Americans and Israelis learnt the lessons from the 73 war and knew how to Jam them!

The Iskander is a cruise missile with anti missile capabilities. Reprtedly it has superior performance compared to the Patriots.

AIG:

The $5 billion cheque came from Iran. Its called “friends with benefits” I wish my friends would give me $5billion!

June 6th, 2008, 7:05 am

 

Zenobia said:

Majhool,
no i agree actually. I don’t think the MB is so scary, nor am I thinking that it would be so terrible to elect islamic leaders, but I doubt Israelis would think that way.
and also, if you aren’t worried about MB, then you should extend the same faith in the claims of tolerance and moderation of rule by the Hezbollah (regarding internal Lebanon, not their feeling about Israel of course). For they are not Taliban either.

June 6th, 2008, 7:12 am

 

Majhool said:

Zen

I agree with you that Israel is not interested in a regime change that would bring sunni leadership (MB or moderates alike). I differ on the “why”. I don’t believe Israel is scared of what that change would bring instead I believe that they are just not interested in peace all together…

My problem with HA has nothing to do with what they claim, and I am not worried about their radicalism. What I am against is how HA undermines the Lebanese state. Otherwise, I am all for HA to assume its full potential within the Lebanese system.

June 6th, 2008, 7:23 am

 

ausamaa said:

Qifa Nabki

(In reply for your previous post in ‘Israel Dont Undermine Beirut”)

I did not start seeing “red” from the time you came in. Purple? Maybe, but not red. And since I started reading Syriacomment, you sound “mild” compared to some previous others. And if I did not zero in on your posts, who do you want we to “do”? AIG or AP.. or that Stake sauce one?? So your posts presents a good “target”. Cant see myself wasting typing time on them. But on You? It is different.

I will start reading what you write more carefully perhaps with a more positively receptive attitude. Maybe I will see the Green instead of the Red.

But in even in your most recent post above you just wrote: “but the landscape is totally different. So it’s not the same “thyself”, ya habibi”. Meaning that it changed (Syria-wise) for the better or has changed for the worst. Knowing you, you must have meant that it has changed to the Worst??!! And I for one took that in the form of : “ذم في صيغة مديح”, so you are HAPPY for Bashar as you say, but the Landscape around Bashar has changed to the WORST perhaps? Me be I misunderstood, but my got feeling is that I did not. You just sound too much like good ol’ Ghassan Tuini, who has been saying and doing “good” things to Syrian people since the early fiftees. And that was years before Al Ba”ath came to power.

But again, its a free world !!

And by the way, what is your take on the delay of forming the new Lebanese government. I trully lost interest about that during the last few days. What is really happening you think?

June 6th, 2008, 8:23 am

 

ausamaa said:

Shlomo Ben-Ami says:

“The two major formative experiences of Syria’s Baath regime have been Hafez Assad’s loss of the Golan Heights in the 1967 war with Israel, and the loss of Lebanon by his son, Bashar,” As if Syria was at Peace with Israel before the 1967 war (Fateh started in Syria in 1965, and so was the bulk of the other Palestinian Fidaiyeen organizations), and as if the strategic ramifications of Syrian withdrawl from Lebanon in 2005 had been overly negative to Syria!

Sp, we I would should add FOUR more imortant FOMATIVE experiences to the Ba’ath political thought development process:

– The October 1973 War
– The Iranian Revolution in the late seventies
– The Sadat Break-away from Arab Ranks starting with the visit to the
– The US invasion of Iraq in 2003 and the process that followed
– And mre recently, Hizbullah’s defeat of Isrel in JUly 2006 and the processes which followed until today

That is if we dont want to be overly selective in WHAT we portray as shaping Syria political and strategic thought

And Mr Bin Ami does not tell us in what capacity would such a normal and “Peacefull” Israel benifit American strategy in the area, nor does he tell us if Israel “sees” a benifit in becoming ,on its own accord, a peacefull entity (needless to say after resolving the full conflict including the Palestinian issue) just like any other country in the Middle East?

June 6th, 2008, 8:54 am

 

Shai said:

Majhool, Zenobia,

Israeli politicians do not care about democracy in Syria. They care about the fact that Syria has managed to become a formidable player in the region, choosing to ally itself by chance and not by chance with what seems at the moment to be Israel’s greatest threat – Iran. If we were ten years back (or even eight), and Olmert had the same Talansky ordeal at hand, and felt only talks with Syria could save him, things would be so much easier. There was no talk of Axis of Evil, powerful and independent HA, Hamas, nuclear Iran, etc. But, Barak didn’t close the deal with Hafez Assad, and history played itself as it did, making things that much more complex today. As far as I am aware, the only “demand” Israeli politicians have made of Syria (putting aside its legitimacy for a second) is the cessation of its support of Iran/HA/Hamas. In theory, if Syria announced this afternoon that it is no longer interested in any of those three, I’m quite sure we’d have a majority support withdrawal from the Golan (perhaps even 70%). But, since Syria is not about to do that, we’ll have to get the 50.1% in favor by other means – either peaceful ones, or war.

The subtle message from Bashar while in the UAE a few days ago, saying that if Iran is attacked, Syria will not join in on her behalf, was a significant remark, but also a scary one. On the one hand, it calmed many down (Israelis, Syrians, Americans, etc.) On the other, it almost gave a “green light” for such a crazy operation. So Syria may not participate, but Iran, the U.S., Israel, HA and Hamas will… That’s still called a huge regional war, to anyone unclear about it. And to those wishful thinkers, claiming HA and Hamas won’t join in, I offer a closer look at the manufacturer’s sticker on all the weaponry received by those two, and the raison d’etre that specifically mentions resisting Israeli aggression. Their biggest and most important patron might be bombarded day and night by the American and Zionist regimes, and they’ll sit by watching it all on Al Jazeerah, doing nothing? Yeah…

Looks like the Gaza operation is ever nearer. Unless the Gilad Shalit formula is “suddenly” found between Hamas and Israel, we’ll soon be seeing Israeli tanks and soldiers entering Gaza. And many innocent people will die. The politicians in Israel are more impotent today than ever in our 60 year history. It is unbelievable, and sad. Here’s the latest: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3552708,00.html

June 6th, 2008, 12:15 pm

 

norman said:

Back

Russian parliament ratifies write-off of most of Syria’s multibillion-dollar debt

2008-06-06 14:18:30 –

MOSCOW (AP) – Russia’s parliament on Friday ratified an agreement to write off nearly three-quarters of Syria’s roughly US$14 billion (¤9 billion) debt from the Soviet era.
The State Duma, the lower house, registered its approval of the 2005 deal and a 2007 supplement in a 401-40 vote.
According to the law passed by the Duma, Russia is writing off 73 percent of the debt. Part of the remaining US$3.6 billion (¤2.3 billion) is to paid in a single sum and part over a decade.
Russia has written off large portions of Soviet-era debts owed by several Middle Eastern nations _ much of it for military equipment _ as it has moved to bolster relations in recent years.

June 6th, 2008, 12:34 pm

 

norman said:

11.15am BST’Unavoidable’ attack on Iran looms, says Israeli ministerHaroon Siddique and agencies guardian.co.uk, Friday June 6 2008 An Israeli minister has said an attack on Iran’s nuclear sites will be “unavoidable” if Tehran refuses to halt its alleged weapons programme.

In the most explicit threat yet by a member of Ehud Olmert’s government, Shaul Mofaz, a deputy prime minister, said the hardline Iranian president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, “would disappear before Israel does”.

“If Iran continues with its programme for developing nuclear weapons, we will attack it. The sanctions are ineffective,” Mofaz, who is also Israel’s transport minister, said in comments published today by the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper.

“Attacking Iran in order to stop its nuclear plans will be unavoidable.”

Iranian-born Mofaz is a former army chief and defence minister. He is a member of Olmert’s security cabinet and leads regular strategic coordination talks with the US state department.

Iran denies trying to build nuclear weapons and has defied western pressure to abandon uranium enrichment.

The leadership in Tehran has threatened that if attacked the country will retaliate against Israel – believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal – and American targets in the region.

Ahmadinejad has repeatedly called for Israel to be wiped off the map since becoming president. On Monday, he said Israel was “about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene”.

Olmert met the US president, George Bush, on Wednesday to discuss concerns over Iran. The Israeli prime minister, who is being pressured to resign over a corruption scandal, has said that Iran’s nuclear threat “must be stopped by all possible means”.

Israeli planes bombed Syria in September, destroying what the US administration said was a partly built nuclear reactor using North Korean help. Syria denied having any such facility. UN inspectors announced this week that they would be visiting Syria to investigate the American claim.

June 6th, 2008, 12:36 pm

 

norman said:

Shai,

Israel; seems to learn from the Palestinians ,

(( Never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity ))

As long as Israel can not kill all the Arabs it should peace sooner than later ,

Assad remarks will prevent an attack on Syria at the same time of an attack on Iran ,

The Us will have most of the trouble in Iraq if it attacks Iran.

June 6th, 2008, 1:27 pm

 

AnotherSyrianGuy said:

ENLIGHTENED:

S-300 is a strategic weapon. I do not think Russia will ever sell it to Syria. As you yourself said, it can shoot down planes over Israel! However, my understanding is that there ARE allready S-300 batteries in Syria. Operated by the Russian navy to protect their base in Tartoos. I do not know if I am right.

June 6th, 2008, 2:12 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Majhool, Zenobia,
I am the author of the comment in creative syria. I am dissapointed Zenobia did not recognize my distinctive style…

Most Israelis do not understand that it is important for Israel to promote democracy in Syria and that in the long run, that is the only way to real peace. Most politicians do not believe that Syria could be a democracy and believe in the fallacy of having a strong man rule and and provide security for Israel. I think that Israel should see more long term and that by supporting democracy we are ensuring that when the Muslim Brotherhood eventually comes to power or some other group, they will be more inclined not to go to war with us.

Contrary to what Alex says, there is a lot of hatred in Syria of Asad and the Alawi regime and by giving them legitimacy, we will be transferring the hate also to us. Also, I just believe that all people have the right to live in freedom and democracy and that it is best not to deal with dictators when possible. Sometimes you are forced to do it, but I think in the case of Syria, we do not have to.

June 6th, 2008, 2:16 pm

 

ausamaa said:

And now, we are experts not only on Political Affairs, but on Military matters as well. How nice! A one stop shop.

Does Hamas and Hizbullah and the Sadries have the S-300 also? Have those spy sattelites that can take “hi-res” pictures of a car’s licenses plate from space managed to locate OBL whereabouts yet? Has Israel managed to find a solution to the “fouth generation” Qassam MIRV Rockests yet?

Very interesting….

June 6th, 2008, 2:46 pm

 

Karim said:

norman , dont be influenced by the Iranian regime slogans ,the Iranian people are the most secular and westernized people in the middle east ,they don’t look like their regime in reality,the Iranian regime like to magnify itself in the media but the reality in Iran is very different ,the Iranian civil servant is even poorer than the Syrian with an averrage of 150us dollars per month,corruption is higher than Syria .In the same time we ask ourself if the USA is anti Iran so why their best allies in Iraq are the Iraqis of Iranian origin or the wilayat faqih party of Iraq ?we should not forget that khomeini got weapons from Israel during his war against Iraq.Now as Arabs we should stay away from this show,because they are neighbors and collaborators in the green zone they certainly know how to deal with each other

June 6th, 2008, 2:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Hizballah also said they would not attack Israel if Iran is attacked (see the post by the Harvard students). If they do, it will just prove to the Lebanese that they are Iranian agents and not a true Lebanese party.

An attack on Iran is inevitable if they do not stop enriching unranium. It is a risk we will have to take.

June 6th, 2008, 2:48 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
What we know for sure is this. If the Syrian defense system was worth anything, it would have shot down the Israeli planes that bombed the nuclear plant. All the rest is just assumptions.

June 6th, 2008, 2:51 pm

 

Karim said:

Even thé ikhwan say that they will not get more than 25percents ,and they are against the destruction of the state ,they are for a soft transition and against revange on baathists or alexis,zenibia ikhwan and hezballa are not thé same,ikhwan are mostly from thé cities from the middle class families and hezballa is a création of the iranian régime and is loyal to its external support and its survival dépend on it,they are of poor and rural origin.

June 6th, 2008, 2:59 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Yes Mr. Clauswitz, ask the IAF fighter pilots and the generals on what happened to the tens of their fighters which were dropping like dead flies all over Syria in October 1973, and they will tell you how “on top of things” they felt then. They just did know what had hit them and all it was then were the SAM-2, SAM-3 and the ZSU-100. Imagin now with S-300 or the S-?? and the other things that the AMAN may “not” know about. Like that little thing that Nassrallah hit the Israeli destroyer off the Lebanese shore in your July 2006 invasion while he was (!!!) giving a televised speach! Imagine how the sailors on that doomed ship who might have been watching him on live TV must have felt: “Man, what is he talking about??….(silence)..dammned…it is US!””

LOL,,,

June 6th, 2008, 3:06 pm

 

Karim said:

aussama even the Americans had lost many jets in vietnam but since the f16 and f15 they had few casualties ,in yugaslavia for ex which has modern Russian weapons and was exporter of weapons to Syria

June 6th, 2008, 3:16 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamaa,
In September, during the attack, not one plane was shot. So if AMAN (Israeli army intellignece) did not know something, why weren’t the planes shot down? I would love to hear your conspiracy theory.

You see, Israel has learned from 73 but I don’t think the Syrians have. The proof was 82 in which the Sams were useless and the Syrian air force was easily destroyed and the Russians came to understand that what they are selling is junk. Since then the technological divide between Israel and Syria has only grown.

June 6th, 2008, 3:20 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Not September Caluswitz, October 1973. We were kids then and we ran to the fields trying to capture the Israeli falling pilots then. I do remember.

AS to the “technological devide” having grown sooooo much between Israel and the Arabs, I doubt that. Withdrawls from Gaza, races to get out of Lebanon, hyserics about Iran, but only hysterics. Ask the Israeli General Staff also, and they will testify against that devide having grown. And if the devide has grown so much, why is Israel attempting(or acting as it is)to make peace with Syria and the Arabs? Not just feeling charitable, are we?

Does not add up General Von, does it?

June 6th, 2008, 3:23 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
Sure, but what is your explanation for September 2007 when not one plane was shot when the Israelis bombed deep in Syria? And what is your explanation for 1982?

Israel did not prepare well for 1973 and paid the price. You will not hear any argument from me about that.

June 6th, 2008, 3:32 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
Since 73 the syrians have not fired one shot in the Golan. The reason? The growing technological divide. The Syrians do not have any chance against Israel in a war. Another proof of the divide, Syria did not retaliate against the September 2007 bombing.

June 6th, 2008, 3:36 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I rest my case….(especially as reseasrch has shown that Repeat Offenders usually resort to the same methods over and over again and that is how they get cought).

June 6th, 2008, 3:37 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

As you should, because you do not have one.

I am still waiting for the explanation why not even one fighter was shot down in Septemeber 2007 and why Syria did not retaliate.

June 6th, 2008, 3:40 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I sure dont…!!!! Nor do I have anymore time to toy with you today. Its Friday eve here: got nicer things to do.

June 6th, 2008, 3:42 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,

Why wasn’t even one fighter was shot down in Septemeber 2007 and why didn’t Syria retaliate?

It is a simple question.

June 6th, 2008, 3:43 pm

 

ausamaa said:

That is for you and the for the Israeli General Staff to worry about.!!

Man, go watch a movie or something. Give it up.

June 6th, 2008, 3:46 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamaa,
Yes, you cannot answer a simple question so you suddenly “do not have time”. I think you are also a product of the Syrian education system, right?

June 6th, 2008, 3:46 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ausamma,
I see. So your logic is since no plane was shot down in September 2007 that means that next time many planes will be shot down. Which Syrian text book did that come from?

June 6th, 2008, 3:48 pm

 

ausamaa said:

I sure am, with a little spicing up from the American education system, add to that a lot of reading and listening and watching -as opposed to just talking-,for many years. The watching include channels 10 and 2 of Israeli TV also.

Give it up man, let us go do our things…

June 6th, 2008, 3:53 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

I am still waiting for the explanation why not even one fighter was shot down in Septemeber 2007 and why Syria did not retaliate.

What is your explanation for this except that there is a huge technological divide and that Syria is afraid to go to war with Israel?

June 6th, 2008, 3:56 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa

So your posts presents a good “target”. Cant see myself wasting typing time on [AIG & AP]. But on You? It is different.

I’ll take this as a compliment.

I will start reading what you write more carefully perhaps with a more positively receptive attitude. Maybe I will see the Green instead of the Red.

Thanks.

But in even in your most recent post above you just wrote: “but the landscape is totally different. So it’s not the same “thyself”, ya habibi”. Meaning that it changed (Syria-wise) for the better or has changed for the worst. Knowing you, you must have meant that it has changed to the Worst??!! And I for one took that in the form of : “ذم في صيغة مديح”,

Lah ya Ausamaa, mish dhamm wala madi7. You misunderstood me. First, ever since both Syria and Israel went public with the peace talks, and since the success of Doha, I’ve been impressed with Bashar and I appreciate the direction he’s moving in.

What I mean about the different landscape is that the situation on the ground today is completely different from the way it was before Bashar went “into the tunnel” (in early 2005). Prior to the Hariri assassination, Syria was in full control of Lebanon, peace was nowhere on the horizon, Hizbullah was being fortified alongside the state instead of being encouraged to join it, corruption was rampant, etc.

Today, things look different.

a) Syria is no longer ruling Lebanon. I have no problem with “influence”. But direct rule was unacceptable, because it facilitated corruption, created antagonism between the two countries, and kept the Lebanese sectarian problems in “deep freeze”, rather than making it possible for the Lebanese to reconcile with each other and start building a proper system of governance.

b) Hizbullah has pointed itself in a different direction, namely the parliament. I regard this as supremely important. Back in 2000, Syria was rigging elections (on the request of the U.S.) to ensure that Hizbullah did not win too many seats, in exchange for facilitating peace talks. This could only lead to a stunted future for the Shi`a in Lebanon, and an indefinite postponement of any real state-building in the country. Things are different today.

c) Peace is on the horizon, inshallah.

Would things have moved in this direction anyway? Perhaps, but I doubt it. The events that followed Hariri’s assassination put a lot of pressure on the regime. You’re right: they didn’t buckle. But more importantly, in my opinion, they also didn’t just lift the drawbridge, withstand the onslaught, and go back to business as usual. The fact that Bashar has pursued peace talks so aggressively suggests to me that he has put the country on a fast track to change. Ya3ni, it doesn’t look to me (at least for now) that we are back in (or moving toward) the old landscape in which Syria and its corrupt little protectorate Lebanon were muddling along, with no clear direction. The world looks drastically different today, from Beirut and from Damascus. In a good way, ya akhi.

And by the way, what is your take on the delay of forming the new Lebanese government. I trully lost interest about that during the last few days. What is really happening you think?

From what I hear, they’ve agreed on a draft lineup. It’s impossible to know what was really causing the delay because objectivity is not a prized commodity these days in Lebanese journalism. M14 says that Aoun was responsible for the hold up because he was demanding 5 major ministries, and because the opposition in general wanted 11 portfolioed ministers, which seems like an unreasonable demand to me (given that there are only 14 ministries). The opposition says the delay is because Hariri suspended all talks due to the Tariq Jdideh incident.

Who knows? In my opinion, March 14 made a major mistake insisting on Saniora as PM. They should have gone with Safadi. I expect the next several months to be ones of bickering but hopefully no violence. Next year’s elections will show major gains by Hizbullah and Suleiman Frangieh, probably losses by Aoun. Impossible to know for sure.

June 6th, 2008, 4:02 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Iran’s Lebanese ‘aircraft carrier’

By Hugh Sykes
BBC News, Beirut

Indirect negotiations between Israel and Syria over a possible return of the Golan Heights have major implications for the Lebanese political and militant organisation Hezbollah.

A peace deal with Israel is likely to be conditional on Syria severing its connections with Hezbollah, but it would also remove Syria as the bridge to the group’s other state backer, Iran.

In Hezbollah’s stronghold in southern Beirut, Alam Shourab, a young manager of a mobile phone shop, is very happy with the movement’s dependence on Iran.

Here dozens of buildings and bridges that were bombed by Israel during the summer war in 2006 are being rapidly and impressively rebuilt mostly with funding from Iran.

“I think this is a good thing,” he told me, “Israel is supported by America, so there’s nothing wrong with Hezbollah being supported by Iran.”

The support is considerable. At the Carnegie Endowment independent think tank in Beirut, Paul Salem put it in a nutshell: “Hezbollah was set up, established, trained, armed, financed… wholly by Iran.”

He says Hezbollah has about 50,000 salaried employees and “a large modern army” – most of whom are paid with money from Tehran.

Fact on the ground

One of Hezbollah’s 14 members of the Lebanese parliament, Nawar al-Sahili, readily admitted it will be a problem for Hezbollah if the Syrian bridge from Iran is cut by a peace deal between Syria and Israel: “It will be difficult, but it will not be impossible.”

I asked Maitre Sahili (he’s a French-trained Beirut lawyer) if Hezbollah agreed with the Iranian president’s statements about the future elimination of Israel.

No, he said: “Israel is a fact now. And we are acting with this fact. Our border is the Lebanese border”.

He told me Hezbollah has no desire to conquer Israel, just to recover Lebanese prisoners and land they say is still occupied by the Israelis.

Would Hezbollah ever allow itself to be used by Iran in a greater strategy against Israel? “Definitely not, I can assure you,” Nawar al-Sahili replied.

Paul Salem agrees that Hezbollah is meant as a deterrent to Israel and the US, not a threat to Israel’s existence.

“For Iran it’s like an aircraft carrier. The US parks aircraft carriers in the Gulf next to Iran; Iran parks it’s own aircraft carrier in Lebanon – Hezbollah – which can wreak great destruction on Israel at a moment’s notice.”

But Iran is trying to gain a stronger foothold in Lebanon, according to the director of the Lebanon Centre for Policy Studies, Oussama Safa.

“Iranian influence is definitely up. When Syria was forced to leave Lebanon in 2005 there was a vacuum which was filled by Iran.

“The Iranian drive to gain more influence in Lebanon is to give them a direct influence without having to go through Syria.

“That’s possibly in preparation for a eventual peace deal between Syria and Israel.”

Cone conciliation

Away from Beirut’s Hezbollah heartland, I met people who deeply resent the growing power of Hezbollah.

Cafe owner Jihad Hakim is still furious about last month’s incursion into west Beirut by Hezbollah fighters, who fought street battles and burned down one of the studio complexes of Future TV.

“It was an invasion!” he said. “These people, they get all their orders from you know who, from Iran, from Syria. Iran wants a little army here.”

He was being restrained. Another man said it was a case of Hezbollah “raping the Lebanese capital, then setting her free and asking for a kiss”.

But the Hezbollah tactic worked. With the Doha agreement, mediated by the Arab league, Hezbollah and its allies in the unity cabinet will have a new power over government decisions.

There are posters all over parts of the capital now proclaiming: Beirut Back to Life. And Haagen-Dazs ice-cream were really quick off the mark.

Their posters say: Taste the Reconciliation – with the Doha Agreement Cone.

June 6th, 2008, 4:19 pm

 

Karim said:

Qn I think that the loyalist will remain the majority,because aoun will get half than he has now and the traditional parties like lf ,kataeb,ahrar ,murr will get the majority of christian votes ,sleiman beik will be obliged to work with future because karami is the most hated man in tripoli

June 6th, 2008, 4:20 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Karim

Aoun will not lose half; I think maybe he’ll take a 25% hit. In the meantime, I also think that LF and Kataeb will take some hits as well… their followers are disgruntled big time. Murr will do well.

I secretly hope that the election results will be a complete surprise. If there is even moderate campaign oversight to cut out the most egregious instances of corruption (vote buying, etc.) then this will make a big difference.

The sad thing is that 2009 is the ideal moment for independent parties and candidates to strike, but so far no one is stepping up to the plate.

June 6th, 2008, 4:38 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

German newspaper Die Welt will report tomorrow that President Bashar quietly crushed a coup plot on his life by Asef Shaukat. Assad was supposedly tipped off by Imad Mughniyah. Associates of Mughinyah were possibly behind the assasination on his life on Feb 12.

June 6th, 2008, 4:44 pm

 

Karim said:

and after 2009 élections the winner should refuse the bloc third wharever are thé winner a government can not work with veto power go the minority

June 6th, 2008, 4:44 pm

 

Alex said:

QN,

I liked this article.

I think within HA you will find these types

1) Purely focused on Lebanon, hoping to see political reforms that end up with one-man-one-vote true democracy… from which the Shiites expect to benefit.
2) Mostly focused on resisting against Israel and securing the country and their people.
3) Eager to play a bigger, regional, role .. especially after their summer 2006 victory which brought them the attention of the whole world.
4) Loyal to Iran (sectarian motivations)
5) Loyal to both Lebanon and Syria. (Arab nationalist)

Eventually, the sectarian ones, or those who want to destroy Israel will be a minority .. and their direction will become increasingly perceived as a threat to Lebanon’s well being.

Iran can NOT maintain a loyal party in Lebanon that is not supported by Syria, Syria’s pragmatic and secular friends and allies in Lebanon and a large number of the Lebanese Shiites.

I expect that Iran will be able to live with the new, mostly Lebanese-oriented Hizbollah.

June 6th, 2008, 4:45 pm

 

Karim said:

the Syrian regime did a good thing if it killed the iranian agent moghniya we don’t need such people in the capital of Umayyad and the next I hope will be nasralla

June 6th, 2008, 5:03 pm

 

Nour said:

Karim,

How about we gather all those who resisted Israel and execute them? Better yet, why don’t we join the IDF ourselves and fight in the frontlines?

June 6th, 2008, 5:10 pm

 

Alex said:

Karim said:

Even thé ikhwan say that they will not get more than 25percents ,and they are against the destruction of the state ,they are for a soft transition and against revange on baathists or alexis,zenibia ikhwan and hezballa are not thé same,ikhwan are mostly from thé cities from the middle class families and hezballa is a création of the iranian régime and is loyal to its external support and its survival dépend on it,they are of poor and rural origin.

Then the same urban and hogh class Karim said

“the Syrian regime did a good thing if it killed the iranian agent moghniya we don’t need such people in the capital of Umayyad and the next I hope will be nasralla

Dear Karim,

I’m sorry to tell you that your politically correct claims, and those of your equally sophisticated ikhwan, are not convincing.

Thank you for reassuring the “alexis” (the Christians) that the very peaceful ikhwan will not kill them. But when you follow it with your wish to see Nasrallah murdered “in the capital of the Umayyad”

And when you explain that the ikhwan are “from thé cities from the middle class families” whereas Hizbollah are “poor and rural origin” … one can see clearly where you come from.

Next time you express your wish for the next Shia leader to be killed, you will be banned from here. Read the rules of the blog.

June 6th, 2008, 5:18 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

This is a major bombshell… IF it is true. The story in Die Welt is out. I’ve pasted it below. My German is rusty but the gist is as Ehsani reports. Apparently 100 Syrian intellegence agents are in custody, for being in on the plot.

The reports about Bushra being spirited away to Dubai are apparently connected with this.

Remember there was a story in Le Figaro a few days ago making similar claims. And Stratfor had some kind of item on this back in February, which was when the attempt was stifled.

Putschversuch gegen Assad in Syrien gescheitert
Der syrische Präsident Baschar al-Assad sollte offenbar von seinem Schwager, dem Geheimdienstchef, entmachtet werden. Doch der Coup wurde kurz vor seiner Durchführung vereitelt. Mehrere Offiziere befinden sich seither in Haft. Die Botschaft in Berlin dementiert die Vorgänge.
Syrien Putschversuch Baschar al-Assad Geheimdienst
Foto: AP
Sollte er zum Opfer eines Putschversuches werden? Der syrische Präsident Baschar al-Assad
In Syrien ist offenbar ein Putschversuch gegen Präsident Baschar al-Assad kurz vor seiner Durchführung verhindert worden. Wie WELT ONLINE aus Geheimdienstkreisen erfuhr, war die Machtübernahme während des Treffens der Arabischen Liga Ende März in Damaskus geplant.

Kopf der Verschwörung soll der Chef des syrischen Militärgeheimdienstes und Schwager des Präsidenten, Asseff Schaukat, gewesen sein. Er wurde festgesetzt. „Entsprechende Informationen liegen uns vor. Offizielle Bestätigungen haben wir aber noch nicht“, sagte eine Sprecherin des Auswärtigen Amtes. Nach Informationen von WELT ONLINE sollen sich mehr als hundert Geheimdienstoffiziere, die für Schaukat gearbeitet haben, in Haft befinden. Die syrische Botschaft in Berlin bezeichnete die Meldungen als halt- und grundlos.
Kooperierte der Geheimdienst mit radikalen muslimischen Gruppen?
Dass Schaukat von Assad beschuldigt wird, einen Putsch geplant zu haben, wurde WELT ONLINE jedoch auch von ausländischen westlichen Sicherheitskreisen bestätigt, die im Nahen Osten gut vernetzt sind. Demnach sollen Mitte Februar zusammen mit Schaukat auch ein Dutzend Offiziere verhaftet worden sein, denen Verbindungen zu radikalen muslimischen Gruppen nachgesagt werden, die in Kontakt mit der Terrororganisation al-Qaida stehen. Schaukat selbst hat die Anschuldigungen zurückgewiesen. Er wurde jedoch seines Postens enthoben. Der Grund, warum er bisher noch nicht angeklagt wurde, liegt offenbar in seiner verwandtschaftlichen Beziehung zu Assad.
Schlagworte
Syrien Putschversuch Baschar al-Assad Militär Geheimdienst Staatsstreich Damaskus Berlin
Aus Sorge um seine Familie soll Schaukat seine Frau Buschra, die Schwester des syrischen Präsidenten, ins Ausland geschickt haben – zunächst nach Frankreich und dann in die Vereinigten Arabischen Emirate. Nach Informationen, die von diesen westlichen Sicherheitskreisen als nicht gänzlich bestätigt angesehen werden, soll Syriens Präsident Baschar al-Assad vom Chefterrorplaner der Hisbollah, Imad Mughnija, bei einem Treffen über die Putschpläne in Kenntnis gesetzt worden sein. Wenige Tage später wurde Mughnija am 12. Februar durch eine Sprengladung ermordet.

Viele Beobachter gingen davon aus, dass Israel hinter dem Anschlag stand. Sollten sich aber Informationen bestätigen, wonach Mughnija Syriens Präsidenten über den bevorstehenden Putsch unterrichtete, so könnten auch Kreise um den beschuldigten Geheimdienstchef Schaukat hinter dem Mord stecken, möglicherweise haben sie Israel den entscheidenden Tipp gegeben. Darauf deutet auch ein Interview von Mughnijas Witwe hin, die Syrien beschuldigte, Israel bei der Ermordung ihres Mannes geholfen zu haben. Syrien hält weiter den ursprünglich für Anfang April angekündigten Bericht über den Tod Mughnijas zurück.
Experten warnten vor einem drohenden Coup
Experten hatten erste Anzeichen für einen geplanten Regimewechsel in Damaskus bereits gesehen, als im Frühjahr der in Paris lebende Ex-Vizepräsident Abdelham Chaddam öffentlich den Geheimdienst-Chef Schaukat als den besseren Präsidenten bezeichnet hatte. Chaddam hatte das Land verlassen, weil er Präsident Baschar al-Assad für den Auftraggeber des Mordes an dem früheren libanesischen Ministerpräsidenten Rafik Hariri hält. Im Zwischenbericht des UN-Sonderermittlers Detlev Mehlis zu dem Attentat auf Hariri war der Präsidenten-Schwager Schaukat als einer der Beschuldigten genannt worden.

Weiterführende links

* Wie viele geheime Nuklearanlagen hat Syrien?
* Neuer Präsident lässt die Libanesen hoffen
* Israels geheimer Kontaktmann zu Syrien analysiert die Gespräche
* Syrien und Israel führen neue Friedensgespräche

Die USA hatten daraufhin 2006 die Konten von Schaukat gesperrt. Das Weiße Haus verwies auf die Rolle, die Schaukat bei der syrischen Unterstützung für den Terrorismus spiele. Als Chef des militärischen Geheimdienstes habe er „direkt zur Unterstützung des Terrorismus“ im Irak, im Libanon und durch radikale Palästinensergruppen beigetragen, begründete der damalige Regierungssprecher Scott McClellan die Maßnahme. Schaukat gilt in Geheimdienstkreisen als der Mann fürs Grobe.

Auch die Folterungen von Gefangenen soll er angeordnet haben. Dennoch kooperierte Deutschland mit dem Geheimdienstler. Beispielsweise war er im Juli 2002 zu Gast im Bundeskanzleramt. Das Treffen hatte nach offiziellen Angaben dem Austausch von Informationen zum internationalen Terrorismus dienen sollen.

Präsident Baschar al-Assad hatte Schaukat am 14. Februar 2005 zum Chef des militärischen Geheimdienstes ernannt. Es war derselbe Tag, an dem der damalige libanesische Ministerpräsident Hariri in Beirut durch einen Autobomben-Anschlag ums Leben gekommen war. Damals hieß es, dass der Präsident mit der Ernennung seines Schwagers zum Geheimdienst-Chef seinen Einfluss auf die Sicherheitsorgane stärken wollte. Bereits vor seiner offiziellen Ernennung war Schaukat der starke Mann im militärischen Sicherheitsapparat gewesen.

Das hatte er Baschar al-Assad zu verdanken, der die Heirat Schaukats mit seiner Schwester Buschra befürwortet hatte. Offenbar wollte Schaukat ihm dennoch jetzt in den Rücken fallen und selbst das Präsidentenamt übernehmen. Entsprechende Ambitionen wurden ihm seit geraumer Zeit nachgesagt.

Syrien wollte offenbar verhindern, dass Meldungen über den geplanten Putsch öffentlich werden. Es gab keine offiziellen Erklärungen oder entsprechenden Berichte.

Auf Anfrage teilte die syrische Botschaft in Deutschland denn auch mit, dass die Gerüchte nichts mit der Wirklichkeit zu tun hätten. In einer Stellungnahme heißt es: „Militärputsche gehören der Vergangenheit an. Syrien ist ein stabiles Land und spielt eine Schlüsselrolle bei der Gewährleistung der Sicherheit und Stabilität in der Nahostregion durch sein Eintreten für die Beilegung der regionalen Konflikte, wie durch die letzten Entwicklungen in der Region bewiesen. Deshalb ist es nicht verwunderlich, dass jetzt durch Gerüchte und Desinformation versucht wird, die Erfolge und die gewichtige Rolle Syriens in Misskredit zu bringen.“

June 6th, 2008, 5:48 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

I meant to say that associates of Asef were behind the feb hit

June 6th, 2008, 5:50 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Also, the article confirms that the Syrian embassy has denied the rumor. But Die Welt is not exactly al-Siyasa.

June 6th, 2008, 5:56 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

Thanks for the German translation. But I think you’ve got a spelling error – “Sicherheitsapparat” should be spelled with just one “p”, no? 🙂 But all jokes aside, given Bashar’s recent statement from the UAE saying that if Iran was attacked, Syria would not come to its aid, how do you think Hezbollah or Hamas would react? Let’s say that the U.S. attacks Iran, Iran lobs missiles also into Israel, which retaliates heavily. Now what do the two Iranian-backed organizations do? Sit aside, and watch it on TV? What’s your estimation?

June 6th, 2008, 6:10 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

The financial markets are ripe with rumours of a strike on Iran possibly as early as this weekend (these are markets after all). This has caused the single largest rise in crude NYMEX prices on record (in Dollar terms…up $10.57).

June 6th, 2008, 6:22 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Shai,

No clue. What could Syria/Hizbullah really do, offensively? Your thoughts? Let’s pray the Americans are not so stupid. Unless, of course, GWB is trying to bring about the end of days. Then I guess, it would be understandable.

Here’s an English round-up of the Die Welt piece… still can’t decide whether this is too fishy to be true:

Europe World News | Home
Berlin – A coup plot against Syrian President Bashar al- Assad was quietly crushed without the world noticing, the German newspaper Die Welt was set to report Saturday, quoting German and “foreign” intelligence sources. It said Syria’s military intelligence chief, Assef Shaukat, had plotted to seize power while Assad was hosting an Arab League meeting in Damascus in February. Shaukat, who is an in-law to the president, and 100 intelligence officers had been arrested.

Die Welt said Assad had been tipped off by Imad Mughniyah, a senior member of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah organization in Lebanon. Mughniyah was killed a few days later in a bomb blast on February 12 in Damascus.

The sources said it was possible that associates of Shaukat had assassinated him in revenge. Releasing the story Friday in advance of going to print, Die Welt said some of the plotters were allegedly linked to violent Islamist groups.

Die Welt said the Syrian embassy in Berlin had rejected the coup story as utterly untrue. Without naming a source, the newspaper said German diplomats were aware of the coup story but had not been able to confirm it as fact.

And here is what Stratfor said, back in February:

Syria: Reshuffling its Security Apparatus?
February 29, 2008 | 2202 GMT
Bashar al Assad and brother Maher — Take 2
RAMZI HAIDAR/AFP/Getty Images
A file picture dated June 13, 2000, shows Syrian President Bashar al Assad (R) and his younger brother Maher, chief of the presidential guard
Summary

Syria plans to make major changes in its entire security apparatus soon, Stratfor sources reported Feb. 28. The decision comes after the Feb. 12 assassination of key Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah in Damascus — an event that embarrassed Syrian President Bashar al Assad’s regime. With pressure coming from several fronts on Syria’s involvement in Lebanon, al Assad might benefit from cleaning house.
Analysis

Stratfor sources reported Feb. 28 that Syria plans to reshuffle its entire security apparatus soon in the wake of the Feb. 12 assassination of Hezbollah chief commander Imad Mughniyah. The Syrian regime, which is mightily embarrassed by the Mughniyah hit on Syrian soil, could use the event as an excuse to eliminate several key members of its security apparatus, including former head of Syrian intelligence in Lebanon Gen. Rustom Ghazaleh and Jamii Jamii, one of his key assistants — both of whom were likely involved in the February 2005 assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri.

With pressure building on Syria to cut a deal over Lebanon, Syrian President Bashar al Assad might benefit from cleaning house. Syria, Hezbollah and Iran are fighting an aggressive battle in Lebanon to expand Hezbollah’s political power in the Cabinet, ensure the next Lebanese president is favorable to Syrian interests and give Syria a clean break from the tribunal for the al-Hariri assassination. A formal removal of figures like Ghazaleh and his deputy could allow al Assad to demonstrate to the West and his regional rivals that his regime is taking concrete action against suspects involved in the murder, potentially paving the way for a broader agreement on the makeup of the Lebanese government.

Removing Ghazaleh would be largely for show, however. After the Syrian army pulled out of Lebanon in April 2005, the position of chief of intelligence in Lebanon was eliminated. After that, Ghazaleh was essentially put under house arrest and has been running a security office in the town of Rif Dimashq that holds little to no significance.

Depending on how far this military reshuffle goes, certain complications could arise that could threaten the stability of the al Assad regime. The big question is whether the regime will dare to dismiss Asef Shawkat, the director-general of Syrian military intelligence, who also happens to be the president’s brother-in-law. Shawkat has long butted heads with Maher al Assad, the president’s brother and head of the Republican Guard. Though this information has not been verified, a rumor is circulating that Shawkat could have had something to do with the Mughniyah assassination. According to a source, Shawkat was on bad terms with Mughniyah and resented his influence on the Syrian army. Maher, on the other hand, had a very strong relationship with the Hezbollah commander and reportedly had an altercation with Shawkat prior to the assassination. If these rumors are true, the al Assad regime would have an interest in removing Shawkat to shore up the regime’s alliance with Iran and Hezbollah following the Mughniyah assassination.

But Shawkat is a highly influential member of the Alawite-Baathist regime, and certain factions would not take his removal lightly. Family politics cannot be underestimated in a country like Syria; the al Assad clan is a subset of the Alawite sect, which in turn is a subset of the Syrian branch of the Baath Party. A rupture of any of the major fault lines in the regime could cause serious trouble on the home front. For this very reason, the Syrian president will probably not cause any major upsets within the security apparatus. U.S. warships are already parked off the Syrian coast, Saudi Arabia is taking the lead among the Gulf Arabs to isolate the Syrian regime diplomatically, and Israel is giving strong hints that it is looking for a fight with Hezbollah. With so many issues at stake, the Syrian president will need to err on the side of caution in managing family politics.

June 6th, 2008, 6:22 pm

 

Observer said:

I have one point to make:
Peace is not in the stategic interest of the regime in Syria. For it does not have the following guarantees:
1. A long lasting strategic relation with the US on a par with that of Israel

2. A guarantee not to use force or the UN to change the regime

3. A continuation of the state of emergency under which the constitution is suspended since I do not know when

4. A continuation of the massive security apparatus and a hold on all the key and sub key posts in the government by a minority sect

5. A continuation of control of the economic pipeline of investments and entrepreneurship in the country in the hands of a few.

Some have objected to my saying so in the past thinking that I meant a destruction of the minorities that share power in the country: the regime needs to be uprooted completely. The regime like that of the other statelets, families, tribes, and clans does not have the two essential ingredients for a democratic process to take root:

Legitimacy

National Identity

June 6th, 2008, 6:26 pm

 

EHSANI2 said:

Stratfor has got a lot wrong in the story. For starters, Asef is not Alawi contrary to common belief.

June 6th, 2008, 6:34 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ehsani

What do you make of the Die Welt/Le Figaro stories? I think rumors like this have circulated in the past. Same old same old?

June 6th, 2008, 6:37 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

Syria is being wise to send all the right messages. This is very true in general, by the way, for the past 3-4 years at least. Bashar is simply playing his cards amazingly well. Imagine, even the Dubya administration has gone from no-talking to the “axis-of-evil” member, to not minding it, to interested in having Israel and Syria talk. So Syria will not do much incase of an attack on Iran. That’ll piss the Iranians off a fair bit, but like the song goes “… you don’t always get what you want…”

As for HA, it seems to me that its main raison d’etre is resisting Israeli offensive action, be it against the Lebanese, the Palestinians, and certainly against its biggest patron, Iran. Let us not forget, who rebuilt HA’s entire army, equipment, etc.? Who made sure HA once again has tens of thousands of short and medium range rockets? Not to mention quite a few long range ones as well. As the article you mentioned (Lebanon as an Iranian aircraft carrier), HA is there to serve as a formidable deterring factor against Israeli aggression. If Israel attacks Iran, what legitimate reason would HA have for not attacking Israeli cities? Because it now achieved more political power in Lebanon? The opposite, HA has already seen how despite summer 2006, and the ensuing blaming of HA for also being responsible for the deaths of 1500 innocent Lebanese citizens (not to mention the horrific damage brought upon Lebanon), what happened? HA got stronger, not weaker.

HA generates its power from anti-Israeli sentiments. And what better way to create more of it, than to force Israel to once again attack Lebanon? But this time, HA won’t be the one initiating (i.e. kidnapping IDF soldiers), but rather, responding to the the Arab’s “muslim brothers” in Iran, being attacked by the American and Zionist regimes… True, attacking Israel may end up costing HA another internal war in Lebanon. But given the recent events, pre-Doha, I don’t think HA is too worried about that happening again. After all, in theory at least, it could have taken over the country in a coup d’etat. It might consider that next time, American forces may land in Lebanon to aid the opposition, but that too might play into their hands, because they know American forces can’t stay in Beirut forever. In short, HA might be willing to sacrifice a lot of Lebanese blood, just to show support of Iran, and perhaps to gain even further power in Lebanon. I wouldn’t count on correct calculations on the part of Nasrallah. Plus, let’s not forget who may well be giving him the orders. If Iran’s attacked, I wouldn’t discount HA’s response.

Course, I’m hoping I’m wrong on all accounts. No attack on Iran, no attack by Israel, no counter attacks by HA or Hamas. Maybe I’m innately pessimistic (though I don’t think so), and though I still believe in peace in our region, and I still dream of the so-called UME, but I’m starting to sense the winds-of-war in the air. Someone, probably GWB, wants to go out with a “bang”. Olmert wants peace with Syria, Dubya wants to “kick some butt”, and renew the stockpiles of the weapons manufacturing companies, in which he owns a fair bit of shares. Who knows… He was a male-cheerleader in High School. Maybe he’s starting his Iranian “Go Hail Mary” soon…

June 6th, 2008, 6:55 pm

 

ugarit said:

AIG: I believe that there may be a technological divide. However, evading radar by taking the “back way”, i.e. through Iraq, Jordan or Turkey implies that Syria’s defenses were satisfactory for a frontal attack but not a rear one. Why would Israel attack from the rear if Syria’s air defenses are inadequate? If the attack was from Iraq I don’t think Syria would have had time to scramble jet fighters to intercept the Israeli ones. What’s the closest military airport to the site?

June 6th, 2008, 6:57 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

The attack on Iran will not be this weekend. I am 100% sure. There will be an attack but there are several other things that need to be tried first.

Palace coups in dictatorial regimes are not uncommon. What would be interesting to learn is the motivation for this coup. Was it just a power grab or something more? Are there deep divisions emerging about the peace process or some other issues?

June 6th, 2008, 7:00 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Shai

I can’t see Hizbullah attacking Israel after a strike on Iran. Maybe I’m wrong. The 2006 war was in response to Israel’s attacking Lebanon. The reaction within Lebanon towards Hizbullah would be different for a strike in support of Iran.

Hizbullah would gain much more — politically — by just allowing the highly negative feelings (to say the least) surrounding a strike on Iran by America, to wash over its allies in Lebanon.

Just my feeling. Maybe I’m wrong.

June 6th, 2008, 7:12 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ugarit,
Like any country, Syria always has jets in the air and some with pilots ready to take off in a moment’s notice. But the outdated Syrian migs have very little chance against the Israeli fighters.

The planes that buzzed Asad’s home came through the front door. I don’t think there is much difference.

June 6th, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

I hope you’re right… I’m always fearful of the markets, and how they tend to “smell” things well in advance. I really hope we’re not about to go on another adventure in our region. This one could be very costly, to the entire region. Iran could target American bases, oil fields in the region, Israel, etc. In the end, it could look like a mini World War 2.5 (and not the touch-screen version, the REAL version). I really hope cooler minds will prevail.

June 6th, 2008, 7:16 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

QN,
What bad feelings? The Sunnis and Christians in Lebanon will not think better or worse of Israel and the US if they attack Iran. They are not fans of Iran and they are not fans of Israel.

I agree with you that hizballah will not attack Israel.

June 6th, 2008, 7:18 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

AIG

They may not be fans of Iran, but a strike against it would be highly unpopular. They weren’t fans of Saddam either, and you would be hard pressed to find a single Lebanese who supports the Iraq war.

This unpopularity would reflect very badly upon the M14 bunch. They are already bending over backwards to avoid Condy’s loving embrace. The most comical was Johnny Abdo a few months ago on Kalam al-Nas. When asked the question: “Is March 14 allied with America?” he responded: “No. We are not allied with America. But America is allied with us (!!)”

June 6th, 2008, 7:57 pm

 

ausamaa said:

Nobody is not going to attack nobody, the old US military doctrine built on the principale of readiness for fighting two wars on two different fronts at the same time has not been changed yet. Besides, the US AArmy is stretached very thin at the moment in terms of Men and Equipment.

Besides, fight a war for what? Destroy a couple of sites in Iran and risk opening the large doors of Hell with Iran before closing the little doors of Hell in Iraq?

No way, and risk the 130,000 US troops in Iraq and the Oil fields in Dhahran and the Hurmuz straights, and Tel Aviv and Israel coming under hundreds of types of rockets (from three or maybe four directions)?

The “urge” of hitting Iran maybe there, but the mission is not clear, the fighting will is not strong enough, the resources are not availlable, the costs are incalcuable, and not all residents of Political DC are not as stupid as its being portrayed to be.

Besides, that AIG who is today incarnating General Von Clauswitz assures us: it is not going be during weekend. There you have it!

A foot note: Never mind what the Syria’s official reported position is, but if, just if, IRAN is attacked in a serious manner, as opposed to mere theatrical air attacks stuff, Syria will be in, Hizbullah will be in, Hamas and Fateh will be in, and most dangerous of all, the Shieats of Iraq will be more “in” than any one else which is not a very attractive scenario for the Pentagon.

So, you tell us if war on Iran is a plausible option.

On the wish list, yes, on the to do list, NO WAY.

June 6th, 2008, 11:50 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ausamaa said:

On the wish list, yes, on the to do list, NO WAY.

I agree. It’s sabre-rattling. And actually the White House uncharacteristically came out and insisted that they want to solve the nuke issue “diplomatically”, just hours after the Israeli minister threatened that Israel would attack Iran on its own.

Like, hint hint… we’re not willing or able; presently indisposed, that sort of thing.

June 7th, 2008, 12:16 am

 

norman said:

QN,

Do you think that things reached a dead end in Lebanon .?

June 7th, 2008, 2:05 am

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Ammo Norman

No, I think it will be solved in a few days. People on both sides are saying that the ministries are mostly accounted for. Aoun wants the Finance ministry, but Saniora wants Azour to keep it… a few other things, and it should be straight.

Sarkozy is visiting Saturday.

June 7th, 2008, 2:38 am

 

karim said:

he Shieats of Iraq will be more “in” than any one else which is not a very attractive scenario for the Pentagon

Sahelnome Aussama ,kerbala and najaf the most sacred places for them are already occupied(,if they are not dying for their own land why will they die for the pesrians?.and the iraqi shias hate the persians unlike the lebanese of nasrolla

June 7th, 2008, 3:19 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Right, the Syrians said they will not attack but they will, Hamas and Fatah (most amusing) and Hizballah will attack Israel for Iran. No they won’t. Iran will be attacked. Not this weekend but if they continue enriching uranium they certainly will be. Israel is not prone to sabre rattling. You will be hard fetched to find even ONE case in history in which Israel threatened to act and didn’t.

If the Syrians did not attack Israel for attacking Syria, will they attack Israel for attacking Iran? How stupid would that be?

June 7th, 2008, 4:45 am

 

ugarit said:

AIG said: “You will be hard fetched to find even ONE case in history in which Israel threatened to act and didn’t.”

This is so true. Another insight into the dark face of Zionism. Thank you again.

June 7th, 2008, 5:02 am

 

ugarit said:

AIG said:”Like any country, Syria always has jets in the air and some with pilots ready to take off in a moment’s notice.”

Yes, just like the US airforce during 911!!!

“But the outdated Syrian migs have very little chance against the Israeli fighters.

That’s quite true.

“The planes that buzzed Asad’s home came through the front door. I don’t think there is much difference.”

I ask you again if Syrian defenses are that weak (which they are) why would the attack on the alleged nuclear site have been done from the rear? What were they avoiding?

June 7th, 2008, 5:05 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Yes very dark. Israel does not threaten unless it is dead serious. If we were not so dark, we would threaten but actually not do anything, say like the Arab leaders.

June 7th, 2008, 5:07 am

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Ugarit,
Syria has migs in the air all the time. After all the flight time from Israel to Damascus is 10 minutes. Regarding the attack, there could be many reasons for attacking from different directions. For example, not wanting to fight the migs and thus making the Syrian humilation even greater. But the fact is that there were air defense systems in the area and they were taken out electronically.

June 7th, 2008, 5:14 am

 

ugarit said:

AIG said: “Israel does not threaten unless it is dead serious”

Oh believe me we know. Israel threatens so often that it’s bound to fulfill one those threats. It is in fact a threat to the whole region.

June 7th, 2008, 4:17 pm

 

Shai said:

AIG,

Flying at “economy cruise” (mach 2), an F-15 or F-16, crossing the Israeli border, reaches Damascus in a little over 1 minute. But against air-defense systems, that’s a lot of time.

June 7th, 2008, 6:31 pm

 

AnotherIsraeliGuy said:

Shai,
Not really. Only if you put them on automatic and trust them to shot without human intervention.

June 7th, 2008, 10:21 pm

 

Qifa Nabki said:

Suddenly everybody on SC is a military expert.

Enlightened, AIG, Shai, Ugarit…

This is a whole new side of you guys.

June 7th, 2008, 10:48 pm

 

Shai said:

QN,

I imagine Naji will be (even more) concerned now… 😉

Nah, it’s pretty common knowledge, here in Israel at least. But in a way, yes, I suppose most Israelis, at least those who served in the military, would be seen as ya’ani “experts” at things to do with the army. The training they receive, and the reserves duty they continue to do for many years, is quite serious. Course, that didn’t seem to help them too much against Hezbollah, or Hamas… They’re essentially taught to fight large armies, not guerillas. But most know about F-15’s…

June 8th, 2008, 5:51 pm

 

Akbar Palace said:

Ugarit said:

Israel threatens so often that it’s bound to fulfill one those threats.

Where were you the last 15 times Ahmadinejad threatened Israel (not including Hamas and the other cast of characters)?

Meethinks you’re tone deaf unless Israel sbeaks.

http://www.memri.org/

June 9th, 2008, 2:02 am

 

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