Signs Show That Syria Is Ramping Up For a Major Conflict
Syria said that it fired on Israeli planes today.
The Syrian government reported that Israeli aircraft dropped “munitions” inside Syria overnight- AP.
Reuters misreported the incident (with an anti-Israeli slant):
Syria accused Israel of bombing its territory on Thursday and said it could respond to the Jewish state’s ‘aggression and treachery’. (Graphic/Reuters)
After the news that Syria had fired on Israeli planes,
Daniel Diker from the Jerusalem Center For Public Affairs authored this analysis of the current situation by Yaakov Amidror the former Head of Intelligence Assessment of the Israel Defense Forces:
Anatomy of Syrian Israel Tensions.
Major General (Res)Yaakov Amidror
The recent aerial incident involving reported Israeli airforce activity over Northeastern Syria along the Turkish Syrian border comes in the context of disturbing trends in Syrian military behavior. It is important to recall that Syria has served as a primary conduit to building up Iranian backed Hizbullah prior to the outbreak of the second Lebanon war in July 2006. Damascus supplied the majority of the heavy payload rockets Hizbullah fired at Israel including Grad-type 122mm Katyushas “220mm rocket,”(probably Syrian-manufactured Russian “Ouragan” Multiple Launch Rocket System [MLRS]) and “B302” 302mm rockets. Syrian supplied rocket warheads usually contained anti-personnel munitions, of a mixture of lethal explosives and steel balls or fragments.
It should also be noted that Syria has increased the tempo of its military excercises and has removed road blocks that existed for years between Damascus and the city of Kunetra that is adjacent to its front line with Israel.
Historically, The Syrian Israeli military balance has been characterized by a gross asymmetry in Syria’s favor in the standing active service formations along the Syrian Israeli border. While Syria maintained its army in battle ready status, the bulk of the Israeli army was and continues to be organized around its army reserve forces that are only mobilized in the event of an imminent attack. For example, in October, 1973, Israel was forced to repel a massive Syrian ground assault with only 177 tanks against a total Syrian force of 1400 tanks that stretched back from the Golan Heights to Damascus providing an advantage of more than eight to one in Syrian armor.
At present, Syria’s behavior is a function of the following factors:
1. The Syrian perception that it has a realistic military option against Israel based on their view of Hizbullah’s successes in last summer’s war.
2. Syria’s continued sponsorship of radical Palestinian Islamic terror groups including Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine PFLP, and other Jihadi organizations.
3. A massive Syrian military build-up focusing primarily on scud (B,C,D) heavy rockets and chemical warheads with a massive commensurate increase in military spending over past ten years.. The primary Syrian armament build of the past few years includes a major investment in chemical weaponry in which Syria has become a regional superpower. It is important to stress that Damascus’ strategic decision to build up its military arsenal preceded the US decision to provide advanced military weaponry to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Israel.
Syria’s recent military build up is all the more destabilizing in view of the decision by Russia to upgrade its influence in the region by providing state of the art Russian weaponry and military technologies and to reopen a Russian Naval base on the Syrian Coast. Additionally, Iran’s huge petro-dollar driven financing capabilities has played a major role in Syrian weapons procurement.
Current Syrian Israeli tensions are also punctuated by the additional Syrian strategic need to free itself of international pressure in the context of its continuing involvement in destabilizing Lebanon as well as Damascus’ interest in shaking off ongoing international pressure stemming from Syria’s suspected main role in the murder of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.
Syrian concerns over its deepening international isolation is also a function of its key role as a primary line of supply of weaponry and volunteers that continue stream unfettered over the Syrian Iraqi border to the Iraqi insurgency against US coalition forces as has been confirmed By General George W. Casey Jr, former US Commander in Iraq.
Yaakov Amidror was former Head of Intelligence Assessment of the Israel Defense Forces.