Monday, July 02, 2007

War with Syria?

Battle of the Golan Heights, 1967 (Map Source: Wikipedia)

Uri Bar-Yosef is concerned about the lack of interest in negotiations with the Syrians. He argues that Israel is once again underestimating the enemy's willingness to go to war. From 1962 to 1967, Israel's political and military leaders believed that Egypt did not have a military option against Israel because of Nasser's embroilment in the war in Yemen. Hence, Israel persisted in escalating the conflict with Syria. According to Bar-Yosef, it was the domestic pressure inside Egypt, which eventually forced Nasser's hand and compelled him to move his army into Sinai. The lesson for today: pushing Assad into a corner could lead to a Syrian attack on Israel, which would be painful, even if unsuccessful.

Bar-Yosef seems to be arguing for the primacy of domestic politics in understanding the likelihood of a Syrian decision to go to war. This frame of reference, in his view, increases the possibility of Assad turning to a military option. On the other hand, if we were to see foreign policy and such measures as national interest and security as the primary factors, it would seem rather obvious that it is not in Syria's interest to attack Israel.

In the late 1960s and 1970s, West German historians such as Fritz Fischer, in his second work, War of Illusions (1969), and Hans-Ulrich Wehler in his German Empire (1972), suggested that the empire's ruling elite saw the war as a domestic stabilizing factor that would function to safeguard its power from the challenges of democratization. This thesis has since been heavily revised, but few historians today would argue for the absolute supremacy of foreign policy considerations in the decision to go to war.

Does Assad need a war (or peace agreement, for that matter) to stay in power? What would the cost-benefit ratio of such a decision be?

15 comments:

Nobody said...

According to Bar-Yosef, it was the domestic pressure inside Egypt, which eventually forced Nasser's hand and compelled him to move his army into Sinai.

it's probably open to doubt, isn't it ??

Amos said...

For sure, Nobody. I was just summarizing his argument. Bar Yosef's interpretation of this recent history is used to support his claim that Syria might act against Israel, similarly motivated by domestic pressures.

Anonymous said...

Hazbani
Some how Iran was out of this speculation by Bar-Yosef. The known facts are that about 20 months ago Syria did not have the logistics backings and the weapons needed to start a premeditated war against Israel. Since then Iran has been pouring very many millions in procuring weapons for Syria. Talking just about modern Russian planes one start hearing numbers with more than nine zeroes. Add to this electronics, AA weapons ect. very expensive investment. As for modern AA Systems that the Russians may sell Syria these will get to Iran in no time, wonder if Bush and Putin are talking about these things too. In any case one can not belive that the so called "Syrian public opinion" a rare and unique bird will affect the Iranian decision when and where these weapons, bought with their money, will be put to use. The Egyptian-Israel model was used by Bar-Yosef to argue his case. Using this same model it can be said that in the Egypt-USSR give and take Egypt have had much ( realy very much) more freedom than Syria versus Iran. Surely the Iranian control of these toys, bought with Iranian money, is affected not only by paper agreements. As for domestic pressure in Syria? well the El Hama system of pressure release can be used again. War can happen i.e. if some missile, shot by unknowns, will hit a summer school in Israel. But there will be no premediated war between Syria and Israel without Iran willing it. Also integrating all these toys into a real war like Syrian army will take time. But these are speculations and in reality anything can happen. Just think about a sudden news that Assd Jr., king Abdulla of Jordan, or Hosney Mubarak has met his exploding car and is now on the way to the 72 virgins, many other things like that can happen every moment. Syrian public opinion? perhaps also.

Amos said...

Hazbani,

I like your point, and I tend to agree that in the case of Syria today, foreign policy considerations have primacy.

Using this same model it can be said that in the Egypt-USSR give and take Egypt have had much ( realy very much) more freedom than Syria versus Iran.

Do you mean during the War of Attrition or in 1973?

Eamonn said...

An open question for the house; in the event of war breaking out, what should Israel's war aims be?

Daled Amos said...

Hi, I am tagging you with a meme--should you decide to accept it:

Each player lists 8 facts/habits about themselves. The rules of the game are posted at the beginning before those facts/habits are listed. At the end of the post, the player then tags 8 people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know that they have been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

Kol Tuv.

Amos said...

In response to Eamonn's question about war aims: how about forcing Syria to cede the Golan to Israel? :)

If, God forbid, Assad were to miscalculate and start a war against Israel, the country would have its hands full defending its cities from missile attacks in the first 24-48h. At the same time, Israel would have to fend off incursions by Syrian special forces into the Golan, and worse, should the former manage to break through the defenses and capture key targets. Concurrently, Israel's towns in the north and south, as well as its strategic facilities (such as the Haifa refineries) would face repeated rocket and mortar attacks from south Lebanon and Gaza. No doubt, the Palestinians and Hizbullah would also try smaller cross-border raids on IDF outposts. The first immediate war aim would be to defend the home front, strategic sites, and military installations from such a combined assault. The home front command would also face the dilemma of whether to put the country on alert for a non-conventional attack.

Given a preemptive strike by Syria, Israel would have no choice but to aim straight for Damascus. Its air force would be working overtime on several different fronts. The navy would be used for both shelling of the Gazan and Lebanese shores, as well as for more serious engagements off Latakia. This will doubtlessly lead to many civilian casualties.

In Syria, the Israeli air force would have to face the as yet untested new anti-aircraft defenses, as well as the Syrian air force in the skies. The Israeli air force will have to prove its long-range missile-hunting capabilities, in an effort to forestall more lethal attacks on its towns once the Syrians get desperate and are given a green light from Iran. Israel would surely aim to inflict a punishing blow against the Syrian land forces. Obviously, the key to this will be its armored and infantry brigades. Israel would try to do to the Syrians what the Americans did to the Iraqi army and republican guard.

There is no doubt that we could expect to see heavy rocketing and shelling from south Lebanon throughout the war, just like last summer. But given Syria's ballistic and non-conventional arsenal, this might be the least of Israel's problems.

Anonymous said...

I would prefer peace. I may be very naive but I think that war with Syria would be easier than the Lebanon fiasco.....There were no real plans to fight a "limited" war with Lebanon. I am sure that the IDF has had plans to fight the Syrians in the making constantly. And the fact that iranians have sold Russian planes to the Syrians.......it takes awhile to get trained into those "magnificent" machines. I would still prefer peace but Baby Assad has a lot of problems, and war w/ Israel would enhance his image...............

Nobody said...

i have a post that you may be interested to see and comment on .. i bet you are familiar with my rate of posting .. you know, it will soon disappear somewhere in the archives ...

Amos said...

Dear Daled Amos,
Thanks for tagging. It will take a while for me to reciprocate, but I'll definitely check out your blog.

Amos said...

I highly recommend the post suggested by Nobody above. Here's an excerpt:

It is the enormous pressure put on water, land and other resources of the region by the relentless Arab demographics that makes one fully comprehend the meaning of a saying I once heard in Russia. Children, the saying goes, are like flowers of life growing on their parents' graves. Translated to Arabic the saying retains much of its original meaning with two minor differences - there are no flowers and everybody eats shit in the end.

Anonymous said...

Hazbani
Just looked at the news. Syrian Army has gone three Km into Leb. in the Beka. They are rapidly building fortifications to prevent an Israeli attack north of the Litani knee and then east. It is not that far from a battle site where the three MIA Israelis and their tank were last seen in the last Syrian Israeli Armour skirmish in the Israeli-Syrian war.
Could one of the Leb. bloggers please tell us why the Hizb. "the protectors of Leb." are doing nothing against Syria? Should not this question be asked loud and clear in Lebanon, even if the respons is known ? Also it is a cleare slap in the face of the UN secratery, who just left Dimask and his Italian general. Thing are getting hot also in the south were obviosly Barak has told the IDF to increase the pressure on Gaza. War, if it comes, is going to be real hell.

Eamonn McDonagh said...

Any war that breaks out is not going to be a walk in the park for any of the participants. However, it's hard to imagine that it would end without the Syrian armed forces taking a severe beating and lots of infrastructure in Syrian knocked to pieces. Could the current regime survive that? Who/what might take their place?

Nobody said...

Could the current regime survive that? Who/what might take their place?

if the regime falls the country will most probably disintegrate ... the kurds will take their part .. the alawis may try to recreate their own state in latakia .. and the sunnis may also slide into some kind of a civil war ...

Nobody said...

i have another post that you may be interested to check ... though you d better not to publish this in your comments section because the discussion in the comments of the post is atrociously not politically correct ..

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