Israel Watches Syria, Hopefully, but Warily


JERUSALEM — As Israelis watch the bloody confrontation between the Syrian people and the government of President Bashar al-Assad, they are torn by two sentiments: The downfall of Mr. Assad would deal a major blow to Iran and so would be welcome. But without a central authority, Syria could descend into being a land of chaos and terrorist bases on Israel’s northeast border.

In the Golan Heights town of Majdel Shams, Druse men took part last week in a protest against Israel’s control of the region.

Nearly a year into the Syrian uprising, the predominant view in Israel today is the former, that Mr. Assad must go, not only because he has killed thousands of civilians, but because he is a linchpin in the anti-Israel Iranian power network that includes Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Palestinian groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

“Iran is investing very heavily in trying to save the Assad regime,” Dan Meridor, Israel’s intelligence minister, said at a briefing on Monday. “If the unholy alliance of Iran, Syria and Hezbollah can be broken, that is very positive.”

Efraim Halevy, who has served as both national security adviser and chief of the Mossad intelligence agency, made a similar point in a recent opinion article, saying that close international attention to Syria could obviate any need for a much riskier military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities.

“Ensuring that Iran is evicted from its regional hub in Damascus would cut off Iran’s access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies,” he wrote in The New York Times. “This would be a safer and more rewarding option than the military one.”

Israeli government and intelligence analysts say they believe the most likely outcome of the current struggle in Syria is chaos. They base that on observing four parameters: the loyalty of Mr. Assad’s security forces, the economic situation, the participation in protests in the main cities of Damascus and Aleppo and the possibility of international intervention.

Their conclusions are that a vast majority of the Syrian security forces remain loyal to Mr. Assad, and that will not change soon; that Iranian economic aid to Syria is generous and vital and keeps the system going; that the participation within Damascus and Aleppo in antigovernment activity remains low; and that the chance of American or European military intervention in Syria is near zero.

“I see no appetite for any foreign power to come in and put boots on the ground, as happened in Afghanistan and Libya, and I see a divided opposition,” one government analyst said. “The American plate is totally full, and the same is true of the Europeans.”

As a result, Israeli officials and intelligence analysts say they also worry about an increased presence by Al Qaeda in Syria and the possibility that Syria’s large storehouse of arms could end up in the hands of Hezbollah and other anti-Israel groups.

At the annual Herzliya conference on Israeli security held several weeks ago, Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke of this concern.

“We are following in particular the possible transfer of advanced weapons systems to Hezbollah, which break the delicate balance in Lebanon,” he said.

He was referring to long-range ballistic weapons able to reach anywhere in Israel, advanced antiaircraft systems, which threatened Israel’s action over Lebanese airspace, and unconventional weapons, especially chemical, according to Prime Source, a risk consultancy firm in Israel.

If such a transfer of arms happened, Israel would have to decide whether to strike a convoy and risk provoking the Assad government into a direct confrontation with Israel, potentially shifting attention away from its internal woes, experts said.

Prime Source concluded that Israel would be likely to strike only if the weapons changed the strategic picture because they were, for example, chemical arms. If the weapons were interchangeable with those already in Hezbollah’s hands, Israel would most likely not attack, it said.

Israel captured the Golan Heights from Syria in 1967 and annexed it in 1981 in an act never accepted internationally. While Syria has not given up its claim to the area, it has kept the border trouble-free for nearly four decades. Still, Israel worries that Mr. Assad might lose control, permitting infiltrations, that the Golan Heights could become to the north what the Egyptian Sinai has become to the south: a staging ground for anti-Israel action.

This led an aide to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say that it was lucky Israel had never made a peace deal with Syria that involved a return of the Golan Heights, as the world has long urged, since it has served as a buffer to the violence in the past year.

Military planners are also concerned that Mr. Assad might preemptively attack Israel to produce a response and cause Arab nations to back off pressuring the Syrian government, though there has been no evidence such a move was being contemplated.

One issue that has created debate in Israel is how public a stand its officials should take against Mr. Assad. Mr. Barak and Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman have publicly called for his fall and condemned the civilian massacres, but Mr. Netanyahu has said less. His aides say he believes condemnation from Israel would allow Mr. Assad to accuse his opponents of being Zionist conspirators.

Among politicians on the left, there is more support for speaking out. Isaac Herzog, a member of Parliament with the Labor Party, said he had been in touch with Syrian opposition leaders in France and the United States and believes that such discreet contact will prove useful and that Israel needs to be on record against the Assad government.

“Most Israelis see Syria as a binary choice — Assad or nothing,” he said in an interview. “But there is a full revolution under way. I don’t think Israel should give the opposition a bear hug, but it should be open to important changes there. As one opposition leader told me: ‘We were brought up to believe that all evil comes from Israel. Now we see otherwise.’ ”

Mr. Herzog said he hoped Israeli Arabs could serve as a bridge with the new Syrian leaders. But Hussein Sweiti, a journalist with the Israeli Arab newspaper Al Sinara, said that was unlikely.

“It is very difficult for the Arab community in Israel to stand against Assad, since his was the only regime that supported the Palestinian issue and stood against Israel,” Mr. Sweiti, who has interviewed Syrian opponents for his newspaper, said by telephone.

Mr. Sweiti said that Al Qaeda, led by Ayman al-Zawahri, had entered Syria, adding: “Our community is in a difficult situation. We cannot be in the same line with Zawahri, Netanyahu and Obama against Assad. And no matter who rules in Syria they will want the Golan back.”

February 24, 2012 | 19 Comments »

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  1. The first point to emphasise here is that the Assad regime is broadly secular, as was that of ben Ali, Mubarak and Gadhafi.

    It is that factor that means that Qaradawi and The Muslim Brotherhood is opposed.

    They want to replace these secular regimes with Sharia regimes as quickly as they possibly can.

    In this they have the support of the US democratic Party, sections of the US republican Party, all of Eurabia, and all of what is misnamed the Left, which is really an anti trotskyist clique, and an anti Marxist cl;ique.

    The latter do not represent socialism. But it is quite permissible for engaged capitalist ideol;ogues to portray them wrongly as socialists.

    The Assads were the product to a large extent of Stalinism.

    But all of these details means little to somebody who has not studied the issue and anyway wants to confuse people about the history of Marxism, trotskyism and Socialism.

    It is here that Jews are at a turning point. Either they will descend into a barren and national parochialism or they will go forward and will broaden their minds in the rich history of the Jews and also in the rich history of socialism, which is Trotskyism today..

    I have met somebody (Jews News editor) who claims that Syria is not their affair. This utter bankrupt politics is going to get its come uppance rather sharpish. It is already doing so.

    But heck this takes the proverbial biscuit:

    “Felix, you miss understand. Its not about doing a favour for the Kurds. Its about a mutuality of interests. The SDC wants a secular democratic state that will be a federalist republic. Each minority, Kurds, Christians, Druze, and even Alawites will have their own region.
    This federation wants to be in bed with Israel economically and militarily.I wrote to my contact who has access to the halls of power in Israel and argued that the hands off policy of Israel is insane. Israel I said has interest here and must get off the fence.

    Who is this SDC anyway and where is the proof that they represent anything but themselves, a runt group, without even the salvation of principled politics.

    Because if the Kurds and Christians do not unite with the Alawites, with Assad as the leader of the Alawites, then they will face the replacement to Assad, which is of course Qaradawi and his Sharia friends.

    This is the crisis. It is all about the issue of leadership inside the Jewish people. Most Jews outside of Israel are too worried about their bank accounts, or are immersed in trivia such as who won in the Oscars. The Jews inside of Israel meanwhile have descended into religious rigmarole which leads them to think such things that Syria does not matter. There is no substitute for clear political thinking and you will not get it by studying the religious dogma of the Bible, or in a belief in a supernatural who quite obviously in the case of the gas ovens did not exist.

    I have seen mischievous things before but this position above concerning this miraculous SDC does take some beating.

    Mrs Clinton will not be at all unhappy with another knife being stuck into the back of Assad because that will ensure the victory of HER project, which is to replace secular rulers with Sharia rulers.

  2. “So now the Kurds are Jews?”

    It’s quite true that many survivors of the Bar-Kokhba Revolt [AD 130-6] fled the Land for Parthia.

    Further, there may well be an even older genetic relationship, Bland, courtesy of the 722 BC Assyrian Exile [the “Ten Lost Tribes”] and the Babylonian Captivity [586 BC].

    And not everybody who was released by Cyrus — after the Persian conquest of Babylonia [539 BC] — returned to the Land.

    In fact, up until the Farhud of 1941, the city of Baghdad was one-fourth Jewish.

    BTW, that particular pogrom, catastrophic though it was — courtesy of Hajj Amin el-Husseini & cohort — would have been far more deadly had it not been for the intervention of two brigades of the Royal Iraqi Army from the Kirkuk region — Kurds.

  3. “The downfall of Mr. Assad would deal a major blow to Iran and so would be welcome”

    Ethan Bronner, New York Times.

    Why so? Iran has to be stopped nuclear bomb wise by pulverising its ability to build nuclear bombs. And by no other way.

    Plus with Salafism in power in Syria and with Sharia Law in control tell us again Mr Bronner how would that weaken the centre of Sharia in the world, which is the iranian Mullahs and the Saudi Power structure.

    How would that weaken in the slightest the Iranian Regime and its Nuclear Bombs.

    What is at stake here is the leadership of the Jews. Just as Herzl in 1903 at the Sixth Congress was founding Bourgeois Zionism on the basis of deals with Imperialist Powers so now Bourgeois Zionism is still stuck firmly to the coat tails of Imperialism, especially of US Imperialism.

    Trotsky was about 80 per cent right in 1903 and by the 1930s he was 100 per cent right.

    Bourgeois Zionism has shot its bolt!

    4international repeats:

    Have nothing to do with US Imperialism except oppose!

    Strike with all means available, including Nuclear, against the Iranian Nuclear Bomb and at the same time say you seek unity with all progressives in the Iranian Nation

    Oppose Mrs Clinton’s Jihad against Assad. Strengthen and sharpen your defences against Assad but at the same time offer an Alliance against Mrs Clinton’s Jihad!

  4. BlandOatmeal says:
    February 26, 2012 at 4:14 am

    So now the Kurds are Jews? That explains why they massacred so many Christians. Concerning the Kurds, you’re WHEY off base, Yam.

    Who said they were Jews? Neither I or the quote claimed they were Jews. Maybe close genetic cousins though?

    They murdered many Christians? How many Kurds have Christians murdered?

  5. Yes, this administration is crazy (I’m not, but then I’m not a greedy prostitute who will toady to the terrorists who threaten us). And if Ethan Bronner is reporting, I must say I don’t believe much. He should have left his position as Jerusalem Bureau Chief long ago. His replacement, however, is not an improvement.

  6. So now the Kurds are Jews? That explains why they massacred so many Christians. Concerning the Kurds, you’re WHEY off base, Yam.

  7. Folks, let’s take a breath of fresh air and think for a moment.

    The US is experiencing Islam hatred in Afghanistan.

    Radical Islam is out of control. We know what Israel has been for many years and is still facing, Islam terrorism.

    I said many times, the US has to stop all aid to the Arab world, they hate us and they promote and support terrorism.

    We treat Israel as a step child and Israel is our only true friend and trusted ally in the ME.

    We aid the Palestinians and they continue to send rockets into Israel almost on a daily basis.

    Are we crazy.

  8. “…it was lucky Israel had never made a peace deal with Syria that involved a return of the Golan Heights, as the world has long urged, since it has served as a buffer to the violence in the past year.”

    A sobering thought for those who may have needed reminding.

  9. The SDC wants a secular democratic state that will be a federalist republic. Each minority, Kurds, Christians, Druze, and even Alawites will have their own region.
    This federation wants to be in bed with Israel economically and militarily.

    I think you are very very gullible

    Oh, you mean like Lebanon? That experiment worked out well didn’t it?
    I have heard that the Mossad is working hand and hand with the CIA and NATO?


    What did I say to be put in your category of an OPPORTUNIST?

    I do support the Kurds because we always have and I have fond memories of a one time Kurdish girlfriend, notwithstanding they are a potential counterbalance to Syria, Turkey,and Iran. And they got oil.

    A- Not sure if MB is better for us than is Assad? As bad as Assad’s are they are mostly rational actors and known entities, therefore they are predictable and to an extent deterred.

    B- It’s an open secret that America and NATO are behind the rebellion long delayed because Gaddafi took too long to fold and not without the help of British Mercenaries. ASSAD is probably telling the truth when he claims foreign elements are leading the rebellion against him led by Al Qaeda “Death Squads” brought in by the CIA and maybe even the Mossad to create an ersatz COLOR REVOLUTION.

    None of the casualty numbers have been independently verified or who caused them?

    My gut tells me that If America and Obama/Clinton want Assad out we should promote the opposite except in this case it might be a wash Both options are bad for Israel.

    C- I think the best option for us is a long term insurrection with Assad maintaining power but weakened by internal insurrection and cross border infiltrations from Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. Keep him busy and occupied while costing him blood and treasure big time. Iran will see he doesn’t succumb and Russia will protect his flanks in the UN and other international forums. Russia just sold Assad a billion worth of Jet Trainers and Syria gives the Russians a Med port and base.

    The Russians have a big stake in protecting Syria and Iran and they have an opportunity to stick it to the Americans with little cost to themselves as long as America loses.

    Interesting note re: Friends of Syria conference expected to be held in Tunisia’s capital Tunis aims at creating a scenario in Syria similar to the one, which materialized in Libya. Hillary Clinton’s “Enemies of Syria” Conference a Total Fiasco: Many No-Shows, No Russia, No China, No Presentable Syrians. So far they can’t come up with a Syrian Rebel who looks and talks the part of a pro West, pro Democracy face to get public opinion to rally around. Could be there isn’t any?

  11. Felix, you miss understand. Its not about doing a favour for the Kurds. Its about a mutuality of interests. The SDC wants a secular democratic state that will be a federalist republic. Each minority, Kurds, Christians, Druze, and even Alawites will have their own region.
    This federation wants to be in bed with Israel economically and militarily.

    I wrote to my contact who has access to the halls of power in Israel and argued that the hands off policy of Israel is insane. Israel I said has interest here and must get off the fence.


    Who Truly Deserves a State? The Kurds or the Palestinians?
    By Victor Sharpe

    Adiabene, petty kingdom that was a vassal state of the Parthian empire (247 bc–ad 224) in northern Mesopotamia (now Iraq). Its capital was Arba-ilu (Arbela; modern Irb?l). In the 1st century ad its royal family embraced Judaism; the queen mother Helena (d. ad 50), famous for her generosity to the Jews and the Temple, and her sons Monobazus II and Izates II were buried in the Tombs of the Kings at Jerusalem. Adiabene was frequently attacked by the Romans during their campaigns against the Parthians.

    It is interesting to note that several tombs of biblical Jewish prophets are to be found in or near Kurdistan. For example, the prophet Nachum is in Alikush, while Jonah’s tomb can be found in Nabi Yunis, which is ancient Nineveh. Daniel’s tomb is in the oil-rich Kurdistan province of Kirkuk; Habbabuk is in Tuisirkan; and Queen Hadassah, or Esther, along with her uncle Mordechai, is in Hamadan.

    After the failed revolt against Rome, many rabbis found refuge in what is now Kurdistan. The rabbis joined with their fellow scholars, and by the 3rd century AD, Jewish academies were flourishing

    According to a team of international scientists, a remarkable discovery was made in 2001. Doing DNA research, a team of Israeli, German, and Indian scientists found that many modern Jews have a closer genetic relationship to populations in the northern Mediterranean area (Kurds and Armenians) than to the Arabs and Bedouins of the southern Mediterranean region.


  13. I am closely connected to the Syrian Kurdish leadership and am a bridge from them to the PMO. To no avail, yet. I want Israel to embrace the SDC headed by the Kurds which want a secular federation on good terms with Israel. I keep hammering away.

    In the meantime I and my associates in the US are working toward getting the Republican candidates and Party to reject the SNC in favour of the SDC. This would amount to a full repudiation of Omama’s embrace of the Isdlamists in Libya, Egypt, Turkey and now Syria. For those who are unaware, the SNC is dominated by the MB and supported by the US and Turkey. They tell us that it is the dominant group but they are lying. SDC is. Stay tuned.

  14. HERE is a brief, thoughtfully and tastefully written account of a Hiroshima survivor. It begins,

    Monday, April 11, 2011
    I´m a Survivor
    It was just another normal day for me, for everyone. I can still remember this day like if it were yesterday. I woke up and did my daily morning routine. Instead of going to work, I happened to take the day off. That day I stayed at home with my brother. We were the only ones that survived from our family.
    It all happened in the morning. I was at my house reading the newspaper by the window besides my younger brother. My brother pointed at this blue flash of light in the horizon, and that’s when the bomb was dropped. It felt like it had all happened in slow motion. When my brother points at the sky I slowly turn my head to where he was pointing. I then feel this very hot wave of heat coming my way. The blast of the bomb was brutal; it had blown us away to the other side of the room and before I knew it, I was lying on the floor all injured. I felt really, really hot and a horrendous pain crept throughout my body. I could barely move and even though I was in pain, I did my best to help my brother.
    At first I thought something had happened in our neighborhood because I could hear my neighbors suffering, screaming for help. Maybe someone had thrown a small bomb. As I went outside I realized everything was dark. I was wrong something big had occurred. I couldn’t see the sky; it was pitch black. The day turned out from being a sunny summer day to a nightmare. You could hear everyone screaming, crying out loud for help.
    My brother and I went to look for some water near the river bridge. The river was full of dead bodies. The water was black and muddy. We were both real thirsty so we took some water with our hands and drank it. At that time, we didn’t know about radiation. Everyone was drinking water, black water full of radiation…

    Please read this account, and other accounts of Hiroshima survivors. Iran wants to destroy Israel with nuclear weapons. This is not saber-rattling, or posturing, or playing a “Big Game”. Israel must act quickly, to prevent what happened in Hiroshima from happening in Israel. Please get serious about this, and destroy the Iranian facilities. President Obama will go down in infamy, for his foot-dragging on this issue. He is, in effect, the worst of war criminals; because he is facilitating the Iranian nuclear terror state.

    World War III will not be a time when the world suddenly goes “poof”. There will be interminable suffering. Israel must ensure that this suffering is not poured out only on the Jews. The Second Holocaust must be stopped.

  15. The west siding with the the opposition comprising Al-Qaeda is utterly absurd, not to say self defeating. We have been battling the jihadis for over ten years and now we are suddenly facilitating a victory for our deadly enemies. The souls of some six thousand dead American troops are crying out in agony.

  16. Everyone is missing the obvious,Syria is now an ally of Iran & a direct connection to Hezbollah in Lebanon.Assad & his faction are Alawites,a Shiite sect.The Alawites,as Shiites,are in a perpetual 1300 year war with Sunni Islam.The Sunnis make up a large part of Syria’s population & are opposed to the current regime.If the Sunnis win or at least keep Syria in turmoil it will help isolate Hezbollah in Lebanon.With Syria preoccupied with rebellion Lebanon will have a chance to regain it’s independence.An independent Lebanon may be able to put an end to Hezbollah. Extreme Sunni Moslem elements gaining control of Syria won’t be that big a deal.Like their counterparts in Egypt,they don,t have the resources to make real trouble for Israel.They can make a lot of noise but they have too many internal problems to do much.The real threat to Israel,as well as the Sunni Arabs,is Shiite Iran.

  17. Israel is concerned that the opposition with extreme Islamists at the helm will replace Assad. How bad Assad is viewed , Islamists are much more feared.