[It's ten o'clock at night in San Francisco, I'm full of caffeine, and probably no longer thinking straight. I would really love it if the readers rip this posting to pieces point by point.]
In postings both on Jameel's blog
and at Joe Settler
the chance that Israel will soon be at war with Syria is mentioned.
Is war with Syria this year likely? I believe it is.
Is war with Syria this year inevitable? Not necessarily.
Is it desirable? No.
If war breaks out with Syria in the Summer or Autumn of 2007, there will be involvement, in varying degrees, of several enemy entities: Syrian military and Syrian irregulars, Iran , Hezbollah, plus Hamas and other Palestinian elements (partly coordinated from Damascus).
Syria’s rulers have drawn closer to and gained support from Iran in recent years, to the point where they can now reject pressure towards democratic and economic reform from the West, and have further strengthened their grip on all levels of Syrian society. To a lesser extent, this also applies to Lebanon, despite developments there since the assassination of Rafik Hariri.
In this they have been aided by events in Iraq, which have served as an object lesson - the prospect of 'democracy' has been tarnished by events in Baghdad and the idea itself has shown its dangerous side to a profoundly conservative population. United States success in Iraq (not likely) would present both Iran and Syria with a problem and a threat, whereas a US failure, while presenting risks, would allow both Iran and Syria to continue building their co-operation, advancing their own agendas, and expanding their influence in the region.
In relation thereto, Syria does not want the Sunni
A profound change in the Middle-Eastern realities will possibly benefit both Syria and Iran more than maintaining the current status quo.
THE POSITION OF SYRIA
Syria considers itself as the nation most entitled to present the Arab and Palestinian cause, and does not trust that the negotiations scheduled for this November will yield results satisfactory to Syria.
Specifically, Syria can and will not permit a comprehensive peace treaty with the Arab world unless the Golan Heights are returned.
In recent months Syria increased weapons production and significantly improved its arsenal, and has moved both forces and materiel to the border, where their intelligence activities have increased and fortifications have been strengthened. Training of forces (both regular and irregular) has intensified, and there is a likelihood of activity by guerillas leading to an all-out confrontation.
A Syrian war against Israel would mean conflict on several fronts, including the Lebanese border, Gaza, and the West Bank.
Scuds and Katyushas from both the Lebanese area and Syria proper would cause significant damage and disruption. Given recent Syrian tests coordinated with the Iranians, rocket range is probably 200 miles plus. Syria has warned that in the event of war with Israel, hundreds of missiles would hit Tel Aviv.
Further adding to Syria’s arsenal, Russia boosted Syria’s capabilities with an advanced anti-aircraft missile network (the Russian SA-18 anti-aircraft system), providing more anti-Aircraft coverage than any Arab state has ever enjoyed.
If Syria were to invade the Golan, a massive ground force supported by their advanced anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons could seize and hold the area until a cease fire.
Which means that Israel would lose the Golan.
This would be a strategic and political disaster, and would prove damaging to Israel's position, on many levels, and internationally.
THE POSITION OF IRAN
Iran needs a major shift in Middle-eastern reality. Time and Ahmedinejad's term of office are both limited; for Ahmedinejad, events in the Middle-East must come to a head soon in order to scuttle international efforts against Iran's strategic initiatives (i.e. nuclear 'power' and regional influence). A limited Syrian war with Israel, with Iranian involvement, would boost Ahmedinejad politically, disrupt current anti-Iranian efforts, and probably prevent moderates from gaining power in Iran for the foreseeable future.
Iranian involvement would include but not necessarily be limited to Chinese-made C-802 missiles (which were supplied to Syria in the Spring of 2007), technical assistance, and seconded personnel as advisors (*).
* It should particularly be noted that since the American invasion, Iranian Revolutionary Guards and other branches have gained much practical experience in Iraq that can be applied elsewhere - this was already evident in Lebanon in 2006.
THE POSITION OF HEZBOLLAH
Syria has re-armed Hezbollah to such an extent that their capabilities are greater than before the 2006 war in Lebanon. Rockets, in particular, have been provided in significant quantity - including materiel from Iran. This indicates a preparedness to strike deep inside Israel.
The 2006 war showed that Israel is not prepared for the military action needed to eradicate Hezbollah, nor willing to recapture and hold territory in Lebanon.
Sheikh Nasrallah is committed to action in any case should hostilities break out.
THE POSTION OF HAMAS ET AL
First of all, it is well to remember what seems to be the golden rule of Palestinian politics: when events spiral out of control, denials increase.
FATAH: While Fatah offically is quiescent towards the Israelis, unofficially there are still the alliances of convenience and opportunistic co-operative ventures with violent elements. Fatah itself is an unreliable and ineffective partner; many of Fatah's members have a commonality of purposes with Syria and Hamas, or are influenced by foreign elements, and can easily be prompted into action. If there is war with Syria, there will be violence in the territories.
HAMAS: While there is no serious threat to Hamas' position in Gaza, they have reached their limits there unless the blockade is broken and the realities change. But they are still active in the territories, along with Islamic Jihad and several other groups, and there too Syria has influence. Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad have offices in Damascus, along with most other branches of the Palestinian enterprise.
Hamas, like Hezbollah, has more guns and ammo than they've ever had before, and their position and credibility are based upon being an effective force.
It is only because of their actions that they have received funding and assistance from outside, particularly from Iran and Syria. It is therefore a certainty that if war breaks out between Syria and Israel, both Hamas and Islamic Jihad will go into overdrive.
And they may even engineer the precipitating event of such a war.
THE POSITION OF THE OUTSIDE WORLD
Bluntly put: forget it.
Europe will not act on Israel's behalf without Israel making such concessions to both Fatah and Hamas as would amount to suicide, and in any case European public opinion can be counted on to be firmly opposed to Israel. Military involvement is entirely out of the question.
The United States has got its hands full in Iraq, and the president is in no position to forcefully commit the United States to Israel's defense at present. The political price of such an act at this time would cripple the current government and the Republican Party, and the United States would be faced with increased international isolation.
Turkey, Jordan, and Egypt would at best stay neutral, at worst would actively work against Israel. There are substantial political factions in all three of these countries who would welcome any war between Syria and Israel, and the position of all three countries would greatly improve in relation to the rest of the Islamic world if they abstained from any actions advantageous to Israel.
The United Nations can be safely relied upon to do absolutely nothing, achieve absolutely nothing, and mean absolutely nothing.
Many experts have already concluded that war is likely.
Syria has no reason to wait - it is clear that there is no discussion possible about the Golan, and they may well consider that successful negotiations require a change in the realities on the ground beforehand.
Iran has no reason to wait - international pressure on them (see above) will only increase.
Hezbollah has no reason to wait - they held their own against Israel in 2006, and they have been ascendant since then.
Hamas has no reason to wait - Gaza will only get worse, and opposition to their authority will increase.
All parties are at a state of readiness which is unprecedented, and there is little that will decrease the tension.
There is no better time for war than now.
Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael