Syria prepares — for what?

What are they up to?

A member of the Syrian parliament, Muhammad Habash, confirmed on Tuesday that his country was actively preparing for war with Israel, expected to break out in the summer, Israel Radio reported.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Habash said it was no secret that the Syrian military was arming itself for the upcoming confrontation with the IDF.

He also claimed that the Israeli government was the one that wanted the war so that it could survive politically. — Jerusalem Post

This last part is nonsense. This government would not be helped by war, and in fact is doing everything possible to avoid conflict, even in places where it should perhaps be more aggressive, such as Gaza.

The IDF is taking Syrian activity quite seriously:

OC Military Intelligence Chief Maj. -Gen. Amos Yadlin also referred to the northern border in his briefing to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee of the Knesset.

“Syria is making very real preparations, cleaning army posts, conducting large drills and strengthening defenses. They are reaching a state of readiness for war more than in the past, but this doesn’t mean they’ll be ready for war tomorrow. The Syrians have a very large quantity of long-range missiles. They do not need to move forces around to attack with these missiles.

Within the IDF, movement of Syrian forces towards the Golan Heights border is considered a preliminary sign for potential escalation and allows the army time to prepare – usually 48 hours. Over the past few months the Syrian army raised its level of alert, thus effectively eroding most of the preliminary signs. Together with the long-range missiles mentioned by Yadlin, the implications of the latest developments are that Syria can potentially catch Israel by surprise. — Jerusalem Post

A surprise attack by Syria, especially if it targeted population centers with medium-range missiles, would be very, very foolhardy. Even combined (as it probably would be) with assaults by Hezbollah and Palestinian groups, there is no imaginable way it could prevent a massive Israeli counterstrike. It’s hard to imagine that Syrian President Bashar Assad is not well aware of this.

As I’ve written before, one possibility is a limited attack by Hezbollah and Hamas. In this scenario, the Arabs would be able to inflict significant damage on Israel and possibly force concessions on various issues while remaining under the international umbrella. In that case, the Syrian preparations might be seen as defensive, intended to deter Israel from hitting Syria, which will of course be supplying Hezbollah during the conflict.

Another possibility suggested by my own contacts in the IDF is that Syria is preparing for her role in a counterstrike against Israel if the US takes military action against Iranian nuclear sites. Such a counterstrike would certainly involve Hezbollah directly, and possibly covert action by Syria.

Although the political climate in the US does not appear to make an attack on Iran likely, the decision to do so is in the hands of the President. Something like a nuclear test or a terrorist attack in the US which could be attributed to Iran might trigger it.

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