Bashar Al Assad wont strike back

Israeli air forces’ bombing on Wednesday of an arms depot on the outskirts of the Syrian capital Damascus was quite characteristic of the regimes’ security strategy. Israel will not stop at anything to protect itself from any threat either perceived or real. If that means illegal violation of another country’s air space then be it.

Basically Israel can strike a state whenever it wants on the pretext of national security. Timing of such strikes is what concerns Israel not its legality. Last week was the perfect time to bomb Syria for one simple reason, there was very remote possibility of a counter attack from Damascus.

 Baathist regime’s inability to fight two fronts at this time is understandable. Civil war rages in almost all the important cities. Bashar Al Assad’s main ruling credibility is due to support from the armed forces who are too busy trying to protect the regime’s authority. Baathists will loose their ability to govern the state if the army fails to end the civil war in its favor. On top of that some senior generals from the army defected and joined the Free Syrian Army (rebels). Their defection is more than an embarrassment for Bashar. It’s a severe blow to Syrian solders’ morale.

The civil war is raging on to pull down the Bathist regime on one hand. On the Other hand soldiers fear divisions and revolts within their ranks due to top level defections. The country and the army is split between pro and anti Assad groups which makes Syria unstable and vulnerable to a collapse in the center. Bashar Al Assad has rightly chosen to concentrate on tackling the rebellion first before anything else. Syria’s inability to retaliate may have been correctly calculated but does Israel have the right to attack Syria?

Analysts argue Tel Aviv government is continuing semi-clandestine war to restrict the flow of sophisticated weapons from Syria to anti-Israeli terrorist group Hezbollah, which has large control of Lebanon. Israeli intelligence has been warning of action against Syria if it found any evidence of shipment of chemical weapons to Lebanon.

Hezbollah is the most immediate and serious threat to Israel suggests security analysts. Compared to another anti Israeli group Hamas, Hezbollah is a more skilled and better equipped. In the 34-day war in southern Lebanon in 2006, Hezbollah claimed to have fought the Israeli army to a standstill and has received much adulation in the Middle East as a result.

Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Hezbollah, is regarded as a modern day Arab hero championing the cause of freedom and resistance against Israeli occupation. Hezbollah’s organizing and fighting capabilities surprised the world in 2006 for which Israel wants to take every step to stop its weapons build up.

There are reports that Hezbollah has even acquired Scud D surface-to-surface missiles with a range of 700 kilometres and capable of carrying a one-ton warhead. Two of these missiles originating in North Korea and supplied with the help of Iran and Syria are reported to have been sent to Hezbollah in 2010 and another eight in 2011.

Until the outbreak of the long-running uprising in Syria Hezbollah let Syrian President Bashar Assad store many of the group’s most sophisticated weapons. But since the start of the Syrian uprising Hezbollah has been moving its stockpiles of weapons to Lebanon.

Among the weapons reported destroyed in Wednesday’s attack on the Damascus weapons depot, which the Syrian government described as a “scientific research facility, were Hezbollah’s stockpile of SA-17 anti-aircraft weapons.

These Russian-made mobile weapons are reputed to be among the most sophisticated anti-aircraft weapons. If Hezbollah had taken delivery of the missiles, it would have ended the impunity of Israeli reconnaissance flights over Lebanon.

Since the end of the 2006 war in southern Lebanon, Israel has been constantly on the alert for weapons destined for Hezbollah and swift to act when shipments have been detected. In 2009, Israel carried out two attacks in Sudan, one on a truck convoy and one on a ship in Port Sudan, believed to be carrying weapons from Iran for Hamas and Hezbollah. Also in 2009 three ships suspected of carrying Iranian arms destined for Hezbollah in defiance of the UN embargo were detained at sea.

One, the Russian registered container ship Monchegorsk, was seized by the U.S. navy and found to be carrying a large cargo of artillery shells and other ammunition. The ship was held in Cyprus where it later blew up, killing 12 people. In October last year, the Israeli air force bombed a munitions factory in the Sudanese capital Khartoum which was allegedly making weapons for Hezbollah and Hamas.

In November 2011, a massive Hezbollah arms cache near Siddiqin close to Lebanon’s southern port city of Tyre exploded. There is speculation it was attacked by an Israeli missile-equipped drone aircraft. In October last year, there were a series of blasts at a Hezbollah weapons storage depot in Lebanon’s eastern Bekaa valley. And, in mid-December, a Hezbollah arms store blew up in the southern Lebanese town of Tairharfa close to the border with Israel.

Bashar Al Assad will not be in any position to open another front against Israel. He is too weak to do that now just as he was before the civil war started. No Arab country in the region is capable of fighting Israel for a very simple reason. Arab countries’ military might is no match for Israel’s supremacy. Billions of dollars spending on weapons were intended to defend and protect dictators from being overthrown by mass peoples’ revolution and secondly, to enrich the fortunes of the dictators, their families and the military top brasses.

Israel for its part has calculated and timed its move with remarkable foresight. Knowing not only Syria but also Hezbollah would not be able to strike back. Bashar Al Assad currently sits like a shooting target ready to be humiliated by Israel, US and her regional allies.

Author is Director, Financial Excellence Limited.


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