Syria is now strategically isolated and militarily endangered. The stage is thus set for either a politically imposed agreement forced on the Palestinians; or on further American and Israeli military moves to take further direct control of the region and impose new regimes and thus of course new policies. That is one of the great 'lessons' and 'meanings' the other Arab are being forced to understand and accept of what has happened in Iraq.
Damascus - A regime on the road to nowhere.
Take a look at the recently redrawn map of the Middle East and it
quickly becomes painfully apparent that Syria's strategic military
position has just about become unmanageable. A nation that apart from
garrisons within the main cities and border patrols along its extended
desert frontiers to the north and east, has concentrated its major
combat formations either in southern Lebanon or in defending the vital
area between Damascus and the occupied Golan heights must now face a
totally new situation.
The Syrian Government now finds itself beset by a local superpower in
Israel only a few short miles from its capital and an increasingly
hostile Turkey a equally short distance from the northern city of
Aleppo, to which has been added a huge United States military presence
in occupied Iraq to the east. Worse still President Bashir Assad made
the frightful mistake of opting to anger Washington by its attempts to
aid the failing regime of Saddam Hussein without doing sufficient to
prolong the campaign and seriously tie down the US forces.
The last four or five weeks may well prove to be a catastrophe for the
Syrian regime and the beginning of the end for yet another dictatorial
and repressive Arab Government. Syria, though not formally a part of
Washington's so-called 'axis of evil' has long been suspected of deep
involvement with terrorist activities, particularly against Israel and
possession of both chemical weapons and significant numbers of
long-range missiles. Its relations with the United States have been
further damaged by the rumours that Damascus may have been hiding
illegal Iraqi weapons of mass destruction and indeed to have provided a
bolt-hole for leading members of the defeated Baghdad regime.
Syria has a military quite incapable of defending the country.
Syria has on paper a significant armed forces as well as a reputation
for being one of the most warlike of the Arab armies. However its army
is two generations behind in its armoured and electronic warfare
capability, while its air force is reliant upon dwindling numbers of
elderly Russian aircraft. Its air defence missile and radar networks are
barely capable of providing serious
opposition for the Israeli air force and would probably be swamped even
faster than that of Iraq in the event of a United States air assault.
Its ground forces are concentrated in a potential killing zone with the
1st Corps based on Damascus and the 2nd Corps at Zebdani (Zabadan).
The nightmare that the Syrian military must now plan for includes
possible US ground attacks launched from Jordan to the south; Iraq to
the east; Turkey from the north and amphibious operations on the coast
around Latakiya or even through the Lebanon to the west. Syria is
surrounded by major US airbases and of course highly potent carrier
battle groups in the Mediterranean. However any United States campaign
against President Assad's regime would hardly take place without the
major risk that Israel would decide to take out the Iranian-backed
Hezbollah in Southern Lebanon; the Syrian forces in the Beka'a valley
and a final redrawing of the Golan heights.
Syria has a reputation for repression and brutality second to none, and
indeed Saddam Hussein's regime would have been hard put to match the
massacre of Hama in February 1982 when after a revolt against the ruling
Ba'ath party, the Syrian Army deployed tanks and artillery against the
city. Operations only ceased after the uprising had been totally crushed
with the deaths of some 25,000 of its inhabitants. President Bashir
Assad is now being confronted with the biggest security threat in
Syria's modern history. The alternatives appear to be either caving into
Washington's increasingly vociferous demands and seeing the Syria's
vision of the Arab cause against Israel and any hope of a lasting
independence from Western domination lost for a generation or standing
on their 'pride' and seeing the MIAI Abrams role into Damascus in due
Richard M.Bennett - AFI Research - 13 April