October 07, 2003

Israel-Syria Watch From the Haaretz

Israel-Syria Watch

From the Haaretz news ticker:

18:09 Sharon: Israel will not be deterred from defending its citizens, will hit its enemies any place and in any way.
18:04 Israel releases map pinpointing homes and offices of Palestinian militant leaders in Damascus.

Sharon is certainly keeping the pressure up. But I doubt Asad would deport and/or arrest all those militant leaders. Would Sharon strike targets in Damascus? He just might--particularly if he calculates Washington would accept it.

Despite speculation otherwise, however, I don't think that the Israelis have received a blanket authorization from Washington to engage in purportedly preemptive actions throughout the neighborhood.

Sharon has to be careful to balance the totality of Dubya's statements:

"I made it very clear to the prime minister, like I have consistently done, that Israel's got a right to defend herself, that Israel must not feel constrained in terms of defending the homeland," Bush said in Washington.

"However, I said that it's very important that any action Israel take(s) should avoid escalation and creating higher tensions," he said.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the United States had urged Israel and Syria to avoid "actions that heighten tensions or that could lead to hostilities."

"But we have repeatedly told Syria that they need to stop harboring terrorists," he said.

I think attacking targets in Damascus is just the type of action that would create "higher tensions." Developing.

UPDATE: Some informed Israeli opinion thinks that moving more robustly against Syria could be a bad idea:

"But others, among them former chief of military intelligence Uri Segui, suggested that the Syria raid would do little to persuade Damascus to curb terror chieftains, whether in the Syrian capital, south Lebanon, or in central Gaza.

"One possibility is that the war on terror, justified as it may be - and on principle, it is justified - will spread to other battlefronts as well, and I am not certain that the results will be any better," said Segui, once Israel's chief negotiator with Damascus.

Suggesting that the Syrians were most likely to attack Israel through Hezbollah, which has often acted as Syria's client militia, Seguisaid the current situation was a "a sort of game, a balance of horror."

Many felt that Israel might be saved from war with Syria not through the wisdom of its own policies but only because of the crippling military, economic and diplomatic weakness of Syria, stripped by the end of the Cold War of its chief ally, the Soviet Union, and by the Iraq conflict of its sole ally in Ba'ath politics, Saddam Hussein."

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