THE LATE PRESIDENT HAFEZ Assad of Syria was “employing the peace option to regain the Golan Heights while preparing through rearmament for eventual war.”
Assad exposed his hand when he said that his war against the Jewish state will last “as long as time,” and that once Israel has withdrawn from the Golan Heights, there must be no “observation posts at the strategic plateau.” Syria’s long term strategy, like that of Egypt, Iraq and Iran, aspires to being the predominant power in the Middle East, and Israel blocks its way. Israel’s liquidation is essential to both the Muslim cause and the Assad regime’s realization of greater Syria. Only a Muslim style temporary peace with Israel can assure him of any degree of success.
Dictatorships determine their policies according to the ambitions they harbor, not according to treaties they sign. The Assad regime has no more respect for contracts than did Yasser Arafat. Besides violating every agreement it has ever made with Israel in the past, Syria also broke its word to the Saudis and the Reagan administration to respect the May 1983 Israel-Lebanon agreement. It discarded the inter-Arab Taif agreement which stipulated the departure of Syrian troops from Lebanon by September of 1993, and has broken every promise to grant independence to the Beirut government. The Assad regime has also violated 18 agreements signed with Turkey in 1993 and 1994. Some may well argue that the Syrian-Israeli border on the Golan Heights has been the quietest of all of Israel’s borders. But those that would argue along that line forget that Israeli tanks and planes are stationed on the Golan—less than 30 miles from Damascus—expressly for the purpose of keeping the border quiet.
Nothing changed with the takeover of Hafez’s regime by his son Bashir. Bashir’s regime is still a minority Alawite sect holding 100 percent of Syrian power. Journalists who write against Bashir’s rule still end up dead. Even though Syria is believed to have been chemically disarmed by the UN, it is still shipping chemical agents to Hizb’allah in Lebanon, using chemical warfare against opposition fighters in the three-year-long civil war that has taken over 200,000 lives and displaced and dispersed millions of Syrian civilians. And Bashir Assad’s regime is just as deeply involved in the drug production in Lebanon’s Beqa’a valley. Hizb’allah has tens of thousands of its forces fighting in Syria against those trying to overthrow the Assad regime.
On September 1, 2007, eight Israel warplanes took off just before midnight and used 17 tons of explosives to completely destroy a Syrian nuclear reactor that was being constructed by North Korea. Several North Korean engineers died in the Israeli bombing of the reactor, along with some 20 Syrian technicians. Israel had shared their surveillance information with the U.S., but America refused to take any action. America expressed doubt that Israel was capable of pulling off a successful attack—US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice “thought the Israeli military was unreliable and that they were no longer the 10-foot giants we had grown up with.” When the attack reduced the reactor to rubble, Ehud Olmert, Israel’s prime minister at the time, called President George Bush and simply said, “I just want to report to you that something that existed doesn’t exist anymore.”
Israel has also made several air attacks upon Syrian weapons storage areas , which prevented weapons from being shipped to Hizb’allah. The latest being in December 2014 when the IAF destroyed sophisticated Russian air-defense equipment that was apparently destined for Hizb’allah. Russia had evidently violated its August pledge not complete delivery of the anti-aircraft system under the terms of a UN arms embargo. One target Israel hit in December was near the international airport near Damascus, and the other was in Dimas, west of the capital, only a few miles from the Lebanese border.
The late Egyptian president Anwar Sadat—certainly an expert on his Arab brothers—heaped scorn and mockery upon US President Jimmy Carter for believing Hafez Assad’s word could be trusted. In his posthumous book, Those I Have Known, Sadat wrote:
“He [Carter] imagined they would be as good as their word and was taken aback when he found that the word of a Syrian was in fact 1,001 words, and that what they agreed to one day they rejected the next, returning to it the day after.”
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun, another expert on his Arab brothers, also warned against believing the Syrians: “They don’t respect their word. They scheme, they promise you one thing and do something else on the side. They promised in the past, but they never lived up to any agreement.” Arab leaders place no trust in the word of the Assad’s, and neither does Israeli intelligence officers. A senior Israeli intelligence officer said: “The description of an Assad as a man who keeps his agreements is a myth. It has no basis in reality.”
Israel is under pressure to relinquish the Golan and the strategic defense that it offers against Syria. Israelis remember the trauma of living under Syrian guns, and suffering 20 years of shelling, shooting, and bombing. They remember how Syria had used the high ground to fire indiscriminately on the Israeli communities below. Farmers were shot in their tractors, and children spent months in cramped bomb-shelters as the artillery thundered overhead. There will be no rush on the part of Israel to sign a peace agreement with the Assad regime, it would be broken before the ink was even dry.
To be continued
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