August 22, 2013

Doubting The Wisdom of Attacking Syria

Below is an excerpt from Patrick Seale's book, "Asad of Syria: The Struggle for the Middle East." 1988. I.B. Tauris & Co. Ltd: London. Pg. 474. [Source].
"There was no sympathy in Washington for Asad's ambition to achieve parity with Israel, no understanding of the reasons for his 'spoiling' role in Lebanon and Jordan, nor any liking for his insistence that the Soviet Union be given a role in the peace process. Israel's psychological warfare on the theme of counter-terrorism had prepared Western opinion for the punishment of Asad, as it had for that of Arafat and Qadhafi. In the spring of 1986 Syria and Israel seemed on the brink of war.

Yet the Israelis were far from unanimous about the wisdom of attacking Syria. Among the military, Chief of Staff Moshe Levy was a prudent man who recognized that it could be a costly affair. Asad's army of close to half a million men had learned to handle sophisticated weapons and would undoubtedly put up a tremendous fight. Particular Israeli concerns were the air defence wall which the Soviets had built round Syria and the new ground-to-ground missiles, some possibly fitted with chemical warheads, which for the first time raised the spectre of large-scale Israeli civilian casualties.

Urgent US-Soviet exchanges took place in the spring of 1986 against the background of larger than usual Syrian and Israeli ground manoeuvres. Soviet diplomats told the State Department on the personal instructions of General Secretary Gorbachev that the superpowers had a responsibility to draw their respective clients back from the brink. On 28 May Gorbachev publicly reaffirmed the Soviet commitment to defend Syria. Worried by these Soviet signals, Washington urged restraint on Jerusalem. But behind these alarms the political struggle continued."