Analysis: Syria is the new Sinai (JERUSALEM POST) By YAAKOV KATZ 06/29/12)
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A few weeks ago, Syrian civilians broke into a UN peacekeeping post
along the border with Israel.
The civilians came to steal supplies, but in Israel, the event –
which would have been unheard of a year ago – was noted with extreme
interest as another sign that President Bashar Assad was losing
control over his country.
An even further sign is the increase in the number of land mines
being dug up by Syrian civilians near the border and thrown into
Israel. Since the beginning of the year, six mines have been thrown
into the country, compared to two in 2011 and zero the year before.
All of this adds up to a dire assessment within the IDF Northern
Command that Syria is on its way to becoming something of a “hybrid”
state where Assad will continue to control some parts – particularly
main metropolitan areas like Damascus and Aleppo – but will lose
control over other parts like Hauran, an area in the southwest along
the border with Israel.
For this reason, the IDF refrains from issuing straightforward
predictions of when Assad will or might fall. Predictions like
Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s, back in January, that Assad would
fall “within weeks,” are dismissed as nonsense.
Instead, the IDF is focused on preparing for scenarios it believes
could evolve over the coming months, with an eye on the increase in
the presence of global jihad elements in Syria and their potential
involvement in attacks against Israel.
The change for the IDF is significant.
One place where that change is apparent is along a section of the
border in the central Golan Heights where for years the IDF had
invested in creating obstacles to prevent Syrian tanks from crossing
into the country.
Today, the military is creating obstacles aimed at preventing people
from infiltrating the border, as part of an understanding that the
new threat is one of guerrillas and terrorism.
This is a lesson from what has happened along one of the country’s
other active fronts today – the Sinai, which also used to be under
the control of a regime (Hosni Mubarak) but today is a lawless
territory where terrorists appear to run free.
The downing of a Turkish fighter jet last week is an example of how
complicated the situation is today in Syria.
On the one hand, the air defense systems are on high alert and at a
relatively high professional level – one of the reasons the West is
wary of military intervention. On the other hand, the military is
facing massive defections, lack of intelligence and command-and-
control problems in its battle against rebel forces.
According to Israeli estimates, around 12,000 soldiers and officers
have already defected. While the number is significant, it is not
enough to have a major impact on a military of nearly 400,000.
The military is also overworked. Officers in the Syrian army, for
example, used to work 9-to-5 jobs with a two-hour break in the middle
of the day. Nowadays, they are in operations around the clock, and
many have not been home for several months.
The fighting between rebels and the military is not yet directly
along the border with Israel, but it is not far, reaching places like
Deraa – a mere 11 km. from Israel.
For the time being, the IDF does not believe that Assad’s forces will
do something along the border to attack Israel. On the contrary – all
indications are that Assad wants to keep the border quiet out of fear
that a distraction will prevent him from quelling the rebels.
This was evident on Nakba Day in May, when Syrian military forces
were seen stopping protesters from approaching the border. If Assad
wanted to get Israel involved, he would have let them through.
Another example occurred a few weeks ago, when he replaced a number
of commanders along the border. Discipline was apparently down in
some of the units, and new officers were brought in to tighten things
up. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 06/29/12)
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