Friday, September 07, 2007

Ball in Assad's Court

How will Syria respond to current alleged Israeli provocation? Experts believe Damascus not keen to start war, waiting for Israel's reaction The reports of an IAF aircraft infiltrating Syria's airspace Thursday prompted concerns and speculations among Israeli officials and security experts, as to whether Damascus plans to respond to the alleged Israeli provocation.

"Syria is making a big deal out of it, and rightfully so as far as it is concerned," said Dr Mordechai Kedar of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies in Bar Ilan University. "It seeks to retroactively discredit the Israeli claim regarding the causes of the last war, and show the Arab world that Israel, which claimed it's sovereignty was violated (in the war with Lebanon last summer) now violates the sovereignty of another country.

"Syria also wants to draw the world's attention to its direction, in order to ease the pressure on its ally Iran."

According to Kedar, the Syrian response depended on Israel, "and this is why Jerusalem remains silent. I think that in the future they may adopt Hizbullah's methods, namely – a kidnapping here, a Katyusha there, because they believe Israel will think twice before going to another war."

'Assad in control'
Prof Eyal Zisser, head of Tel Aviv University's Middle Eastern and African Studies department, said he believed Syria would not be quick to attack. "Syria's statements are even quite reassuring. They do not contain any new messages, the rhetoric is moderate… and that's a good thing.

"The fact that Assad chose not to respond himself… is also good. The problem is the negative dynamics that are being created here, and this should worry us," he explained.

Commenting on recent reports that Syria has been amassing arms with the help of Iran, Zisser said, "This certainly creates a problem in the long run. A regional arms race and new military opportunities are not a good thing, but it's early to say how the Syrians will respond."

Zisser claimed that Assad's decision to bring up "the resistance option" was not a clever move, because it brought about the current tensions. "He did not act wisely, he pushed himself to a corner and we now face a more problematic situation.

"However, for better and for worse, I believe that Assad is in control in Syria and that anything that is happening there was created by him," he concluded.

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