US Military Analyst: Israel is Poised to Crack Down on Palestinians and Hit 'Value Targets'in Syria and Lebanon

Published October 10th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

By Munir K. Nasser 

Chief correspondent, Washington, DC 

Albawaba.com 

 

A respected American military analyst in Washington said it seems very likely that the Israelis will crack down on the Palestinians after Barak’s ultimatum, and it seems equally likely that the Palestinians are going to resist. 

Anthony Cordesman, Director of the Middle East Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington told Albwaba.com that Israel’s crackdown would include sealing off Palestinian cities and towns, freezing the entire financial structure in the West Bank and Gaza, potentially controlling all communications, telephone and radio, and using attack helicopters and other major weapons. 

Cordesman said the Israelis are attempting to develop strike plans against what they called “high value targets” to the Syrians. He noted that if the Israelis execute their plan, they would include air and missile strikes deep into Lebanon, “which would certainly be relatively dramatic in terms of their scale.”  

He said that there is very little Syria can do, because it has become “a military museum.” He explained that if Syria is to engage Israel “the most likely result would be the same kind of problems that they encountered in 1982 when they sent their air force up to try to challenge Israel’s aircraft.” He believes, however, that Syria can still fight on the ground and still has some effective combat units and it can fight well defensively.  

Anthony Cordesman is a military analyst for ABC News and a professor of national security studies at Georgetown University in Washington. He has served in senior positions in the office of the Secretary of Defense, the State Department, the Department of Energy, and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. One of his publications is entitled Perilous Prospects: The Peace Process and the Arab-Israeli Military Balance (1996). 

 

The following are excerpts from the interview: 

 

Q-Why do you think Israeli Prime Minister Barak gave an ultimatum to the Palestinian to stop the violence? 

A- Barak’s ultimatum was an effort to buy time. But certainly, at this point in time, it seems very likely the Israelis are trying to crack down, and it seems equally likely that the Palestinians are going to resist. But they will be joined in part by the Hizbollah along the Lebanese border. 

 

Q-What actions you think the Israelis would take against the Palestinians? 

A- If Israel carries out some of the plans it examined in the past in dealing with the Palestinians, it could mean sealing off Palestinian cities and towns, freezing the entire financial structure in the West Bank and Gaza, potentially controlling all communications, telephone and radio, and using attack helicopters and other major weapons to block any kind of movements which threatens Israeli control of the territories.  

 

Q- Do you think Israel is serious about threatening military action against Syria and Lebanon? 

A- Israel spent a considerable amount of time after the last clash in the border area attempting to develop strike plans against what they called “high value targets” to the Syrians. And one of the things they are going to try to avoid is asymmetric battle where they have to fight the Hezbollah on its own terms. If they execute their plan, that would mean things like air strikes, and missile strikes deep into Lebanon, which would certainly be relatively dramatic in terms of their scale.  

 

Q-What would be the reaction of the Arab world to an Israeli strike against Syria or Lebanon? 

A- I think the Arab world’s reaction would be largely political. There is very little they can do. Syria at this point in time is in some ways a military museum. It hasn’t had any major arms imports for nearly ten years. It really has not reorganized its forces and tactics to take account of the lessons of the Gulf war. And I am afraid if Syria is to engage Israel the most likely result would be the same kind of problems that they encountered in 1982 when they sent their air force up to try to challenge Israel’s aircraft. Syria can still fight on the ground and still has some effective combat units and it can fight well defensively. But it is not at this point in time capable of extensive offensive action against Israel.  

 

Q- How about Egypt who said that it will stand by Syria? 

A- Egypt has not said anything indicating that it would provide more than political support. President Mubarak, at least at this point, has made it very clear that he would provide political support, but sees no point in escalating the combat. 

 

Q- How do you read the US administration position on this and what can they do at this point? 

A- Just as the United States cannot impose a peace, it unfortunately cannot impose a ceasefire. And if this escalates out of control, and it may have done so, it is very hard to control what has many of the characteristics of a popular uprising on the part of the Palestinians. And inevitably when violence reaches this level Israel tends to turn to the right rather than towards peace negotiations. All the US can do is to work with allies like Egypt, and hope that it would be possible to bring some kind of pause to the situation or at least find a way, if it does escalate, to push both sides to actually to talk to each other rather than simply locking themselves into some sort of low intensity conflict.  

 

Q- What do you think will come out of the planned Arab summit in Cairo? 

I think the problem with Arab summit meetings in the past has been is that they have been filled with dramatic declarations and in affective actions. So it is very hard to tell. What is needed is not a great deal of rhetoric, but to find some way to move towards peace. That has not been one of the strengths of the Arab League or past Arab summits. I think we have to wait and see. There are very competent leaders in the Arab world, so much depends what individual leaders chose to do rather than sort of a collective body.  

 

Q- How do you expect the situation between Israel and the Palestinians to develop? 

A- I think one has to understand that this is an asymmetric war. From Israel’s viewpoint, they want security and control with zero casualties. Unfortunately, that often means a very high level of force to minimize the casualties and try to contain the Palestinian movement. The Palestinian objective is the objective of having a state, recovering the lost territory, it is when people are willing sometimes to take very high casualties and they take high risk. And their success consists of not meeting the Israeli army head on, but finding ways to attack it indirectly and possibly the Jewish population of Israel. This is a not good recipe for peace and stability. It is a very good recipe for tension for misunderstanding and for hatred. And I think a lot is going to depend these next few days on Chairman Arafat and Barak and whether they have the capability to bring this back under control.  

 

Q- What would be the impact of these development on the peace process? 

A- Unfortunately, this is a tragedy where all of us have great hopes that somehow it can be brought back to some kind of peace negotiations. But I think there is a great deal of pessimism on everyone’s part, at least in the short term.  

 

 

 

 

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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