File spoon-archives/marxism-international.archive/marxism-international_1997/97-01-29.113, message 51

Date: Tue, 28 Jan 1997 10:15:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: M-I: The Arab Strategy for War (Fwd from moderator)

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Date: Wed, 22 Jan 1997 22:23:33 -0500
From: (MED News Desk)
To: (Mid-East Dispatch)

                           THE MID-EAST DISPATCH

                 MIDWEEK EXTRA - No. 005 - 22th January 1997

A US Congress report last month predicts imminent war in the Middle East,
in which Syria is expected to initiate a surprise attack on Israel, with
Palestinian, Iraqi and Iranian support.

It makes unprecedented statements about the nuclear capabilities of Iran
and Pakistan, and Syrian involvement in Saudi-Arabian terrorism, such as
the Dhahran bombing.

MED Editor-in-Chief Chris Bourne describes the evidence.


Washington's Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare published a
report last month, on December 10th, so alarming, and so pessimistic in its
outlook for the future of the Middle East, that it was promptly ignored by
international media. A story of peace processes and virtuous negotiation,
this is not.

"Approaching the end of 1996" says the report, "The Middle East may well
be on the verge of a major regional war. Numerous sources in the region
report that the supreme leaders - both civilians and military - in most
Arab states, as well as in Iran and Pakistan are convinced that the present
vulnerability of Israel is so great that there is a unique opportunity to,
at the very least, begin the process leading to the destruction of Israel.
These circumstances are considered to be a historic window of opportunity
the Muslim World should not miss. Therefore, these Muslim leaders have
finalized numerous strategies and tactical alliances heretofore
non-existent in the region."

According to the report, there are two main issues preying on the minds of
the Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian leaders. The first is the need to ensure the
succession of their designated sons-and-heirs. The second is the need to
assuage, and to some degree control, the rising tide of popular Islamic

"The present leaders of Iran, Syria and Iraq are determined to transfer
power to their sons-and-heirs. They are convinced that only the emergence
of a close alliance leading to a perpetual crisis against the rest of the
world will rally the potential contenders in their own respective coteries
to accept their chosen sons as leaders. The mere existence of a functioning
militant block will enable the other "sons-of" to assist and save a
"son-of" in distress." says the report.

At present, this popular mood is focused on the issue of Jerusalem - the
liberation of Al Quds. The committee therefore suggests that the catalyst
for provoking what it describes as an inevitable "dramatic breakout" from
the current deadlock is what it calls the "slide toward the resumption of
violence...between the Arabs and Israel", in which the peace process, so
far from being a solution, is already viewed as inadequate to contain the
aspirations of Islamic fanaticism.

This view, says the report, is shared by many other Arab and Iranian officials.

The final condition for the timing of the expected war is the peaking of
the succession struggle in Saudi Arabia. Note in the below extract not only
the stated link between Syria and the Saudi opposition, but the direct
statement that the Dhahran bombing was initiated by this relationship.

On this, the report says: "The Abdallah faction is determined to seize
power through the eviction of the US from the region, the solution of Saudi
Arabia's shortage of cash by accepting more lucrative contracts with East
Asia at the expense of the West, and by establishing close relations with
the radical states as a guarantee against Islamist subversion. The very
close Abdallah-Assad relations constitute the key to Prince Abdallah's rise
to power. These relations have already initiated the bombing in Dhahran.
Prince Abdallah has already promised Damascus to deliver a comprehensive
oil embargo against the West in case of a major crisis with Israel."


The report is thick with detail of meetings between the major players. The
key meeting appears to be in the Spring of 1996 when Hafiz al-Assad and
Saddam Hussein met secretly to endorse a tri-partite strategic deal, the
third partner being Iran.

The result was operation 'Velayat' in May 1996, an Iranian war exercise.
Says the report:

"The essence of Velayat was a multiple corps deep offensive in the
aftermath of a long range advance identical to the distance between Iran
and Israel. The objective of Velayat was to confirm Iran's ability to send
a strategically effective expeditionary force - the Velayat Force - to
contribute to a regional war against high-quality armies. The primary
intended objective of the exercise is Israel. The entire Iranian top
leadership and high command were present at the exercise. Subsequent
Iranian analysis pointed out deficiencies in the planning of the operations
of a key special forces unit. These were quickly corrected and these
improvements were demonstrated to the Tehran leadership in a follow-up
exercise in late October."

Following the successful conclusion of the first exercise, Syria and Iran
then negotiated their war strategy, and signed an agreement in June
"specifically for the codification of their military cooperation against
Israel. This agreement also provides for joint exercises in northern and
northeastern Iran of the command elements of Syrian units and the Iranian
units that will arrive to support them on the Golan front."


By mid-August, Iraq was brought into the joint command. Says the report:

"A key component of this joint command has been the coordination of the
activities of Iran, Iraq, and Syria in mobilizing their SSM forces for a
possible missile barrage against Israel.  In late September, the
Palestinian factor was added to the joint preparations when the Palestinian
Authorities (PA) entered into a major military agreement with Syria.
Significantly, this agreement is between the PA, and not the PLO, and
Syria, thus explicitly committing the Palestinian forces in the
territories. The essence of the agreement is for the Palestinian "police"
forces and other armed elements (terrorist organizations) to flare-up the
Israeli interior in case of an escalation in the north. Syrian and PLO
intelligence established a liaison section made up of senior Syrian and
Palestinian intelligence officers with HQs in Beirut, Damascus and Gaza. In
return, Syria will provide weapons and advanced training to PLO units in
the refugees camps in southern Lebanon -  units disarmed as part of the
Israeli-Lebanese agreements."

The report continues with an account of the PLO's preparations for war.

"In Gaza, Arafat ordered the marked acceleration of the building of a
personal command bunker, four stories deep. Moreover, the PLO is rapidly
building all over Gaza a chain of command centers, ammunition and
weapons-storage areas - all of them underground and well fortified to even
withstand Israeli bombing and shelling. The PA's security services are also
accumulating large stockpiles of anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons,
including missiles, even though they are forbidden by the Oslo Accords."

The report then goes on to discuss Egypt's role, after the recent army
exercises which simulated an offensive against Israel. Politically, the
report notes that Mohammed al-Moula has been allowed to establish a
political party committed to "revive the 'victorious spirit" of the October
1973 war.

Meetings were then held involving Jordan, the Lebanon, and 'second-tier'
states to discuss the implementation of a military blockade on Israel from
north, east, and south and support for such an action, including a military
agreement between Syria and Pakistan.

The report notes some confusion as to whether the war is supposed to start
with a surprise attack by Syria aimed through the Golan, or whether, as
claims to believe, that Israel will pre-empt such an attack by striking at
Syrian military facilities first. Either way, however, the report makes it
clear that Syria's aim is not just to repel Israeli aggression.

The report then launches into a detailed tactical account of recent Syrian
and Iraqi troop movements, which it concludes rehearse and prepare for war
with Israel, as well as noting Iran's intensified airlift of men and arms
to Hizbullah bases in Southern Lebanon.


The report is particularly shocking in its assessment of the risk of
nuclear war in the region. This is what it says:

"The nuclear factor has become a crucial element in any conflict in the
Middle East. Iran has nuclear weapons, and so does Pakistan. The supreme
leaders in Tehran are convinced that the numerous warheads purchased from
the former Soviet Central Asia are operational. Irrespective of skeptic
"expert opinion" in the West, they - the decision-makers in Tehran -
operate on the basis of their own conviction that Iran has operational
nuclear weapons. Moreover, there are indications of a Pakistani agreement,
with Chinese consent, to "contribute" to the Muslim nuclear deterrence. And
there is no doubt that Pakistan has operational nuclear weapons."

"The Arabs have a well defined nuclear doctrine. Already in the late 1970s,
the Syrians introduced the doctrinal tenet that since Israel cannot
withstand even a few nuclear strikes while the Muslim World can prevail a
massive nuclear attack of the magnitude attributed to Israel's
capabilities, the nuclear factor is essentially irrelevant for as long as
Arab leaders can hold their position in a strategic nuclear brinkmanship.
While Tehran and Damascus are willing to gamble on such a brinkmanship,
Jerusalem cannot afford to be wrong - Israel will not survive as a viable
country in the aftermath of a strike with the few tactical nuclear warheads
Iran has."

This policy, says the report, neutralizes Israel's 'deterrence factor' for
the initial period of the war.

"Moreover, Washington will be most reluctant to commit American forces and
assets under conditions of possible exposure to nuclear, chemical and
biological weapons, particularly given the current Gulf Syndrome crisis.
Hence, the Arabs and the Iranians can also deter an American cover for


The resulting war scenario, according to the report, takes the following form:

1) A terrorist strike or other action by Hizbullah in South Lebanon,
precipitating an Israeli counter-attack strong enough to claim the lives of
Syrian troops.

2) A Syrian counter-attack coupled with a new PLO intifada tying down
50,000 troops. Further IDF troops to be tied down by Egyptian maneuvers in
the south.

3) A surprise Syrian, Iraqi and Iranian surge resulting in the re-taking of
the Golan heights.

4) A Saudi-led Arab oil boycott of the West - guaranteed by Prince
Abdallah, who seizes power in Saudi Arabia.

The aim of all this is to isolate Israel internationally, surround her
militarily, and at the very least threaten annihilation unless Arab demands
are met - doubtless including the surrender of Jerusalem. In the worst
case, the combined Arab armies simply destroy Israel, relying on the oil
boycott to prevent Western intervention.

The report concludes that, while it is impossible to accurately predict the
moods and decisions of men like Hafiz el-Assad or Saddam Hussein, it is
clear that they all believe that a major crisis is now vital for their own

"One reason for the readiness to face war, as opposed to the reluctance
shown previously, is the Muslim World's reading of Israel. Indeed, most
senior leaders (especially in Damascus, Tehran, Baghdad and Cairo) are
convinced that Israel is falling apart - collapsing from within in a unique
state of self-confusion, of having lost the WILL to fight and survive.
Hence, the current crisis is unfolding in the context of a historical
window of opportunity to resolve the Zionist menace once and for good."
says the report.

It's final words:

"However, there is no hard evidence, yet, of a specific decision to start
something on a fixed date. Presently, the prevailing mood among the
political, military and security elites in the Arab World is that of an
almost passive, though willing, acceptance of fate's course. As the region
continues to deteriorate towards an eruption of violence, they are waiting
for the inevitable spark to emerge and "compel" them into taking action.
Among the supreme leaders that really count, the "straw" seems to be still
missing. But for how long?"

Copyright (c) The MidEast Dispatch, 1997. The MidEast Dispatch is an
independent news service, and is not affiliated with any political party or
government agency.

To subscribe to MED, please e-mail: with the words 'subscribe med' in the body of the
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