Monday, August 07, 2006

Syria Has a Problem

Commenter eyesallaround allerted me to this Spengler article in the Asia Times. In the article Spengler discusses the serious difficulties that the war is causing Syria. One of those problems is a serious inflow of refugees from Lebanon. It looks like the Israeli effort to clear civilians out of Southern Lebanon was not strictly humanitarian in nature. It was also meant to destabilize the Syrian regime.

At least 200,000, and perhaps twice that number of refugees, have descended on Syria, joining half a million displaced Iraqis and perhaps 300,000 Palestinian refugees. Refugee streams clog the few undamaged routes between Syria and Lebanon. Evidently Syria fears destabilization; Information Minister Mohsen Bilal linked his July 23 threat of military action against Israel to the "evacuation" of Lebanon. He told the Spanish daily ABC:

"It is unjustifiable that the superpower [ie, the US] does not work for a quick ceasefire. What is it waiting for - for Israel to destroy all of Lebanon so that it has to be evacuated completely? But Israel is not the only player in this region. I repeat: If Israel stages a ground invasion of Lebanon and comes close to us, Syria will not remain with its arms crossed. It will enter the conflict."
Now as I fortold and Spengler points out this is extrodinary. It is not in Syria's interest to enter the war. Even less is it Syria's interest to be on the offensive rather than the defensive. Why would Syria do such a thing (which I predicted would happen) which most every one at the time thought was delusional. One reason is economic. Spengler gives this outline:
What, then, provoked Mohsen Bilal to offer to jump headlong into an Israeli trap? Contrary to Washington's hopes, the Bashar al-Assad regime may not be viable after the destruction of Hezbollah. The flood of refugees is painful to absorb. In addition, Syria's economy depends on Lebanon. Syrian workers in Lebanon remit US$4 billion a year, double Syria's reported exports. The Assad regime and its supporters draw substantial income from Lebanon's black market, which Syria continues to dominate despite the removal of Syrian troops last year.

US as well as Israeli analysts assume that the Syrian regime will do anything to survive, but in the wake of Hezbollah's collapse and the breakdown of Lebanon's Shi'ite community, it may not be obvious to Bashar Assad how he may accomplish this. Without the skim from Lebanon's black market and the remittances from Syrian workers in Lebanon, the regime's purse will shrivel and its hold on the reins will slacken. Double-crossing its allies in Tehran at just that moment might not be the wisest move, particularly with remnants of Hezbollah fleeing into Syria.
What is the black market of which Spengler speaks? Blonde Lebanese hasish well known in the region and a favorite of many Israelis.[ hat tip Yehudit of Kesher Talk ] A Deep Purple concert was scheduled for this summer in Baalbeck. That would have attracted tourists from Israel and Europe. Not to mention many Lebanese. The Syrian's get a cut for providing protection all up and down the supply chain.

Spengler then goes on to discuss the prospects for the Shia and Syria.
Peaceful outcomes are possible when people have peaceable things to do. Lebanon's Shi'ites, the country's resentful underclass, have little stake in the tourism industry and other objects of Saudi investment in their country. Their livelihood is a function of war, of Iranian subsidies in particular. The fortification of southern Lebanon was not intended as a public-works project but, like Adolf Hitler's autobahn, it kept people employed. If Hezbollah is destroyed and the flow of Iranian largess stops, much of the Shi'ite population will lose its economic viability, and the Shi'ite community never will reconstitute itself in anything resembling its form prior to July 12. Syria, in turn, may lose a great deal of economic viability if Lebanon is cut off.

When chaos is inevitable, it's best to learn to like it, as I advised on March 14 (How I learned to stop worrying and love chaos). Ultimately the chaos in the Middle East plays to US advantage. In the meantime, it would not hurt to print gasoline ration cards.
Spengler made one mistake. America will not be rationing fuel. We will open the strategic petrolium reserve.

Now all this may explain American/Israeli moves with respect to a Lebanese cease fire
CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) -
President George W. Bush resisted a demand by Lebanon on Monday that Israeli troops immediately withdraw from southern Lebanon, saying it could create a vacuum and allow Hizbollah guerrillas to rearm.

Bush told reporters he wanted a
U.N. Security Council resolution as quickly as possible calling for a cessation to hostilities in the nearly month-long conflict between
Israel and Hizbollah guerrillas.

But he did not welcome a Lebanese demand that Israeli forces withdraw immediately from southern Lebanon.

"Whatever happens in the U.N., we must not create a vacuum into which Hizbollah and its sponsors are able to move more weapons," Bush said.

At a news conference with Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice at his ranch, Bush also said he believed an international force to be created by a second U.N. resolution should patrol the Syrian border and stop the re-arming of Hizbollah.
Patrol the Syrian border? The Israelis are not at the Syrian border. Yet. The value of such patrols? The cut off Hizbollah resupply and Syrian cash flow. This will definitely cause Syria to attack. If not totally on its own merits then by prodding from iran which currently likely controls the Syrian cash spigot.

The Jerusalem Post [link also provided by eyesallaround] reports that Syria is gearing up for war.
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Moallem crossed into Lebanon Sunday for the first visit by a top Syrian official in more than a year, Lebanon's state news agency said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting with his Lebanese counterpart, Fawzi Salloukh, Moallem said "Syria is ready for the possibility of a regional war if the Israeli aggression continues."

He added that a US-French draft resolution to end the war "adopted Israel's point of view only." Underlining his support for Hizbullah, Moallem said, "as Syria's foreign minister I hope to be a soldier in the resistance."

Salloukh said that "Israel cannot take in peace what it had failed to take in war."

"If Israel attacks Syria by any mean, on the ground, by air, our leadership ordered the armed forces to reply immediately," he said after emerging from a meeting with Lebanese President Emil Lahoud.

Israel has issued several pledges not to attack Syria.
As i stated in my predictions (link above) Israel will keep its promise. It will force Syria to do the attacking by tacking the Bekaa. The plan is obvious now. Israel/America has telegraphed its move and there is nothing Syria can do except fall for the Israeli/American plan. As I pointed out in my prediction Syria/Iran are already defeated.

ABC news reports [link provided by Achillea] that immediate preparations for the move to the Bekaa may have already begun:
Israeli aircraft have launched several attacks on roads in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, virtually cutting off the region from the rest of the country and neighbouring Syria.
I also noted in an earlier post that the raid on the Bekaa may have been for the purpose of inserting Special Forces and Forward Air Controllers (used to direct bombing missions).

Here is a bit (04 Aug) on the bombing of the Bekaa power stations.

Here is something (02 Aug) on the Bekaa commando raids with links to maps.

Well my head is spinning from all this speculation so here is where I rest. Keep in mind though, Syria is going down, Iran is going down, this summer.

Update: 08 Aug '06 1300z

Thanks to the folks in Pajamas for the link.

Update: 08 Aug '06 1517z

I provide more tactical detail on the Syria plan at Tactical Moves

Update: 08 Aug '06 2340z

Fares has a nice rebuttal to this post. He is from Syria so maybe he knows something.

Gates of Vienna also linked.

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Karridine said...

Baha'u'llah, the Glory of God and 19th-century fulfillment of Christian, Jewish and Muslim prophecies, clearly set the love of God as connected to Justice:

"The Best-Beloved of all things in My sight is Justice. Turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me." (Hidden Words: Arabic #2)

He also proclaims humankind's God-given right to collectively protect itself, much to Syria's chagrin.

More central to THIS issue, IF Baha'u'llah brings the Love of God and shows all humankind Good/Evil in this Day, THEN by turning away from Him, nations and groups turn away from that love of God, that knowledge of God, and wallow in ignorant hatred!

"Taste ye, what your hands have wrought!" says the Lord of Hosts.

Anonymous said...

Interesting speculation. All I can say is: from your mouth to God's ear.....

I would love to believe things will end so neatly with the fall of two major rogue nations and a terrorist group, but I think it will take more blood than that.

Good luck to Israel and the innocent civilians of Lebanon.

Anonymous said...

Check out the version
Iranians are getting to see.

M. Simon said...


There will be a lot more dieing to come. The end though is not in doubt.

Unfrozen Caveman Linguist,

The Iranian site has a body count mentality. That is not decisive.

Plus knocking the treads off tanks does not count for much. I doubt 47 are permanently disabled.

M. Simon said...

Morale is very high in Israel.

They want to deal their enemies a knock out blow.

The Iranian site is delusional. Propaganda for the ignorant.

Very interesting though.

Baron Bodissey said...

The question is whether Boy Assad has enough beans to offer the US to trade for his regime's survival. He's already mentioned Al Qaeda. What about a sudden "discovery" of Saddam's WMDs hidden in the Syrian desert?

"George, old boy, I just ran into a bunker full of these the other day, out by As Sukhnah, and I wondered if you might want to take them off my hands; there's a good chap..."

Dymphna said...

This is a fascinating summation of what may well be going on.

I sent it on to Pajamas Media -- I hope whoever is on picks it up.

Mike's America said...

Very interesting post. I hadn't considered the impact all this is having on Syria.

President Bush also resisted calls at his news conference today that he "talk" to Syria.

I'm not sure what good the lamestream media types and their leftleaning friends think talking would do. So far, Syria hasn't been very receptive to anything we've had to say.

Not sure I agree with your conclusion that both Iran and Syria are going "down" this summer. But it sure would be nice if it happened.

I'll remember you said it first.

Charles Martel said...

"America will not be rationing fuel. We will open the strategic petrolium reserve."

the opening of the strategic reserve is indeed going to occur - apparently because BP shut down an Alaskan oilfield, supplying 400,000 barrels a day to the west coast.

bloomberg report

i find it more curious that BP would do this - especially when oil prices are at an all time high. is there a bigger game going on here, that we are not yet aware of?

M. Simon said...

C. Martel,

I thought that was curious too. I do think there is very big game afoot. The New Middle East that Condi is promoting.

I expect support for Hamas is going to dry up. The palistinians will be told by their Arab brothers to make a deal. Take what they can get and shut up.

Major wars in the ME will be over for 30 to 50 years. The oil powers have decided that business is better than war. Why? Their oil is running out.

The Saudis have major investments in Lebanon. Which the Israelis have been careful to avoid. The Iranian investments are getting pounded.

I would bet there is a back channel between Israel and Saudi re:targeting.

We will learn an awful lot once the shooting stops.


boxingalcibiades said...

You need to look at actual Syrian deployments in order to determine whether Syrian rhetoric can be taken at face value, amigo...

M. Simon said...


I work from open sources. Thus I do more educated guesses than an official analyst would be comfortable with.

Still I'm betting Syria will be attracted by the need to protect their Bekaa assets. That is the key more than deployment. Interest.

Anonymous said...

Spengler made one mistake. America will not be rationing fuel. We will open the strategic petrolium reserve.

That might not be wise if Prudhoe Bay is shut down, and Nigeria has 25% capacity offline, and Venezuela decides to be difficult..............maintaining the reserve for when Iran blockades the straits of Hormuz would be wiser

Fares said...

M. Simon

Your imagination is running very wild. Syria is not going to war and the US and Israel don't want that to happen either
I stand by my previous post in repsonse to your inquiries
Assad is the natural choice

A friend of mine just came back from Aleppo last night, he said business there is as usual and there is a european toursim boom and all the refugees are bringing big money into the country and they are not hurting it (as your link suggests).

Another friend who is a doctor in France was there with a group of french doctors, they enjoyed Syrian beauty and they got to meet with some high officials in Syria.

Syria survived public american pressures the last 30 years but they play the game perfectly under the table. Israel is very happy with the Syrian regime and so are some more reasonable americans. So Syria is very far from your reach.

People are worried yes and they are very saddened by the tragic events in Lebanon...but people want stability and yearn for Peace not war. So enough propaganda and enough trouble in the middle east.

I prefer Syria to stay oppressed than be chaotic like Iraq is or its democracy crushed like what Lebanon had. I know I am playing into the rulers game but hawkish people like you or the neo-cons don't care for us what so ever. Israel's policies are very counter productive as well. Every few years when we have relative stability and want to normalize relations a crisis emerges out of the blue. Enough already.

They hijacked democracy and made it a word synonym for subordination, domination, chaos and extremism and extented tensions and conflicts....

Find another toy to play with rather than deciding to burn countries up, because the stars of the Sky are closer to you than harming Syria.

Papa Ray said...

Great post, good logical thinking, good command of tactics and a good overview of the parties involved.

But you, just like the "official" analysts, when they are making their educated guesses, leave out the unoffical but very true and proven rules of war.

Some call those rules "Murphy's Rules of War". Others just lump them in "Unintended Consequences" or "Lessons learned but somehow forgotten".

So let's all see how this tale is told. Not only in truth but in the history books.

Murphy loves surprises.

Papa Ray
West Texas

Fares said...

Harming Syria, Dream on

You guys can continue the discussion here and realize the grave mistake you are making in fueling tensions and war

M. Simon said...


Now is the time to get the oil flowing, check the machinery, see how the system works, make adjustments.

I'm not sure the Prudhoe bay shutdown is real. i.e. the shut down may be happening but the reason is bogus.

A lot of what is going on is disinformation.

M. Simon said...

fares BTW is Syrian in case you hadn't guessed.

He is pretty sane, but as you see he is a peace at any price type of guy. Well hard to blame him. I wouldn't want bombs on my head either.

You should go to his links and read what he has to say. Worth it even if you disagree. And he responds to comments.

Papa Ray,

I'm not too good at figuring the op tempo. In fact I've gotten that wrong almost totally so far.

I'm still sticking with my strategy predictions.

I think most of the Murphys are in the "how long will it take to....." category.

Papa Ray said...

Yes, faras is sane but he suffers from the same disinformation and deception that almost all ME residents do.

I have been reading his blog for a short time and never left a comment, but tonight I left on on the post about Assad being the natural choice.

Which is an indicaton of the insanity of the ME.

I think Murphy will have many earlier surprises and this time I think he will get a lot of help from the "Twelvers".

Remember to mark your calendar, August 22nd. What surprise will that day bring us?

Papa Ray
West Texas

Anonymous said...

Hi. Interesting post. In medicine, we learn not to predict outcomes where there are too many variables. I suspect the same here, though you provide a lot of food for thought. My respect in advance if you prove right. The most heartening thing is your tie-in of how the Israeli public is nowhere close to demoralized, and in fact the opposite. Yoram Hazony's book, "The Jewish State - the Struggle for Israel's Soul" reviews the history of Zionism as an abridged compendium of Zionist ideas from Herzl in 1896 to the current "post-Zionism" philosophy that preaches incompatibility between democracy and any "Jewish" quality of Israel. These modern "thinkers" who have a stranglehold on Jewish academia in Israel are pushing their Supreme Court to repeal the Jewish Law of Return. Just like in the US, what the academic "experts" and Israeli media think, and what "red-state" middle-Israel thinks are 2 different things. I'm only a third of the way through this book, but it will be interesting to see who wins this war of ideas (I vote for your bartender). The outcome has to be at least as important for the future of Israel as what Olmert & company think. If Peretz is as crafty as your plan, my kudos to them for a brilliant public media snow-job. If not, I surely hope that bartender has lots of buddies.