Senior Israel military officers, especially in the Northern Command, estimate that the IDF’s performance is just 40 percent of what it should be for defending Israel’s border, in the face of the threats building up from the Golan. For too long, Israeli intelligence has been in thrall to the misconception that Bashar Assad’s days are numbered and underestimated Hizballah’s combat effectiveness in the Syrian war. Friday, an Iron Dome anti-missile battery was finally deployed to the northern town of Haifa, after a different kind of rhetoric ws heard from Israeli leaders in the last 48 hours.
Addressing a surprise Golani Brigade drill on the Golan Wednesday, June 26, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said firmly: “This is not a theoretical exercise: The situation around us is volatile and inflammable but Israel stands ready for changing situations. “We must break the enemy, make them scared to death in order to win.”
The next day, Thursday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz, speaking at the graduation of new Air Force pilots at the Hatzerim Air Base, said: “The region is shaking from south to north. Syria is bleeding and in Lebanon, the fire has begun to catch the hem of [Hizballah leader] Nasrallah’s robe in Syria and Sidon. You, the graduates, from now on are inseparable from the effort to ascertain that we remain at peak readiness to meet those challenges.”
Air Force chief, Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel was both enigmatic and revealing when he said that most air force activity was “covert and unseen, bordering on fantasy.”
Assuming that the prime minister and the generals were referring to actual activities, debkafile’s military sources ask what they have achieved.
Why was Bashar Assad allowed to array forces in southern Syria opposite the Golan ready for a terrorist offensive against Israel? Our sources report that the Syrian deployment includes suicide commando troops for crossing into the Israeli Golan to conduct multiple casualty strikes against Israeli villages and military bases. Among them are Hizballah fighters, who have taken up position in southern Syria opposite the Israeli border, even while the hem of their leader’s robe is on fire.
Thousands more Hizballah fighters are ranged at the southern Syrian town of Deraa, as well as in Damascus, at Al Qusayr – to control the Lebanese border, and outside Aleppo, ahead of the major Syrian army offensive to capture Syria’s second city and the rest of the North.
In the face of these advances by the allied forces of Iran, Syria, Hizballah and Iraqi Shiite militias, the Israeli prime minister and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon are still broadcasting the view that Assad is faring badly in the war and that Hizballah is taking heavy casualties and its combat performance is below par.
The blind eye they turn to the real situation in Syria results in the IDF being held back from performing more than around 40 percent of what is required in the current circumstances, say debkafile’s military sources. Most of the army’s activities are covert and can’t be revealed. However, debkafile feels bound to refer to another factor contributing to Israel’s inhibited, laggard and often unwieldy performance in Syria: Excessive coordination with the pace of American military operations in the Syrian context. Responsibility for this deliberately deficient performance must be laid squarely at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s door.
According to our sources, the US, Saudi Arabia, Israel and Jordan are forming up to move in on a section of southern Syria to compensate for their inability to prevent Aleppo falling to Assad’s army. The idea is to let the Syrian ruler seize control of the North, while the US, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Israel push the Syrian army and Hizballah out of the South – a kind of volatile partition which it is hard to imagine Tehran accepting lying down.
This concept has two more major flaws:
1. The US and Israel are too slow and hesitant to achieve their goal before Assad steps in to put a stop to their plan.
2. For it to succeed, the Druze population of southeastern Syria must be won over and cooperate. Through the nearly two and-a-half years of the Syrian civil conflict, Druze leaders have chosen to sit on the fence,using their neutrality to stay safe. They will continue to hold back until they are sure which side is the winner.
For now, there is no sign that “the enemy is scared to death.” Therefore, in the absence of effective preemptive operations, Israel and its armed forces had better stand ready for Syria and Hizballah to launch their second front from the Golan.