Expectations among seasoned Middle East hands of anything coming out the first direct talks Thursday, Sept. 2 between Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas were never high. President Barack Obama's attempt to formalize the occasion as his first foreign policy coup after the withdrawal from Iraq had little to go on. There was even less substance to Netanyahu's bid to build himself up as a peace leader of historic vision ready to go the extra mile for peace – even with Syria.
(See DEBKA-Net-Weekly 450 of June 25: Preparing for Obama – Netanyanu Ready to Cede Most of Golan to Syria)
But last weekend, Syrian President Bashar Assad and Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah swept those nebulous illusions away by concluding a secret military cooperation pact. Its object is laid out clearly in the preface which states that the accord is dedicated to the premise that a Syrian-Hizballah war on Israel is no longer a matter of speculation but of inevitability for the near future.
Reporting this, DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military and intelligence sources disclose that the secret pact commits the Syrian armed forces and the Lebanese Hizballah militia to complete their preparations for the war together and sets out the ground rules and military frameworks for their march against Israel in lockstep.
These preparations are designed for two optional game plans: 1. Syria and Hizballah will make war on Israel together; 2. Hizballah will take Israel on alone under military and intelligence support from Syria.
Red lines for generating Syrian attack on Israel
Our sources have obtained access to the pact's twelve pertinent clauses:
1. Damascus and Hizballah hereby set the red lines which, if crossed by the IDF in an invasion or military operation within Lebanon, will automatically set in motion a Syrian war on Israel.
For instance, if an Israeli force pushing north in an engagement with Hizballah veers towards the eastern Lebanese Beqaa Valley or the Mt. Hermon ridge, the Syrian army will be authorized to cross into Lebanon or drive south into Israel through the Golan and Sea of Galilee lines to counter-attack.
Such Syrian military intervention would be immediate under the accord, requiring no prior consultation. Neither would it be held up for, say, either of the allies to offer Israel conditions of surrender to save itself from invasion.
2. The joint military command will be made up of two high-ranking Syrian and two Hizballah officers and divided between Damascus and Beirut. One Syrian and one Hizballah officer will serve at each command.
3. A large network of Syrian and Hizballah liaison officers will keep operational communications flowing freely in a war situation and maintain the interaction between the two commands, among their respective staffs and among their field units.
Shared Israeli targeting lists to avoid duplication
4. The two commands will establish a joint war-room.
5. Syria and Hizballah will share their lists of Israeli targets for attack to avoid duplicating their efforts.
Our military sources report the joint command will divide the list up and specify which targets are to be struck by Syria and which by Hizballah, whether by missile, air or naval incursion.
6. From the date of signing the war pact, Hizballah will relay to Syrian military intelligence all the data in its possession on the distribution of Israeli bases along its borders with Syria and Lebanon. This will include the layout and location of Israeli early warning and radar installations. It will detail naval, aerial and undersea radar devices (for detecting detect troop movements inside tunnels or at remote locations by reading the seismic waves they set up) and the network of sensors operating in northern Israel.
Hizballah will also elaborate to opposite numbers on the Syrian side on its clandestine measures for countering Israel's early warning systems.
Full reciprocal Syrian-Hizballah intelligence exposure
7. Syrian intelligence, for its part, has already begun feeding Hizballah with input routinely gathered by its undercover agencies on the military facilities in Israel and the movements of IDF forces around the country. Much of this data is collected by Syrian electronic listening stations that keep track of happenings in Israel.
8. During armed hostilities – or even amid rising military tension, Syria will keep Hizballah abreast in real time of ongoing activity at Israeli Air Force installations. The information will alert the Lebanese terror group to the times and numbers of the warplanes taking off and their estimated times of landing.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly's military sources note that this clause is essential for the allies' missile forces to know who targets which Israel air base for missile or shelling attacks and adjust their targets, especially the remote ones in southern Israel, to their respective capabilities. Timing knowledge is also crucial. A Hizballah attack on an Israeli air base while planes are landing or taking off will maximize the damage extending it to the installations and the aircraft alike.
9. Syria will monitor the deployment of Israeli reservist units, determining the timing and size of mobilizations, where they are deployed and the directions of their movements. This information will enable Hizballah to fire its rockets at Israeli reserve units with greater precision.
Israeli submarines as prime targets for joint naval action
10. Syria and Hizballah are to merge their air defenses without delay and place them under a united command henceforth.
11. Their naval forces are to be similarly amalgamated. From the date of signing their pact, Syria and Hizballah agree to treat their Mediterranean coastlines as a single military region under allied naval command.
12. Syria and Hizballah are building marine units and equipping them with the latest attack helicopters. Their first task will be to seek out and strike the Israel Navy's Dolphin submarines deployed in the Mediterranean. These submarines, which constitute Israel's second-strike capability, are armed with cruise missiles with fissile warheads.
Any country would be justified in viewing the Syrian-Hizballah military cooperation pact for war on Israel as a declaration of war by an enemy axis, a senior Israeli army officer familiar with the content of the military agreement signed between Syria and Hizballah told DEBKA-Net-Weekly after scrutinizing they first operational steps take by Syria and Lebanon to put its clauses into practice.
However, Israel is governed by a duo – Binyamin Netanyahu, prime minister, Ehud Barak, defense minister – who have so far opted out of action against the Iranian nuclear program. This inertia appears to be tying their hands in the face of the concerted Syrian-Hizballah front on Israel's northern borders.