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Syria Now Serious About Peace, Says Israeli Intelligence Report

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Syria is strengthening its commitment to peace, according to a strategic assessment prepared by the Israel Defense Force’s Intelligence Corps.

The assessment of strategic concerns facing Israel for the current year was presented to the Cabinet on Sunday by to IDF officials, including Lt. Gen. Ehud Barak, the chief of staff; Maj. Gen. Uri Saguy, the intelligence chief; and Maj. Gen. Uzi Dayan, the head of planning.

The IDF report concluded that Syrian President Hafez Assad “is now intent on peace,” that Syria is “determined to extricate itself from the cycle of war” and that Damascus has defined it as “a prime strategic interest to improve relations with the United States.”

The officials said they are proceeding on the assumption that the peace process will continue and that there is little probability of Israel going to war with its neighbors.

Nevertheless, they gave assurance that should there be a breakdown in negotiations with Damascus, the IDF stands ready to engage in a limited war.

The positive report on Syria is not something new. Intelligence assessments made since the 1991 Persian Gulf War have shown that fundamental, positive changes have been taking place in Syria.

The changes have stemmed from the disintegration of the Soviet Union, which deprived Damascus of a superpower supporter and a strategic umbrella, and the concurrent ascent of the United States as the world’s only superpower.

The changes also are indebted to Syria’s failure to attain strategic parity with Israel, which had been its long-term aim.

Despite the optimistic report on Syria, the IDF survey for 1994 was not without caution. The IDF officials advised that rejectionist Palestinian groups, particularly the Islamic fundamentalist group Hezbollah, can be expected to continue their attacks on Israel.

The report noted that in southern Lebanon where Israel maintains a buffer security zone, 330 violent acts took place last year, the equivalent of almost one incident per day.

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