Why is Syria the most uncompromising and extreme of all the Arab states? This question continues to be asked again and again by Israelis. The answer can now be given and with it a warning for another Middle East war initiated by Syria. Syrian President Hafez Assad’s regime is extremist in nature. The ruling Basin Party is a minority party which rules over the masses. To maintain power the Syrian government has to have a massive supply of weapons.
Here the Soviet Union has come to the aid of the Baathists. Seeing that the party may lose ground at home as it has lost ground among the Arab states to Egypt, the Soviet Union has switched its major aid efforts from Egypt to Syria. While hardly a Soviet ship has come to an Egyptian port since the Yom Kippur War, Syrian por### filled with Russian ships unloading steel, tanks, artillery, planes and sophisticated missiles.
Coupled with the feeling among the Egyptian and Syrian military that they won the Yom Kippur War, the resupply has created a serious condition. The Syrian soldier no longer fears the Israeli army. The initial success of the Syrians and Egyptians in the first two days of the war has overshadowed their defeats in the later stages of the war.
This feeling is more evident among Syrians than Egyptians although Egypt has gained more since the end of the war. Because of it not one Syrian commander has been removed from his command, although he may have failed completely in holding back the Israeli advances. In Egypt there were many reshuffles as a result of the war and many senior officers, including the chief of staff, were removed.
ARMY MAKING GREAT STRIDES
Materially, the Syrian army has been making great strides and it may now be the strongest air-power in the Arab world. Syria lost 222 of its 300 war planes in the Yom Kippur War but it now has some 400 planes and its air force is now believed to be stronger than the Egyptian, air force.
Syria has also been given by the Soviets at least 24 MIG-23s, the newest and most sophisticated of the Russian planes, and 200 MIG-21s, the first-line interceptor. It has the lethal, mobile anti-aircraft SAM-6 missiles which were successful against Israeli planes during the war, and has 40 missile batteries and many tanks, although they may be lacking tank crews. Syria lost 1100 tanks in the war but it has received 900 newer and better ones from the Soviets.
The Syrian army is being continually trained by some 3000 Soviet technical advisors and instructors, most of whom arrived in Syria after the Yom Kippur War. The Syrians have copied the anti-tank methods used by the Egyptians and have acquired large quantities of the “Sager” anti-tank missiles, both carried by the infantry and mounted on armored vehicles. It also has the SAM-7 anti-aircraft missiles which are fired from the shoulder or from an armored carrier.
In addition, the Syrians are stock-piling long-range and medium-range ground-to-ground missiles, the “Frog” and the “Skud,” while their artillery is equipped with 180-mm. guns with a range of 40 kilometers. Syria is, no doubt, becoming the largest arsenal in the Middle East thus the warnings issued recently by Premier Yitzhak Rabin and Defense Minister Shimon Peres against the unusual arms flow into Syria and the necessity to prepare for another war.
Efforts are being made to dissuade Jordan from Joining the Syrians. The recent statement by King Hussein and Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in which Sadat agreed that Hussein represents the Palestinians, may indicate an attempt or Sadat’s part to keep Hussein on his side and not to force him into war, which is apparently the intention of the Syrians.
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.