Jaffee Center: Syrian military weakening

But also says that Damascus may have received Iraq's chemical stockpiles.

By ARIEH O'SULLIVAN
November 23, 2005 03:17
2 minute read.
Jaffee Center: Syrian military weakening

syrian troops 298.88 AP. (photo credit: AP [file])

Syria, Israel's implacable foe and one of the last neighboring nations still at war with the Jewish state, is a steadily decreasing military threat. There were no major changes in the Syrian armed forces and no increase in its arsenal of surface-to-surfa ce rockets, according to the annual Middle East Strategic Balance released Tuesday by the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies. According to the report, there were unconfirmed reports that Syria received Iraq's stockpile of chemical weapons, just before t he Iraq war broke out, to add to its stockpiles of nerve gas. It's aging Air Force now numbered 350 combat aircraft in service, down 100 from last year, and a majority of these were obsolete, the report said. It's helicopter fleet also marked a reduction from 213 to 195. The balance said that Syria had an estimated 45 missile launchers and had probably assembled a few Scud D rockets, the major threat to Israel since they can be armed with chemical warheads. This came in the backdrop of Syria's continue d weakened and isolated status "caused in part by President Bashar Assad and his lack of political savvy," the report wrote. Venturing to predict the fate of the beleaguered Assad, JCSS head Zvi Shtauber said that if he were toppled, it would likely be by his own people. "The reasonable scenario would be for the Alawites to do it so they could ensure the continuation of their rule," said Shtauber, a former senior IDF intelligence officer. He added that intelligence officers were constantly crippled by the fact that it was difficult to assess the rationality of the junior Assad. "He obviously is thinking he is making the right steps," Shtauber said. "Even if they appear irrational to us." Asked if Israel should take measures to bring down Assad, deputy head of the JCSS Ephraim Kam suggested it was best to stay out of that and suggested a weak Assad was better than perhaps a more moderate regime. "I don't believe Israel should do anything in Syria. We are in a comfortable situation here," Kam said. "It's good for Israel at the moment. The Golan Heights are not on the agenda. Israel needs to conduct a policy [toward Damascus] of sitting and doing nothing," he said.ˇ


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