Analysis: Anatomy of miscalculation

The fuss in the IDF about a possible war with Syria contradicts Olmert's recent call for peace talks.

jp.services2 (photo credit: )
(photo credit: )
With Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's apparent signaling on Wednesday that Israel is willing to open nonconditional peace talks with Damascus, it would appear difficult to understand the fuss within the IDF over the increasing possibility of war with Syria this summer. Even with Olmert and Defense Minister Amir Peretz's clear calls for talks with Syria, the IDF believes there is a chance that war is around the corner. The reason - the military buildup and growing tension along the border could lead to a miscalculation by Israel or Syria. There is no hiding the fact that both Israel and Syria are preparing for war. Israel has been conducting almost daily exercises simulating war with Damascus. The Syrians also recently held a major military exercise, for the first time in several years. And they are buying advanced weapons and military platforms, mostly with Iranian funding. So with tension running high along the border, there is concern that a misstep, a wrong move, an accident or what the defense establishment calls a "miscalculation" will lead to a full-fledged war, one with very severe consequences for both sides. In the IDF, officers speak of several different scenarios. There is, of course, the traditional Syrian war scenario that was recently dusted off, a small-scale commando raid into a Golan community. Syrian President Bashar Assad then announces that he has conquered the village and demands - before Israel can respond - that Olmert meet him for peace talks. A miscalculation refers to two trickier scenarios. The first is a terror attack along the Lebanese border - Hizbullah renews Katyusha or mortar fire into northern Israel. In response, the IDF bombs southern Lebanon, and in one strike hits a target near the Syrian border. The local Syrian commander sees the action as an excuse to open a second front and attacks the Golan Heights. A second scenario refers to a terror attack along the Israeli-Syrian border. In response, IDF troops fire back into Syrian territory in self-defense. A local Syrian commander views this as an attack on Syrian sovereignty and the countries find themselves at war. According to defense officials, without diplomatic movement, the chances increase that one of these scenarios will materialize. All it takes is one miscalculation along the border.