Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Hafez Al Assad

Any difference between a Statesman and a Leader? For example, comparing Bashar with Hafez Assad of Syria…

In context:

President Bashar Assad of Syria is the second son of Hafez. The eldest son of the dictator Hafez, Bassel, died of supposedly a car accident, driving his fast Porsche. The youngest brother of Bashar died of cancer.

Hafez Assad ruled as a dictator for 30 years from 1971 to 2000.

During Hafez Assad, Syria had to contend with much more powerful enemies on its borders.

1. Saddam Hussein of Iraq was the prime nemesis to Hafez because they led the same party Al Baath in two adjacent States, and Iraq was far richer, more populous and its military hardware was diversified, including French weapons.

2. Israel still occupied the Golan Heights, and a third of Lebanon territory.

3. Turkey was not engaged in the Middle-East problems: Turkey of the Moslem Brotherhood will come to power in 2002 and has been in power for an entire decade…

4, Iran Islamic Republic was entirely focused on the long protracted war with Iraq (8 years of brutal and all-out terror).

5. Hezbollah in Lebanon was in its infancy (created in 1983).

6. Oil was not yet produced in Syria, and Syria relied completely on the Soviet Union for armement…

During Bashar, Iraq was totally impotent of doing much harm to its neighboring State because of the No-Fly-Zone and international embargo… The US invaded Iraq in 2003 , and Saddam was “ousted” and then hanged.

Israel still occupies the Golan Heights, but had to withdraw all its troops from Lebanon without any preconditions.

Turkey is getting engaged in the Middle East region and lately has been virulent and supporting the insurgents (sort of recalling its former Ottoman Empire status…)

Iran is more powerful than ever, more stable from within, and acquiring strategic interests in the region.

Hezbollah has grown and developed as a mighty structured and well-trained military machine.

Syria troops occupying Lebanon as a de facto mandated power withdrew in 2005 after the assassination of Rafik Hariri PM.

Bashar inherited a Syria with established institutions, an oil producing country, weaker States on its borders, and firmer control on many levers for negotiating better deals…

Hafez Al Assad had great patience:

1. He would never engage in any operation that might get foreign superpowers concerned before securing total support of the winning party of the moment in the region.  For example, Hafez knew that there existed a Red Line between the US and the Soviet Union in the Middle-East. Russia was not to expand beyond Turkey and Iran, these two States were to be within US sphere of influence, including Syria, Iraq… Consequently, any operation that would anger the US in the Middle-East had to be negotiated at length, whatever time it took to reach an agreement…

2. Hafez made it a point of honor to “deliver” on any promise or agreement. Thus, unless Hafez secured internal cohesion and alliance to his agreement, he would refrain from any promises that he might not be able to demonstrate his power to deliver…

This reminds me of the story of Tsar Paul I of Russia when Napoleon was only First Consul of Revolutionary France. It was not conceivable at the time for absolute monarchs to negotiate with a common person, even if he grabbed power. Paul I wrote to Napoleon: “I am ready to deal with you: You are a person who demonstrated he can deliver on agreements…”

This position angered the British Empire and they made sure for Tsar Paul I to be assassinated…

What follows are examples of how Hafez Assad operated to achieve his goals:

1. In 1970, King Hussein of Jordan was militarily annihilating the Palestinian resistance movement in Jordan: Over 70% of the Jordanians have origin in Palestine.  The Syrian defense minister dispatched tanks toward Jordan to pressure Hussein in stopping the carnage. Israel sent a couple of jets to over fly the frenzied speeding Syrian tanks.

Hafez was the chief of the air force at the time and got the message right: He refrained from engaging the Syrian air-force or to give aerial support to the tanks.  The advancing tanks stopped and returned… What was the price?

1. Hafez received “foreign” support when he waged a successful military coup in 1971.

2. The PLO was cornered to deal directly with Hafez who nibbled on the Palestinian Organization to get full hold on its internal decisions… The civil war in Lebanon was a tag of war on how much the PLO can secure self-autonomy from direct Syria interventions

In September 1973, The small Syrian army of barely 100,000 soldiers in total managed to recaptured the Golan Heights, only to retreat from the conquered part after the US established the largest airlift in its history to supply Israel with all the military hardware, satellite intelligence, and even pilots…

In 1981, Syria Moslem Brotherhood, mostly concentrated in Homs, was very virulent and had been attacking Syria institutions and targeting Hafez Assad elite people for a couple of years now. Hafez was very patient and trying to negotiate a deal with the Brotherhood. Why?

Sadat of Egypt had rallied Egypt Brotherhood around him and Hafez was dissatisfied with Sadat unilateral peace with Israel… but Syria Moslem Brotherhood kept backing Sadat of Egypt and giving serious trouble to Hafez…

Hafez negotiated with the US at length and receive the green light to put down the Brotherhood uprising. The action was irreversible, brutal, unconditional…and thousands of Brotherhood members and supporters were persecuted for years.  Hundreds in jails (mainly in Palmira , Tadmor) were executed on a weekly basis…

And the invasion of Lebanon, starting in 1976, at the instigation of the Christian leaders as the PLO and Lebanese left opposition alliance advanced into the “Christian” region…Hafez waited until the PLO got heavily engaged in Lebanon’s morass…

And the support of Desert Storm and sending a contingent to fight alongside the US troops as Saddam’s troops invaded Kuwait. And what was the price in return? A mandated power over Lebanon that lasted 15 years til 2005…

And what of his second son Bashar Assad who replaced Hafez in 2000?

The eldest son,  Bassel, had died from a car accident, driving a fast car. He was an extrovert person and was liked among the military…

And Bashar, studying ophthalmology (eye doctor for corrective lenses…) was summoned from England to return and get initiated and educated to the labyrinth of power…

Hafez had cancer for many years (since 1983?) and was being treated in Russia, and his days were counted and he was accelerating the position of responsibilities assigned to Bashar… But Bashar is an introvert…

Bashar public speeches are a pain in the ass… He cannot differentiate between political speeches and official lecturing on what is rational, logical, and should be done (logically and rationally). I had watched many Arab leaders snoozing during Bashar’s lengthy speeches…

Syria “Constitution” was modified in order to permit young Basher (33 instead of 40 in age) to become President in 2000.

In that year, Israel was forced to withdraw unilaterally from south Lebanon, and Bashar was barely in power and trying to affirm his hold, and missed a golden opportunity to withdraw his troops from Lebanon…

Those  leaders who hate Bashar or Syria, blame him for failing to deliver on agreements and promises….

Mind you that time had changed: Bush Jr invaded Iraq and didn’t ask for Bashar’s input on the decision.

Bashar was delivered ultimatum to fully side with the US forces… and to outdo the US capabilities in preventing infiltrated Iraqi nationalists from entering Iraq and engaging the US occupation troops….

And Saudi Arabia was not pleased with Bashar blocking any Wahhabi sect doctrine and activities to overwhelm the Syrians with free Wahhabi tailor-made Korans, and appointing Wahhabi sheikhs to Mosques…

And Turkey Moslem Brotherhood in power wanted to believe that opening up to Syria will ultimately encourage Bashar to extend a hand to the Syria Moslem Brotherhood and include them in the government and institutions… Mind you that Turkey Moslem Brotherhood have been in power for a decade…

Time has changed.

Bashar had to juggle with Iran strategic interests in the region: Iran during Bashar is not the same Iran during Hafez, trying to defend itself from Saddam invasion of its lands and waging a war that lasted 8 years…

Time has changed. Bashar has no longer troops in Lebanon in order to find himself in any solid position to “deliver” on agreements…

Time has changed. Bashar has reorganized the army and expanded it in order to confront eventual Israeli preemptive wars with the total support of the US.  The Syrian army is no longer a force to maintain Hafez in power, but to safeguard Syria from demanding foreign and regional powers…

Time has changed: Syria is currently floating on gas, the largest reserve in the world, and every potential country wants to have a piece of the pie and laying pipeline through Syria…

And Syria was engulfed in a “civil war” two years after the Arab Spring in 2011.

And Syria infrastructure are disturbed and its main cities (Aleppo and Homs…) are in ruin…

And the Syrians are fleeing in droves to Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan (over one million refugees are relying on the UN to survive in make-shift tents…) as is the case of the Palestinians when they were forced to leave their towns and villages in 1948 and in 1967…

Is Hafez Assad a stateman, a leader, both or neither?

Is Bashar Assad a stateman, a leader, both or neither?

Hafez was ruthless, and he established a dynasty. He gave Syria 3 decades of relative stability and continuity. He invested in the infrastructure of remote regions, spread public schools and health care. Hafez demonstrated the saying that:

“If war against Israel is tenuous without Egypt, a comprehensive peace cannot be reached without Syria…”

Hafez was considered a key player by all regional powers in Middle-East dynamics and his opinion was taken seriously…

Hafez initiated two decades of terror against the Syrian Moslem Brotherhood members and tortured and detained for extended prison terms to their family members and  “potential” opponents.

Bashar started a young president and did all the mistakes a young leader can do, and failed to grab the many opportunities opened to him.

He started arrogant, coy, and behaved as a son spoon-fed in silver utensils. Most probably, he has no patience for other people opinions and love to listen to his own talks, and tends to see the world more on the black and white aspect…

The current problems in Syria are the last opportunity to salvage his reign: Either he lose or prevails over the new wave of Moslem Brotherhood cultist dictatorship sweeping in the Middle-East.

If Bashar vanquishes, on the rubble of Syria, he will be remembered as the main leader who saved this region from this monster storm that is in total cohort with the US strategic plan for the Greater Middle East domination.

Time changes: Do you think potential political leaders are harder to locate?

Time changes: Do you think potential statemen are harder to form and discover?


“Justice rendered” and “Grapes of wrath”: Books or military operations?

In July 1993, during Yitzhak Rabin PM, and April 1996 (Shimon Perez PM), Israel launched two devastating military operations into Lebanon, destroying all Lebanon infrastructure, hydraulic and electrical systems, roads, bridges…

Over 500,000 Lebanese civilians in south Lebanon had to flee their villages and towns, and hundreds were killed…

In 1993, Timor Goksel (UN  contingent spokesman) clarified the reason for the vast Israeli military operation called “Justice rendered”:  “Hezbollah (resistance movement against Israel occupation of south Lebanon) has managed to kill too many (relative to previous periods) Israeli soldiers in short lapse of time…Hezbollah was leading a resistance  very much within the rules of the game: Israeli soldiers for resistance fighters killed in engagements…”

In the decade 1983-93, for every Israeli civilian killed by obsolete Katiousha rockets, 30 Lebanese civilians were harvested by Israel shelling of towns and villages. Now, since Israel soldiers were being targeted, deadly and punitive military operations were the response.

Israel main objective was to pressure the State of Lebanon (its army) to restrain Hezbollah zeal for resisting occupation.  Israel know that Lebanon never enjoyed any valid central power to confront any faction, much less a resistance more heavily armed and supported by Iran in organization and funding.

The Israeli military propaganda was that Israel was equipped with the latest technologies to automatically locate incoming rockets and respond within seconds and destroy rockets before impact…Reality proved to be very different: Israel just applied random violence on Lebanese civilians… The question in the high command was: “How Israel army was to pulverize 54 Lebanese towns and villages bordering Israel and force the civilians to transfer northward?”

In 1993, and for 7 days and nights, Israel bombed and ruined 70 villages and destroyed Lebanon infrastructure.  Over 140 Lebanese civilians were killed, over  350,000 fled, and only 9 resistance fighters fell martyrs in retaliation for two dead Israeli civilians.

This time around, Israel was retaliating against Lebanese and Not against any “Palestinian terrorists“.  The internal political climate in Lebanon rallied around Hezbollah’s right to resist the occupiers.

The US of Clinton had to hurry to Damascus to strike a cease fire agreement with Hafez al Assad.  Hezbollah won politically: The US agreed to recognize Hezbolla’s rights to resist occupation: fighting is among fighters!  Three weeks later, Hezbollah killed 9 Israeli soldiers in a single day:  The July 1993 operation was supposedly in retaliation for 7 Israeli soldiers killed between 1985 and 1993.

In October 1994, Hezbollah climbed a mountain and planted its flag on an Israeli bunkers manned by 70 soldiers of the “elite” Givati: The Israeli soldiers dispersed haphazardly in the adjacent forests.

And this exploit was filmed by “embedded” Hezbollah cameramen who showed the document the same night on Hezbollah’s TV station “Al Manar“.  An instant hit story around the Arab world. This valiant operation by Hezbollah came in retaliation of the Israeli bunker in Dabcheh shelling the large town of Nabatieh and killing an entire two families.

The “Grapes of wrath”Israeli vast operation in April 1996 had for purpose to pressuring Syria to “restraining” Hezbollah and consequently to alienating Syria from Iran.

The operation lasted 17 days and nights: 500,000 Lebanese civilians fled, 165 were killed, 13 resistance fighters fell, and again all Lebanon infrastructure destroyed, to be rebuild for the nth time.

In this operation, the UN contingent in the town of Qana warned Israel of the existence of Lebanese civilians in their compound: Israel thus shelled the compound with 13 mortar shells of the 155 mm caliber and killed 102 civilians!  Lebanese totally backed Hezbollah and even “right wing and isolationist” Christians donated money and acclaimed Hezbollah.

The US of Clinton had to hustle back to Damascus for another cease-fire deal.  The French headed the negotiation and US Christopher had to bow down to the new agreement: Israel has no longer any “rights” to targeting Lebanese civilians.

Since 1996  operation, Hezbollah escalated its operations from 200 on average to 1,000 in 1998.  By 1999, the number of Hezbollah’s operations climbed to 1,500.  In 2000, Israel was forced to withdraw without negotiation or any preconditions.

In June 2006, Israel tried one more time with an operation that lasted 33 days with full backing of Bush Junior.

Israel lost the war and the political clout and is reduced to count Hezbollah as a true army and at par as a determined and efficient deterrence force to consider in any later operations.

Note 1: details taken from “A history of Lebanon” by David Hirst, correspondent in Lebanon and the Middle-East for 30 years

Note 2:  You may read on genesis of Hezbollah




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