Judas, which betrayed him, answered and said, Master, is it I? He said unto him, Thou hast said.—Matthew 26:25
In the last day of July 2013, Israel issued an unprecedented warning towards the “Syrian Free Army,” the mercenaries attempting to topple the Syrian government. Considering that Israel facilitated the supplies of weapons to them,* this looks odd. Yet, Syria is not Libya. Mercenaries can’t juggernaut there.
The Israeli reaction came after a heated press conference that took place on July 16. The conference was offered by General Salim Idris, Commander of the Free Syrian Army as a result of the UK abandoning plans to arm the Syrian opposition.
Free Syrian Army Mercenaries with Russian SA-8 New Babylonians
The mercenary general denounced the West for abandoning them. “The West promises and promises. This is a joke now,” were his softest words (see Idris: the West “leave us alone to be killed”).
Israel is not shy of using mercenary armies. “Southern Lebanon Army” is a misleading name. Technically, it describes a Lebanese militia which split from the Army of Free Lebanon in 1979. It was led by Major Saad Haddad’s Government of Free Lebanon and it fought against the Palestine Liberation Organisation and Hezbollah.
Its symbolic name becomes unambiguous in Hebrew. The acronym used is Tzadal, which sounds almost identical to Tzahal,** the IDF. The Southern Lebanon Army was a mercenary group fighting for Israel.
Yet, Israel abandoned its former collaborators. On January 2013, the Israeli government decided to get involved in the assimilation of the refugees due to the emergency situation created. Official statistics of the Israeli government claim that out of the one-thousand adult refugees, 30% of the men and 70% of the women are jobless. They have failed to integrate in their new society. This is not surprising considering the religious, ethnic, cultural and linguistic differences. Moreover, as Lebanese do, many Israelis consider the mercenaries “corruptible,” to put it mildly. After all, they have already proved themselves to fight for the highest bidder.
As summarized in the footnote,* Israel facilitated the transfer of weapons to the mercenaries. Beyond the widely publicized aerial caravans, a quieter path was opened by Israel through the Haifa Port and the Sheikh Hussein Bridge (From Iraq to Turkey via Israel).
Moreover, Israel is carrying a distraction campaign on the Golan Heights (IDF Offensive Redeployment Amid Syrian Fire). The level of the fire there is high enough to distract the Syrian Army from the mercenaries, but not enough to escalate into a full retaliation by Syria.
Yet, Syria is neither Libya nor Lebanon. Israel cannot transform the Free Syrian Army into a new Southern Lebanon Army.
The calculation is simple. What if the mercenaries fail, as their predecessors in Lebanon did? In that case, the difference between a puppet-army and a semi-autonomous one is huge.
A puppet-army would lead almost for sure to a retaliation of its victim against its masters. Bashar al-Assad has now more military experience than his father during the 1973 War. He won’t commit the silly error+ that prevented the crash of the IDF. A semi-autonomous mercenary army creates the degree of freedom needed to deny direct Israeli involvement.
Weapons Path to Syrian Mercenaries, Courtesy of New York Times
Killing Your Own
A mercenary should be careful when choosing who pays his salary. Both the USA and Israel have very bad records on that. The Hmong were lied by the first, the Southern Lebanese Militias by the second. Other examples are easy to find. The West is loyal only to its underground vaults in Zurich, the most sumptuous religious temples the West has ever built. Sometimes it looks that they are also the only ones that they comprehend.
After they failed to deliver, the Free Syrian Army is being slowly abandoned. Fewer weapons are delivered and those reaching them are of lower quality. Israel and the West are seeking for a way out of the war, without being directly implicated. That was the nature of the abovementioned declaration by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
This put the banana army between a rock and a hard place. Both the rock and the hard place are called the Syrian Army. The mercenaries have nowhere to escape and are slowly being pulverized. If the West doesn’t send its armies to fight on the ground, it is just a matter of time until the mercenaries will blend perfectly into the desert sands. In despair, they are shooting everything they have.
On July 31, 2013, Yediot Ahronot—Israel’s largest paid newspaper—published a truly odd article entitled: “Syrian Rebels Have Anti-Aircraft Weapons that Threaten Israel.” The article mention certain facts and events without giving dates but with a level of detail that identify the author as having used AMAN (IDF Intelligence Directorate) as its source. The article didn’t contain any news; it was just a warning. The justification was a video allegedly posted by the mercenaries on YouTube.
The video shows how the rebels hit a Syrian Army helicopter with a Russian SA-8. The Israeli newspaper claim that their mobility is what makes them dangerous. They can easily hide in caves and the broken terrain of Syria, threatening Israel’s entire north.
The Syrian Army owns a more advanced system, the SA-17. Earlier Israeli airstrikes near Damascus were at least partially aimed at blocking the delivery of the SA-17 to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The key statement was of a military nature: “The threat on Israel’s freedom of action by this mobile, stealth system (the SA-8) is very significant. Especially when there would be a need to act against the rockets and missiles of Hezbollah and Syria.”
In other words, the clumsy patsies are being dismissed. Israel threatens Syria directly while warning the rebels that they would be targeted. Is that the way to encourage loyalty? Netanyahu, is that what you learned at the IDF’s commando? Oddly, Israel is pointing out the possibility that the Free Syrian Army and the Syrian Army would cooperate against an Israeli attack. It may be the only path enabling the mercenaries to save their lives.
May we guess that the IDF will be particularly busy this Yom Kippur?
video, full version and free subscriptions at http://roitov.com/articles/mercenaries.htm
* The report on the weapons deal was undeniable; even the conservative New York Times said that this had been confirmed by “Western Officials;” it is safe to assume it referred to NATO. The decision to take out the 100 Croatian soldiers from the force came after that on February 25, the same newspaper reported that Saudi Arabia had underwritten a large purchase of infantry arms in Croatia. “According to United States and Western officials, in December arms left over from the Balkan wars of the 1990s began to reach rebels battling the forces of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, via Jordan. Since then, officials said, several planeloads of weapons have left Croatia. Yugoslav weapons previously unseen in the conflict, including recoilless guns, assault rifles and machine guns, began to appear in videos posted by Syrian rebels on YouTube,” NYT reported. The Croatian president claimed in his withdrawal announcement that the NYT report had made impossible for his troops to stay safely in the Golan Heights. Until recently, Croatia had been a traditional ally of Damascus.
On June 2012, former Under Secretary of State Stuart E. Eizenstat—who served in the Clinton Administration—told Israeli newspaper Haaretz that the EU must encourage Croatia and Serbia to take responsibility for their roles in the Holocaust before granting them EU membership.
Croatia’s President Ivo Josipovic issued in February 2012 an apology for his country’s role in the crimes committed against the Jews during the Second World War. Of course, the Republic of Croatia became independent only in 1991, many years after the WWII ended; this was not an obstacle for Israel and the USA, which greedily accepted the apology.
In this context, the Croatian actions appear in a more strategic context; Israel and the USA decided to maximize their extortionist leverage before Croatia formally enters the EU. Croatia was used to funnel weapons to the Syrian rebels. It wasn’t all bad for Croatia, it lost the income of 100 soldiers, but it got rid of planeloads of old weapons.
See Israel Buys Croatian Path to Syrian Rebels for more details.
** “Tzahal” Hebrew acronym for “Tzva HaHagana LeYisrael,” “The Army of Defense for Israel”,” “Tzadal” Hebrew acronym for “Tzva Drom Lebanon,” “Southern Lebanon Army.”
+ A never dying topic in Israel is “How did Israel survive the Yom Kippur War?” Many explanations exist and are the government’s favorite way to scare people on this day. The Jewish orthodoxy and the Military Rabbinate work hard to convince the people it was God’s finger. I won’t expand on the different theories, but will comment on the official (and basically unpublished) IDF one. Even within the IDF, one can hear many conjectures. After searching for an answer while still a young officer, I found an official paper explaining the event. It had all the marks showing that it was the real thing, including descriptions of the undeniable clumsiness of the Israeli side during the war. Maybe that’s why it is still kept away from the public. In this war, the Egyptian front was less relevant, because the Sinai Desert separated the Egyptian Army from the IDF. It allowed the IDF time to call the reserve. On the Syrian front the situation was different. One can travel from the Sea of Galilee (actually a lake), to Haifa—Israel’s main city and industrial complex in the north—in less than an hour. I am factoring in a coffee break along the way; Israel is tiny. In 1973, by the end of the first day of war, the Syrian army had conquered the Golan Heights and was looking at the Galilee from above. Its pointmen could have reached Haifa in less than two hours, since there were no active IDF units between them and the Mediterranean Sea. Syria had won. Unluckily, the Syrian units involved were no trained for moving or fighting at night. Thus they waited until the next morning. Frantic, Israel recruited the reserve and blocked the Golani Junction with cannon fodder. This saved Israel; yet, the military rabbinate dislikes the explanation. The Finger of God Theory is preferred by them.
Yom Kippur in Israel is rightfully placed at the end of the Frightening Days; those seeing it for the first time are invariably scared by the violent military undertone of the event. Following the surprise Egyptian and Syrian attack on Israel on the eve of Yom Kippur 1973, many changes were made on the way the State of Israel operates during this day. The scariest is the radio’s silent mode. All radio stations belonging to the army and state do not work. The same is true for all other media; don’t even expect to find new content on the Hebrew internet. Scanning the electromagnetic spectrum, one can hear the usual white noise between stations; however, when reaching the frequency of the state’s official stations, the white noise disappears. These stations broadcast silence. This is so in the case of an emergency; then a system active during the entire year is activated. During a surprise attack, an “open-call” may be broadcast. In such an event, the Minister of Defense will openly call for the reserve army to reach immediately the meeting points. Another option is what is known as “IDF QUIZ.” In this case, a two-word code alerts the reservists that a call is being made; the second part for the message includes a simple system specifying which units are being called. A third option is the “quiet call,” which relies on the phone system. The last two are used when the government doesn’t want to alert its own citizens that a war has begun.
Roi Tov is a graduate—among others—of Tel Aviv University and the Weizmann Institute of Science. In addition to his memoir, Tov is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Molecular Physics and other scientific journals. He won various travel writing and photography awards.
In his writings, he tries to reveal life in Israel as a Christian Israel Defense Force (IDF) officer—from human rights violations to the use of an extensive network of underground agents. He was recognized first as a refugee and subsequently as political prisoner of Bolivia.