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IntroductionApproved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134THE CARLISLE PAPERS: IVFor a fourth year, the Editorial Board of Studies in Intelligence is publishing papers drawnfrom a Conference on Intelligence and Military Operations conducted by the US Army WarCollege, Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania. The fourth annual conference, held 9-11 May 1989,brought together an international group of scholars to discuss the role of intelligence in strategicassessment, low-intensity warfare, military operations, politics, deception, strategic surprise,and on the battlefield in the age of high technology. Representative of the material offered atthe conference are two papers presented here: (b)(6)  ? Early Warning Systems, by? From the Okhrana to the KGB, by(b)(6)27Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134MediterraneanSea, .AMASCUSIv?4- 81 4irmokJordan20 Kilometers $20 Miles?NEtounnory representation asnot necantatity.euthoritatiro.Unclassified28717065 (300428) 9-81Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134The case of Israel and SyriaEARLY WARNING SYSTEMS(b)(6)The period of unusual tension in Israeli-Syrian relations described in the following accountcame to a close in the summer of 1986, but the situation on the two countries' common bordercontinues to be fraught with danger. In the fall of 1988, Israeli leaders issued a number ofdeclarations reaffirming their perception of a Syrian threat and the concomitant need -foroverall watchfulness, for intelligence alertness and for constant battle-readiness on the GolanHeights.' The inauguration of an Israeli program to place satellites in orbit over the MiddleEast, some of which would have a surveillance capability, can be partly seen in the context ofthis imperative. A few days before the launch of Of eg 1, Chief of Staff Shomron justified theinvestment in early warning systems costing hundreds of millions of dollars by saying that thealternative would be to keep Israeli troops on constant standby.'From September 1985 to June 1986, the Israeli Army was on heightened alert on at leastfive separate occasions as a result of forebodings of a possible Syrian attack. This was afterIsrael's final withdrawal from most of Lebanon in June 1985, three years after the 1982invasion, when presumably tension with Syria should have decreased. The Syrian Armyresponded by taking precautionary measures, and tension rose dangerously. The slightestmiscalulation could have resulted in war.But Syria was not immediately -heading for war,- as the frequently expressed Israelislogan claimed. Indeed, in early 1987 Israel reached this conclusion. Why was it, then, thatIsrael so seriously misjudged Syria's position? What were the causes of Israel's repeated alarms?Had Israel replaced the fatal complacency of the pre-October 1973 war period by a no lessprecarious tendency to -cry wolf?"Israeli Threat AssessmentsThe military intelligence branch of the general staff, Aman, is the largest and mostpowerful of Israel's intelligence agencies. It bears responsibility for the national securityestimate, and it exerts strong influence over government thinking on all matters pertaining tothe Arab world. Whenever there is a convergence of opinion among Israeli ministers and seniorArmy commanders on some Middle Eastern issue, the odds are that it derives from a militaryintelligence assessment, and this helps to piece together Aman's views. Aman's opinions are alsomore directly available from the occasional briefings given by the Director of MilitaryIntelligence (DMI) and senior intelligence officers.The work of Israeli intelligence has always rested on the assumption that some or all ofIsrael's neighbors are bent on its destruction. Because of its small population, Israel is obligedto rely in a national emergency on the mobilization of the reserves. And a timely mobilizationrequires an effective early warning system, which is maintained by the intelligence corps andthe intelligence branch of the general staff. Since its failure in October 1973 to providesufficient advance warning of the impending Egyptian-Syrian attack, Aman has placedredoubled emphasis on the accurate detection of threats to national security to ensure that theIsraeli Defence Forces (IDF) are not caught off guard again.Following the Yom Kippur War and the Agranat commission of inquiry into the-blunder,- various structural changes were introduced into the work of intelligence. There was29Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134to be greater coordination between military intelligence officers at the general staff andcommand levels; field intelligence-gathering capabilities were improved; new rules for thedistribution of intelligence material were determined; a devil's advocate unit was set up withinthe intelligence branch charged with presenting counter-arguments to the prevailing consensus;the burden of administering the intelligence corps was removed from the shoulders of the DMIby the appointment of a separate chief intelligence officer with his own staff; and intelligencepluralism was fostered by strengthening the Foreign Ministry Research Department (hence-forth known as the Center for Research and Policy Planning) and by establishing anindependent evaluaton unit within the Mossad.sBut the most interesting change concerns the new analytical procedures proposed for theassessment of threat and the consequent sounding of an alert. On the eve of the Yom KippurWar, numerous indicators available to Israeli intelligence pointed to the readiness for battle ofthe Egyptian and Syrian Armies. However, these were disregarded because of the assumptionthat Egypt would not dare to attack Israel without a long-range aerial strike capability and thatSyria would not go it alone. To this was added the failure to envisage the possibility thatPresident Sadat might eschew a war aimed at recapturing the whole of the Sinai Peninsula infavor of a limited war intended to catalyse a political process. A successful Egyptian campaignof deception reinforced the Israeli conclusion that the Egyptian Army was engaged inexercises.'As a direct result of this error, serious doubt was cast on the wisdom of relying on anappraisal of enemy intentions for a threat assessment. The Agranat report proposed that threatshould not be assessed on the basis of what were at best subjective judgments about intentions,Perceptions, or policy trends in the enemy camp. What really counted was the opponent'spreparedness for attack on the ground. Only information, then, about the enemy's order ofbattle was to be relied upon in reaching an assessment of threatsThe case for redefining the work of intelligence along these lines was cogently argued byYitzhak Rabin, chief of staff in 1967, prime minister responsible for inmplementing therecommendations of the Agranat report in 1975 and 1976, and defence minister at the time ofthe war scares of 1985 and 1986: 6Concerning intelligence, there is room to distinguish between two interconnectedsystems: One system?the reception of data on what is happening in enemy countriesand their armies, the influence of the superpowers and other factors, the analysis ofthe options available to the enemy to go to war against us; the second system?thematter of intentions. In everything connected to data, to the analysis of options, Ithink that over the years military intelligence has been outstanding, with impressiveachievements, providing facts that it would be hard to improve on, in everythingconnected with the size of the enemy's forces, their quality, deployment, possibilities.The matter of intentions is less dependent on the military echelon, in enemy countriesas well. It is the political echelon that decided to exploit military options, in otherwords, to go to war. Here a difficulty arises. We are speaking of totalitarian regimeswhere, on occasion, the final say is that of a single individual. Therefore, it is muchharder to acquire factual information on intentions. As an intelligence consumer, aschief of staff and prime minister, I wanted to get both things. But at the same timeI always said and was always convinced that, as far as enemy intentions wereconcerned, intelligence estimates should not be considered immutable dogma. It isthe political echelon that has to make its own estimate of enemy intentions in thecourse of discussions with the intelligence community.30Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134If threat assessment was to be grounded in information on enemy capabilities rather thanintentions, Aman's role would be to determine whether or not certain pre-established criteriahad been fulfilled. Only one narrow Question would concern it: Had the enemy acquired theoption of launching an attack? Judgment of whether or not he actually intended to implementthat option would supposedly be transferred to the surer grasp of the politicians. Aman wouldbe deprived of the kind of discretion that it was alleged to have abused in 1973.A close monitoring of the enemy's order of battle would aim at detecting early warningindicative signs of enemy military preparations. Indicative signs are involuntary and unavoid-able actions taken by an opponent as he readies his forces for war, and they can be divided intocircumstantial and immediate signs. Circumstantial signs are changes in enemy dispositions orcapabilities that would put him in a better general position to launch an attack. These mightinclude a redeployment of enemy forces, an increase in his mobilized strength on the front, orthe emplacement of new weapon systems.'The definitive estimate of an impending attack would depend on the detection of certainindications that the enemy had actually begun his countdown to war. These immediateindicative signs might include the cancellation of leave, civil defense preparations, theevacuation of civilian hospitals, adoption of characteristic deployment patterns determined byoffensive military doctrine, the issue of specified types of battle equipment, the activation ofcertain communication networks, a change in the pattern of radio traffic, the movement offorces and equipment to prepared jumping-off points, and so on at each stage of thecountdown, at all command levels, and in every branch of the services.In practice, a doctrinaire application of the Agranat approach was hardly feasible underall conditions. As General Ehud Barak, DMI from 1983 to 1986, argued in an important article,preoccupation with the eventuality of an all-out attack overlooked Aman's obligation toprovide warning of limited -smash and grab- or terror operations from which an enemy suchas Syria might obtain substantial political benefit but which would not require the sort ofadvance preparation detectable by monitoring his order of battle.Another major problem, overlooked by Agranat, Barak pointed out, was the practicalimpossibility of establishing an infallible early warning system. Sophisticated equipment wassubject to technical failure or the vagaries of the weather, and the effort put by Israel intocollecting information was matched by an equal enemy attempt to frustrate that effort. Thefruits of surprise, Barak added, had proven so great in 1973 that the Arabs could be expectedto try to repeat and even improve on that performance in the future. Finally, reliance onindicative signs also had its drawbacks; a state planning to go to war could make many of itslogistical preparations well ahead of time and thereby deprive the opponent's intelligence ofvital pointers. Barak concluded that, in current circumstances or with any additionalinvestment of men and equipment, Aman could not promise with absolute assurance to give,say, five day's advance warning of an enemy attack.'Red Lines in LebanonOn 10 June 1985, the Israeli Army completed the final stage of its withdrawal fromLebanon in the aftermath of the ill-fated Lebanon war of 1982. Israel had sought to arrive atan understanding with Syria regulating the presence and activities of the two countries inLebanon, but Syria did not respond to attempts to make contact. As far as Syria was concerned,Israel was not a legitimate party to any arrangement concerning Lebanon and should withdrawits forces unconditionally.31Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134Israel thus was obliged to revert to the pre-1982 concept of "red lines," tacit "rules of thegame" defining the kind and scope of behavior permitted and prohibited to the parties on"non-zero-sum" situations of conflict. Red lines can be communicated in declaratory form, viaa third party or by dint of practise. There need be no acknowledgement of their existence otherthan their effective operation on the ground. Nor need they entail cooperation beyond thelimited sphere of their application. Their sole purpose is to avoid unnecessary abrasion whileprotecting the essential security interests of rivals. Although they are meant to preventescalation to war, by indicating the limits of one's tolerance they often function as a centralcomponent in strategies of deterrence and their infringement by an opponent may be deemeda casus belli.The red lines drawn by Israel in Lebanon consisted of several basic elements:? Syria's existing sphere of influence in the country was acknowledged, but its forceswere not to move south of their present dispositions into areas vacated by thewithdrawing Israelis.? Syrian ground-to-air antiaircraft missiles were not to be deployed on Lebanese soil.? Israel reserved for its air force the freedom of Lebanese air space for aerialreconnaissance and for raids on terrorist bases.? It was hoped that Syria might restrain guerrilla incursions against Israel out of Al Biqa'(the Bekaa Valley), which was under the control of Syrian troops.Although Syria effectively gave tacit consent to the first three points, it never showed anyinclination to accept the last one. Syria also would not bestow any kind of legitimacy on thesecurity zone created by Israel north of the international boundary between Israel and Lebanonthat was policed by troops of the South Lebanese Army with the support of the IDF.Israeli military intelligence appraisals of Syria were dominated by a debate over themeaning of Assad's declared goal of achieving "strategic parity" with Israel. The dimensions ofSyria's military buildup were clear enough: a new command and control system for Syria's airdefenses and her air force; long-range SA-5 ground-to-air missiles capable of interdicting planeswell inside Israeli territory; SS-21 ground-to-ground missiles capable of striking at northern andcentral Israel; and an increase in Syrian ground forces from six to nine divisions since 1982 thatallowed Syria to put more than 500,000 men into the field.What did it all mean? The rather moderate view of the DMI, General Barak, was thatSyria sought to acquire the capability to defend itself and also to perform offensive operationswithout the participation of any other Arab factor. Its long-range strike capability and strategiccooperation with the USSR were intended to counterbalance Israel's strategic alliance with theUS. Barak did not believe that war was inevitable. The Syrians, in his opinion, understood thatalthough they could forecast the beginning of an all-out war they could have no assurance asto its conclusion. They knew enough about the strength of the IDF to realize that resort toall-out war would be highly problematic from their point of view.'0A more pessimistic interpretation was put on Syrian policy by a senior officer in theresearch department of the intelligence branch. He agreed that strategic parity had a defensivedimension and was intended to obviate the possibility of an imposed settlement. But he alsoargued that Syria "hoped to conduct an aggressive policy in the military sphere.- This latterview was endorsed by Chief of Staff Moshe Levi, who believed that "the Syrians will try toattack us in some form." 12 Syria said outright that it wanted to annihilate Israel, albeit underconvenient conditions.32Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134Alarm #1: September 1985News of a security alert on the Golan front was released to the Israeli press on 3 September1985, when the chief of staff announced that the IDF had taken appropriate steps "to deal withthe possibility of a sudden attack on the Golan Heights by the Syrians."' The announcementwould have been made to prevent the spread of exaggerated rumor among the general publicin the light of preventive measures being taken and to scuttle any Syrian hopes of achievingsurprise. On 10 September, Defense Minister Rabin took the grave and extraordinary step ofissuing a public warning to the Syrians "lest they make a fatal mistake and initiate anill-considered move against Israel. The outcome would be a crushing Israeli victory." 14The major factor causing this alarm was the completion by Syria of the redeployment ofthree divisions from Lebanon to permanent bases around Damascus. The bulk of the SyrianArmy, comprising six armored divisions with over 2,000 tanks, was now deployed between theGolan front and the Syrian capital. This was not a sudden move, and it had been closelyobserved by military intelligence at least since June, when it was referred to by Barak. But withshorter lines of communication and more units available, the Syrian Army enjoyed greaterfreedom of maneuver than before. It had also strengthened its fortifications on the Golan andput its forces through an intensive training program described as "unprecedented in scope" byintelligence sources.'No indicative signs of an imminent attack had been detected. Deputy Chief of StaffGeneral Shomron admitted that he had "no information that would attest to a Syrian resolutionto launch a war against Israel." 18 Nor did anyone believe that a Syrian attack made any kindof sense, because Syria was politically isolated and militarily inferior to Israel. But while therewas nothing in its deployment to indicate an imminent attack, the Syrian Army could quicklyshift to an offensive footing. General On Or, in charge of the Northern Command, noted thatthe Syrians had "the potential to be an immediate threat," and, in line with the recommen-dations of the Agranat commission of inquiry, IDF units had been reinforced so that Israel had"a better ratio of power in case something does happen." 17The September alert would seem to have been a straightforward application of theAgranat guidelines. Threat assessment, according to this version, was to be based on the stateof enemy capabilities. Irrespective of the political and strategic logic of the situation, IDFintelligence doctrine, therefore, required that the transfer of Syrian forces from the Bekaa tothe Golan set off the alarm. In point of fact, the Israeli assessment was less detached fromsurrounding circumstances than might appear at first sight and did contain an evaluation ofSyrian intentions.Assorted developments contributing to Israeli disquiet were cited in a commentary by themilitary correspondent of Davar, printed next to the report of Rabin's warning of 10September. There had recently been, the article explained, a spate of minings and otherattempted terrorist acts on the Golan by the Syrian-backed "refusal front." Moreover, Syria wasconstantly enlarging its influence in Lebanon and had moved its forces into Zahlah, theChristian town on the Beirut-Damascus Highway that had been the scene of a previousSyrian-Israeli crisis in 1981. The article concluded that Israel was concerned "that burgeoningSyrian strength and self-confidence might lead to Syria's feeling that she could launch a waragainst Israel." 18The points touched on in the Davar commentary were repeated in various statementsbeing made at the time by senior ministers and officers, including the foreign minister, thedefense minister and the chief of staff. Given the close relationship between military33Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134intelligence and some Israeli military correspondents, it was probably an accurate reflection ofAman's views. If so, then it follows that, Agranat notwithstanding, an evaluation of bothcapability and intention, albeit with an emphasis on the former, had been restored to theassessment of threat.Alarm #2: November-December 1985Of all the episodes dealt with here, the Syrian missile crisis was potentially the mostdangerous. Action and reaction followed in rapid succession, and soon a classic deterrence crisishad emerged, with both parties perceiving their credibility challenged. Only an intensive USeffort at mediation over several tense weeks disentangled the situation.Ever since the June withdrawal, the Israeli Air Force had maintained freedom of actionover Lebanese territory, flying reconnaissance patrols and striking at Palestinian guerrillatargets in the Bekaa Valley. In the weeks preceding the crisis, however, Syrian planes hadbegun to appear, and on several occasions Israeli patrols had been broken off "to prevent anexacerbation of the situation." On 19 November, Israeli aircraft were on a routine surveillancepatrol over the northern Bekaa Valley near Balabakk about 10 kilometers from the Syrianborder. Two Syrian MIG-23 fighters were detected on an apparent interception course andwere shot down while over Syrian territory on the orders of a senior commander in the air forcecontrol center. Israel later learned that the Syrians had no intention of clashing with the Israeliaircraf t.19At this point, a blackout was imposed by the local media on reporting of the crisis at therequest of the Israeli Government. Later accounts, however, provide a skeletal reconstructionof events. On 24 November, having complained to the UN Secretary-general and warned theUS that serious consequences would follow from the Israeli penetration of Syrian air space, theSyrian Government reacted with two moves. First, short-range SAM-6 and SAM-8 missilebatteries and radar equipment were introduced into the area of the Bekaa Valley. Second,longer-range SAM-2 missiles were moved up to various sites on the Syrian-Lebanese border. Inan atmosphere punctuated by Israeli protests and warnings, US Assistant Secretary of StateRichard Murphy hurried to the area and conducted contacts with the two sides in order todefuse the crisis. On 1 December, the shorter-range missiles were withdrawn from Lebanon.However, the SAM-2 missiles on Syrian soil were left in place. Tension remained high for someweeks, the SAM-6s and 8s were reintroduced and withdrawn for a second time, and the crisisonly wound down when Israel reluctantly reconciled herself to the presence of the Syrian-basedSAM-2s.An idea of the serious effect of the crisis on Aman's perceptions of Syria can be obtainedby comparing two interviews given by General Barak, one just before and one just after theevents described above. Speaking on Israeli TV on 16 October 1985, the DMI reiterated themoderate assessment of Syrian intentions that he had given in June: "In our opinion, Syria isnot going to go to war in the next few weeks and there is no need to run to the air raid shelters."Barak's main concern was that Syria might try to undermine political progress between Jordanand Israel. Even so, Syria had a wide range of options in such circumstances "other thanbeginning a conflagration with us." His perception of the Syrian leadership was ofa group of military professionals, level-headed and experienced generals who knowthe balance of power exactly as it really is and who realize the risks the Syrian Armywould be taking by entering into an all-out confrontation with Israel on its own. In myopinion, they will think very carefully before making such a decision.34Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134Speaking to military correspondents on 18 January 1986, Barak adopted a much morepessimistic tone with regard to Syria. In 1986, Syria's long-term plans for building up itsmilitary power would be completed or at least highly advanced. There would be -a higherpotential than in previous years for developments not necessarily presaged by past behavior."This would require maximum alertness and preparedness on the part of military intelligence.-The overall military capability that Syria is acquiring and the potential for deteriorationimplicit in the deployment of the Syrian ground-to-air missiles might constitute a turning pointin the situation." 20As in the September episode, a number of factors combined to produce the latest threatassessment. First and foremost, the missile deployment was seen as a change in the status quothat had existed in Lebanon since June 1982, when Syria agreed to refrain from placingantiaircraft missiles on Lebanese soil. In practise, Syria had also voluntarily kept its missilesaway from its side of the Syrian-Lebanese border?where they might threaten Israel's freedomof flight in Lebanese airspace. On the very day that the missiles were moved forward, a rarereport, datelined Paris, had Defense Minister Rabin telling his visiting French counterpart thatIsrael -would not concede the right to fly in Lebanese airspace," which he described -as a vitalIsraeli defense need." 21 The Syrian deployment, then, threatened that right.Despite the accidental nature of the initial incident, for which, if anything, responsibilitylay with Israel, some observers believed that Syria had simply been looking for a pretext todeploy the missiles. The imputation of intentionality, the assumption that the opponent ispurposefully manipulating events, is a classic psychological process associated with theperceptions of threat in an international crisis.One military commentator, writing in mid-December, pointed out that the missile sitesand dugouts had been prepared beforehand, and he went on to argue that the dogfight was onlyan excuse for the Syrians to implement their intentions. Syria's main motive was to assert itsexclusive control over Lebanon and to deprive Israel of aerial access to vital intelligence on theterrorists and the Syrian Army.' The deputy chief of staff offered a similar analysis. Hebelieved -Syria will advance and seek any opening through which it can make political ormilitary achievements." Syria was a patient foe and would "move toward the brink verycautiously." But the situation had -potential for a deterioration" and -in the end" the missileswould be destroyed.'In line with the view advanced by Barak in October that Syria had a wide range of optionsavailable to torpedo the political process between Israel and Jordan, defense -experts" quotedby another military correspondent argued that Assad had -in fact posed a direct diplomaticchallenge to Israel that is far wider than just Israel's ability to patrol the skies of Lebanon."Syria did not want war. -But they also do not want movement on the peace front betweenIsrael and Jordan, nor do they want the 'idyllic situation' on Israel's northern border to continueunchallenged." 24If this last point was true, and the Syrians wanted to -warm up" the northern border, thepotential for escalation was grave. Evidence for this came in the form of increased attacksagainst the South Lebanese Army by guerrillas operating out of the Bekaa Valley. Because theeffect of the Syrian missiles was precisely to restrict Israeli freedom of action against guerrillabases in the Bekaa and obstruct intelligence gathering, the image of some concerted andmalevolent scheme was reinforced. Interrogation by military intelligence of infiltratorscaptured during the crisis in November and December 1985 indicated that senior Syrianintelligence officers were behind the planning of the raids.' Particularly ominous was thecapture in November of a squad belonging to the Democratic Front for the Liberation of35Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134Palestine. Sent in this case from Syria, and trained at Malila, not far from the Lebaneseborder, it had been intercepted in the Hermon area while on a mission to capture Israelicitizens and to negotiate the release of terrorists jailed in Israel.' This particular item was sosensitive that it was only reported to the public on 29 January, after things had calmed down.Inevitably, there was concern about whether the situation might escalate to war. To addto the various disturbing items of information at the disposal of military intelligence, alarge-scale Syrian military exercise was held in mid-December, and appropriate measures weretaken by the IDF. But the monitoring of Syrian capabilities gave no grounds to conclude thatan attack was imminent. No significant changes in Syrian deployment were observed on theGolan, nor were indicative signs picked up that might point to Syrian preparations for asurprise attack.'The trouble was that the absence of indicative signs provided no comfort. Why this wasso was hinted at in an article appearing in Jane's Defence Weekly for 28 December 1985,quoting Israeli defense and intelligence sources. The main themes of this article were toreappear on several occasions in the coming months. The article probably was intended as asignal to Syria to inform her that Israel was fully aware of her "plans." Since Israel's withdrawalfrom Lebanon, the Jane's piece argued, Syria had been able to concentrate its forces oppositeIsrael on the Golan behind a strengthened defensive line. From this new disposition it couldmove to the offensive "within a very short space of time," hoping to repeat the surpriseachieved in 1973. The worst-case scenario described by the article was one in which Syriawould try to neutralize Israel's early warning system by making its preparations for war slowlyand imperceptibly. Either an all-out attack or the seizure of an Israel position, such as MountHermon, was possible.Alarm #3: March 1986The missile crisis was a turning point in Israeli perceptions of Syria. It erased the view ofa Syria which, ideology notwithstanding, could be relied upon to maintain the status quo. Theirony is that it was just at this time that external signs of a deepening economic crisis in Syrianaffairs, hardly compatible with a militant foreign policy, were becoming evident. At any rate,henceforth Aman displayed an increased sensitivity to real?or apparent?threatening cues.All traces of a reliance on objective indices of capability, recommended by the Agranat report,disappeared, to be replaced by resort to a traditional and subjective appraisal of intentions.Threat perception then tended to overshadow threat assessment.The March 1986 scare was provoked by a speech given by Assad inaugurating the newlyelected People's Assembly in Damascus on 27 February. Most of the speech was dedicated tointernal matters, but three items concerned Israel. First, Assad made a statement of support forarmed resistance to Israel's security zone in south Lebanon. Second, there was a vaguedeclaration of solidarity with Palestinians under Israeli occupation. But the item thatgalvanized Israeli observers came in a reference to the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since1967 and annexed in December 1981:Twelve million Syrian citizens are capable of regaining the Golan. We have noworries or doubts about this. If the Israelis work to put the Golan within their borders,we will work to put the Golan in the middle of Syria and not on its borders. Theyshould remember Begin's letter to Al-Sadat before the latter's visit to Jerusalem inwhich he said that the enemy always came to them from the north . . . History willrecord that the Golan was the climax of the disaster for the Israelis.2836Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134To Israeli ears, Assad 's oration and particularly his affirmation "to put the Golan in themiddle of Syria" sounded like a commitment to the conquest of Israel and the establishmentof a greater Syria. Assad was a cautious speaker, not usually given to flights of rhetoric. Here,it seemed, was shocking first-hand evidence of the Syrian president's aggressive designs. Warsuddenly moved closer.An initial expression of Israeli assessments came from the new commander of NorthernCommand. Syria, he stated, was preparing for a possible full-scale confrontation with Israel.And the war would not be an easy one for the IDF. General Barak, who became commanderof the Central Command in January, saw Syria "deploying its forces with the aim of imposingits views on the future of the Golan Heights from a position of power and under the appropriateconditions, namely through use of force." Defense Minister Rabin told the Knesset ForeignAffairs and Defense Committee, in a briefing supposed to be confidential, that the situation onthe Syrian border was "worrisome" and that Israel had to be alert to the possibility of Syrianaggression. Confirming that preventive measures had been taken by the IDF, he noted that-the Syrian president's aggressive talk demands that we forestall a war we do not want." PrimeMinister Peres agreed that Assad's speech had a "warlike character." Syria's economic crisis wasfraught with peril for Israel. Once Assad achieved strategic parity with Israel, it was notinconceivable that he would want to act.An additional hint of Aman's likely thinking came in the form of an article in the LondonSunday Telegraph. The article quoted "a highly placed political source" in Jerusalem as sayingthat the danger of an imminent Syrian offensive was "very realistic." "Israeli analysts" agreedthat Assad "may now have realized his goal of achieving military parity with Israel" andwanted to propel himself "into a position of leadership in the Arab world.- They suggested that"the grave economic crisis facing Damascus" might incline Assad to "initiate hostilities" as anescape from his problems. Although he was "unlikely to launch an all-out war," it was possiblethat he would "attempt a limited, lightning land grab to establish a stephold on the GolanHeights." He would then try and hold out until the international community imposed acease-fire. Diplomatic pressure could then be exerted to restore the entire area to Syriancontrol.'A more elaborate version of this same scenario came in an article by the veteran militarycorrepondent of Ha'aretz, Ze'ev Schiff, probably Israel's best-informed civilian expert onintelligence matters. Schiff's analysis indicated serious concern that the intelligence corps couldno longer provide early warning. Syria, he argued, could deny to Israel "some of the early signsindicating preparations of an impending attack" needed to call a preventive alert. WheneverAssad saw fit, he could launch a surprise assault using infantry and armored divisions alreadydeployed near the border. Long-range missiles could hinder a mobilization of the reserves, andhelicopter-borne commandos could attack targets deep inside Israel. An increasingly sophisti-cated Soviet arsenal and proven staying power put Syria in a position where it would soon beable to fight Israel without support from other Arab countries.'One of the puzzling features in Assad's thinking not yet satisfactorily resolved in Israelianalyses was the connection between Syria's known economic plight and the seemingbellicosity of Assad's 27 February speech. More light was shed on the matter in a second speechgiven by Assad on 8 March, when his theme was the need for economic sacrifice in the face ofIsraeli military might.'We are prepared to live a most frugal life because nothing means more to our peoplethan the land and dignity, which we must preserve and defend. Our rapacious,aggressor enemies, who came from all parts of the world to occupy our land and to37Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134fight us and to live a harsh, frugal life, in addition to exposing themselves to killingand bloodshed, must know that we are more prepared to live such a harsh life and tooffer our blood. . .As Israeli analysts mulled over the meaning of the speech, a contrary hypothesis offereditself: that Assad's speech was intended less as a declaration of war than a patriotic clarion callto exhort his people to buckle down to economic deprivation and to dissuade his financialbackers in the Persian Gulf states and Saudi Arabia from reducing financial aid.On 11 March, Tishrin, the organ of the ruling Ba'ath Party, published an explanatorycommentary:While it is true that the battle for liberation requires sufficient preparations and thatSyria is proceeding on the path of completing its preparations and ensuring therequirements of victory in this battle, the other battle of development and recon-struction is no less important.Against a background of almost daily power cuts in the cities and a fall in foreign currencyreserved to an emergency 20-day level, Syria's economic plight could now be seen for what itreally was, a severe obstacle to military adventurism.Belated acceptance of this corrected assessment came in the remarkable form of an itemon the main evening news on Israeli television. (All news reports in Israel on security mattersare subject to the military censor.) -The intelligence establishment," the report ran, "believesthat President Assad's sharp speeches over the past few days are aimed more at domestic needs,because of the economic crisis, than at raising the tension in relations between Syria andIsrael." 32 Because the military intelligence branch bears overall responsibility for Israel'snational security estimate, the reference to "the intelligence establishment" implied a clearacknowledgment of error on the part of Aman.The view that Syria was on the verge of economic catastrophe and that it was thereforeunlikely that it had decided to attack Israel was soon reflected in ministerial statements. Thisdid not spare Aman from criticism for its initial oversight. A well-informed veterancorrespondent launched a barely concealed attack on the research department of militaryintelligence. It was, he wrote, -on a constant downswing. The ill-considered reaction to Assad'stwo speeches is only the latest example of this." asAlarm #4: May 1986Despite the seeming victory in March of the -optimistic- interpretation of Syrianintentions, there is evidence of a continuing and lively debate. Defense Minister Rabinremarked that the fundamental question, to which there was no sure answer, was -where isSyria heading?" He was -plagued with more and more questions about this." The main factorswere Syria's economic difficulties and signs of domestic instability, such as terrorist operationsagainst the Syrian Army. Could Syria, under these circumstances, sustain its policy of militarygrowth? "A curious report was also broadcast on Israel radio in Hebrew, citing unspecified"sources," which claimed that the Syrian authorities had decreased their financial allocation totheir agents in the Golan Druze villages by a third to a half. This was "apparently. . . a resultof the worsening economic situation in Syria." 35 Presumably, the implication was that if Syriawas cutting back on its intelligence gathering on the Golan, it could hardly be planning a war.Was this a tendentious leak by one side in the controversy?38Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134At the beginning of May, the pessimistic reading of events regained the upper hand?witha vengeance. On 8 May, Prime Minister Peres came out with another Israeli warning to Syria,cautioning President Assad "against any adventures" in the light of his "domestic situation." 36Other messages were passed on through the good offices of the US. The Syrians now had theirown reasons to fear an Israeli attack. The US had recently launched airstrikes against Libya forits support of international terrorism. There was evidence that Syria was deeply involved in thesame game. In an interview on 23 April, Defense Minister Rabin had hinted that a preventivewar was under consideration, while ostensibly denying that there would be "any merit" in it.'The situation became so tense that a report was broadcast on CBS television on 9 May, citing"American and Western European intelligence experts," that Israel was "preparing a majormilitary strike against Syria." 38Another threat assessment, another alert. The reasoning behind the latest alarm was soonrevealed. As on previous occasions, a coherent pattern had been perceived in the conjunctionof diverse trends. First, there was the unresolved puzzle of the Syrian economy. One school ofthought in Israel continued to insist that Assad might launch a military adventure to divertattention from his country's dire economic predicament. Second, information had reachedIsrael from the UK that the foiled attempt to blow up an El Al Boeing 747 departing fromHeathrow Airport in November 1985 "was worked out and implemented under the responsi-bilities of an authoritative Syrian body." Such a move, in Rabin's words, would have been "agrave novelty." 39 In Israeli eyes, the blowing up of an Israeli civil aircraft by a Syrian agent'sbomb was scarcely different from its downing by a Syrian jet. One possibility was that the Assadregime had lost control over its intelligence agencies. Another was that the planned disaster wasintended as a provocation or a deception preceding a major war. In October 1973, after all, aterrorist act against Soviet Jewish emigrants in Austria had diverted the attention of Israel's topleadership on the eve of the Yom Kippur War.The third element of the pattern, and the catalyst of the threat assessment, wasinformation that fortication and construction work being carried out in Lebanon by the SyrianArmy in the southern sector of the Bekaa Valley had reached an advanced stage. Since January,Syria had been working on tank dugouts and antiaircraft defense ditches south of its previouspositions, in areas occupied by Israel before the withdrawal. No movement of Syrian forces hadyet occurred, but there were those who thought the fortications would change the strategicbalance.' The earthworks, then, could be interpreted as a potential infringement of the statusquo and an augury of the sort of redeployment the Agranat report had deemed to constitutegrounds for a security alert.Senior Israeli commanders openly claimed that the fortifications were another step inSyria's preparations for war. Both Syria's defensive and offensive capability would beimproved. There was no warning of an "immediate threat," but the "potential" for one didexist. Since the shooting down of the two jets on 19 November, the Syrian Army had been ona constant alert. "The transition from this state of readiness to an actual initiation ofoperations," Israel's chief of staff argued, was "easier both technically and psychologically." Heaccepted that the timing was wrong for the Syrians. On the other hand, there was a variety ofreasons why they might say, "Well, if this is going to be the situation anyway, then let us goahead and launch a war." 41Alarm #5: June 1986A final, albeit minor, alert in the series took place in mid-June 1986. No Israeli objectionwas initially raised when Syrian troops entered the south Lebanese town of Mashgharah in an39Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134operation against radical Hizballah forces. However, there was strong objection to theadditional deployment of four tanks. This was considered to be an infringement of the -redline- indicating the limit of Syria's military presence in Lebanon, following the Israeliwithdrawal in June 1985. It might also be seen as part of a pattern of encroachment southward.Syrian tanks were moving close to the dugouts prepared over the past few months but nothitherto manned.'Israel's reaction to this perceived incursion, according to Lebanese sources, was to declarea state of alert and dispatch reinforcements to its security zone in southern Lebanon. Convoyswere observed passing through the -good fence- at Metulla travelling north, and new positionsand observation posts were said to be under construction on the Hasbayya-Shab'a sector, about10 miles south of the area of Syrian activity.43On this occasion, no public warning was issued by Israel, though other channels may havebeen used. A puzzling report appeared in Jane's Defence Weekly for the week ending 28 Junethat claimed that Syria was seeking support from neighboring Arab states for a limited waragainst Israel on the Golan Heights later in the year. Citing -moderate Arab sources,- thereport noted that Syrian officials and military officers had visited a number of Arab capitals,including Tripoli and Amman, to seek support. In a scenario remarkably similar to thatsketched by Jane's in December and well-informed Israeli commentators in March, Syrianplans were said to center on a surprise attack launched by forces already in place in order toavoid triggering a prewar Israeli mobilization. The assault might last as little as 36 hours, afterwhich a standstill cease-fire would be sought at the UN. Syria's military buildup anddomination of events in Lebanon, the article continued, had apparently given Assad confidenceto contemplate a short and limited war."There must be more than a suspicion that this report, together with others on similar lines,reflected thinking in Israeli circles and was intended to warn Syria off. It is hard to believe thatSyrian envoys would be sent on a tour of Arab capitals ostentatiously seeking support for anoffensive, the success of which would depend on Israel's being caught unaware. Pro-WesternJordan was certainly not a party that the Syrians would want to confide their most closelyguarded secrets to. No, the Jane's account fitted into a campaign conducted for months byIsrael through diplomatic channels and the media to inform friendly governments of its fearsand hostile governments of its vigilance. Underlying the campaign was the genuine fear thatSyria, under the slogan of -strategic parity,- was preparing for war and that, when it was ready,it would seek to overwhelm Israel with a surprise assault.Reduced TensionFollowing the Mashgharah alert, there was an easing of much of the immediate tensionbetween Israel and Syria. The surprise-attack scenario was sketched out in the internationalpress for the last time on 20 July 1986. Reports of threatening deployments ceased to appear.At the end of January 1987, the military correspondent of The Jerusalem Post reported arecent analysis of developments in Syria that portrayed -a weak, divided, isolated andeconomically shaky country ruled by an ailing president whose iron grip is beginning to slip.-A "scholarly- source is cited, but no further details are given of the authors, publication, orresearch institution.On the military side, the report noted that the Syrian armed forces seemed incapable ofabsorbing the huge quantities of equipment they had received since 1982. Some weaponsystems known to have been in the pipeline had been delayed or canceled. Syria's involvementin Lebanon had had a deleterious effect on the training and morale of the army. Assad40Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134continued to be unwell, and political intrigue was rampant. The economy was a major problem.Syria's currency reserves were low; budgetary constraints had necessitated major cuts indefense spending. In recent months, economic pressures had become extremely grave, and, asa result, internal unrest was increasing. A further deterioration was predicted for 1987, with noresources available to bring about an improvement. All in all, given Israel's clearcut militarysuperiority and Syria's regional isolation, it was considered -highly improbable" that Assadwould risk war in 1987. The view that Assad would do so in order to deflect attention from hisinternal problems and mobilize the Arab world behind him was rejected.'Within a week, the main themes of this -scholarly analysis" began to appear in ministerialstatements. The tone was set by a TV appearance by Defense Minister Rabin on 4 February1987. Economic difficulties, he noted, had led Syria to reduce the size of its ground forces. Thenext day, Prime Minister Shamir enlarged on Syria's economic plight and gave the latestassessment of the Syrian threat: -Syria is not heading for war.- 46 The army view was given inunmistakable terms by the head of the planning branch. Even before the publication of recentreports about the reduction of the Syrian order of battle, planning -had taken into account. .the low probability of war with Syria in the coming year." 47Israel's Early Warning SystemThe first conclusion to emerge from this survey is the limited confidence that Aman hadat the time in its own capacity to provide sufficient early warning. Fears about the inadequacyof the system appeared in General Barak's Mdarakhot article of March 1985, and they wereemphasized in remarks made by Chief of Staff Levi on 9 May 1986. However, they are implicitin the many varients of the surprise-attack scenario to be published in the press. All proceedfrom the the assumption that Syria might stealthily prepare its forces for an attack withouttriggering an intelligence alert and the subsequent mobilization of Israel's reserve forces. Afterthe missile crisis of November-December 1985, the salience of this danger increased because ofa protracted high state of alert in the Syrian Army.It was Aman's sober awareness of the vulnerability of its early warning system thatrendered it so acutely sensitive to minimal threatening cues. Given apparently reasonablegrounds for suspicion, it could not afford the luxury of awaiting more definitive indicators.Aware of the endemic uncertainty of international relations and the ambiguity of mostinformation about an opponent, it preferred to err on the side of extreme caution.This self-critical vigilance is markedly different from the atmosphere of over-confidenceprevailing in military intelligence before the October War, when the DMI gave theunconditional promise to provide sufficient warning of an impending attack to permit a timelymobilization. This reversal surely reflected an altered intelligence reality. Before the 1973 War,Israel enjoyed an overwhelming intelligence advantage over the Arab states, including Syria.This superiority was especially the case in the area of communications and electronicintelligence. In addition, Israeli victories in 1956 and 1967 had put into Aman's hands pricelessinformation about the working of the Arab intelligence service. On the eve of the Yom KippurWar, the collection department of military intelligence was able to place an unprecedentedwealth of information at the disposal of its colleagues in research.48Israel's intelligence supremacy was gravely compromised, at one fell swoop, on 6 October1973, when a batallion of Syrian helicopter-borne troops captured Israel's major listening andobservation post for the Golan and Syrian located on Mount Hermon. The base, which wasideally situated to cover the whole field of battle and the approaches to Damascus, containedsensitive radar and electronic equipment of all kinds. On 22 October, it was recaptured by41Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134Israel after a bloody battle. One Israeli soldier explained the importance of the mission withpoignant simplicity: "We were told that Mount Hermon is the eyes of the State of Israel, andwe knew we had to take it, whatever the cost." 49But great damage had already been done. Now it was the Arabs, and their Soviet backers,who had acquired access to Israel's most closely kept secrets. Shortly after the Syrian captureof the Mount Hermon position, Soviet advisers had arrived to take charge of an unprecedentedintelligence haul. Some years later, General Shlomo Gazit, DMI from 1974 to 1979, admittedeliptically that Arab intelligence had been allowed to acquire a much better knowledge of theIsrael defense forces and their strength and operational methods, thanks to the "interrogationof prisoners and documents that fell into its hands." 50Enough time probably had passed between 1973 and 1985 for Israel to regain some of itstechnological advantage in the intelligence field over Syria. But things could never be quite thesame again. The IDF spokesman recently published a report providing information about theenormous resources" required to maintain "a close watch over the technological advancementof the Arab countries, which is unprecedented in' its scope and quality." Surveillance wascomplicated by the Arab possession of new ways to disrupt Israel's intelligence-monitoringsystems. "In competing with these challenges, the Intelligence branch must take into accountthe accelerated development of the enemy's intelligence, which is constantly improving itscapability and its collection means and stepping up its efforts to stop Israeli Intelligence fromacquiring information." 51Even assuming that Israel can beat Syria in the race between the acquisition of signalsintelligence and its denial via electronic deception and countermeasures, Aman labors under aserious, objective, disadvantage. Since 1967, Syria has maintained a large standing army in closeproximity to any likely battle and can rapidly switch from a defensive to an offensive mode.From a standing start, the Syrian Army needs several days to prepare an offensive. But froma state of relative preparedness Assad requires hours rather than days to launch a sustainableoperation.' Thus the challenge facing Aman is not simply to monitor developments and raisethe alarm but to do it within severe time constraints.In the light of these various difficulties, Aman can hardly afford to rely exclusively on thedata being provided by its electronic monitoring stations, however sophisticated theirequipment. It is bound to supplement its knowledge by other forms of intelligence gathering.Aerial photography, long-range electro-optical observation, and the dispatch of pilotless dronesare vital to completing the intelligence picture of the Syrian order of battle. Syrian attempts toprevent Israeli aerial surveillance would be bound, as was indeed demonstrated in the missilecrisis of November-December 1985, to arouse great disquiet and the suspicion that Syria soughtto deprive Israel of information about the former's preparations for war.Some SpeculationIt may be more than a coincidence that the period of almost continuous crisis with Syriacovered by this study involved the Israeli intelligence services in heavy losses of agents. FromMay 1985 to January 1986, eight Syrian nationals were reported by the Syrian media to havebeen executed on charges of spying for Israel.'Jonathan Pollard, the analyst employed by the Threat Analysis Division of the US NavalInvestigative Service, who was arrested in November 1985, charged and later convicted ofspying for Israel, also reached the height of his activity at this time. According to a US JusticeDepartment memorandum, Rafi Eitan, the director of the unit running Pollard, invited the42Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134agent to Israel in July 1985. At various meetings between the two, Pollard -was encouraged toredouble his espionage efforts on the part of Israel." Following the latter's return to Washingtonin August 1985, -the volume of US classified documents which he routinely delivered to hisIsraeli co-conspirators increased substantially." Further encouragement was given to Pollard inthe fall of 1985 "to accelerate his efforts."'Detection of Pollard's espionage activity was the inevitable result of his regularly obtaininglarge amounts of information, unrelated to his professional duties, from classified repositoriesand removing them from his place of work. Had Pollard's handlers been less insistent and hadthe purloined information been used more circumspectly by Israel, Pollard might not havebeen apprehended. Among the voluminous material passed on to Israel was data facilitating theIsraeli Air Force attack on the PLO headquarters in Tunis on 1 October 1985 and also detailsof Syria's chemical warfare production capability.All this evidence is circumstantial, but the implication is that Israel was trying tosupplement routine intelligence sources. It was as though unusual efforts were being made tocompensate with human intelligence for gaps left by signals intelligence. One wonders whetherenough information was reaching Israel using electronic and other means of remote surveil-lance at this period of grave tension with Syria to enable Aman to fulfill its paramount warningrole with an adequate margin of safety or certainty.The Economic DimensionOver the years, Aman has been criticized for giving excessive emphasis in its assessmentsto military hardware over political considerations. After all, decisions?especially thoseinvolving going to war?are usually made by the political echelon, based on a broadconsideration of the national interest rather than on narrowly military grounds. Notable errors,such as the belief that the 1956 Sinai campaign would topple Nasser from power or that Sadatwould be deterred by military inferiority from going to war in 1973, and oversights, such as thefailure to anticipate Sadat's 1977 peace overture, the ending of the Iraq-Iran War, and theoutbreak of the intifada, arguably derived from insufficient sensitivity to political factors,widely defined to include social and economic considerations.In the present case, the evidence suggests that, until late in 1986, the significance of Syria'seconomic crisis was incompletely understood by military intelligence. Evidence of Syria'splight was available from the IMF towards the end of 1985. The balance of payments was inserious deficit, as a result of a contraction in exports and the relentless fall in workers'remittances from abroad. Iran had suspended the supply of oil on highly favorable terms, andSyria had to spend precious foreign currency in the spot market. Drought had severelyjeopardized food supplies. From October 1985, the electricity supply was cut for three hourseach day.By the spring of 1986, it was clear that Syria's GDP was actually shrinking. Overseas aidand investment plummeted, and emergency measures had to be taken to stop the slide in thevalue of the Syrian pound. Reports began to appear of the increasing hardships in Syria,including serious shortages of foodstuffs and cooking gas, daily power cuts, and sharply reducedindustrial production.Israeli experts seem to have displayed insufficient awareness of the true dimensions ofSyria's economic crisis, until it was being openly mentioned in the international press. As lateas November 1986, for example, General Amnon Shakak, General Barak's successor as chief ofmilitary intelligence, was expressing skepticism about the severity of Syria's economicproblems."43Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134Inadequate attention paid to the socio-economic dimension of Syrian policy had its originsin an incomplete conceptualization of the nature of power. In an interview in June 1986,General Shakak affirmed that -Syria's internal economic weakness does not necessarily reflecta weakness on the part of its leadership.- Nor did it affect the Syrian Army.' It was surely thisassumption that underlay Aman's remarkable assessment that economic weakness might provean incentive rather than an obstacle to Syrian adventurism.This was tunnel vision in its most acute form: a perception that Syria was prepared tosubordinate all national interests to the single goal of attacking Israel; that social wellbeing andpolitical stability might rate lower than military gratification; and that Syrian priorities, morale,and armed might could remain unaffected by the state of the economy and society. Whatconceivable sense did it make for Assad to resort to war when his treasury was empty, hiseconomy shrinking, external debt burgeoning, and the people hungry? How precisely would anunpredictable military adventure -divert the attention- of the Syrian people from a shortageof bread and onions? Given the realities in the Persian Gulf and the oil market, why should awar loosen the Arab oil-producers' purse strings? It was fantastic to propose as the basis of anational intelligence estimate the argument that Assad might seek to solve his economic andsocial problems at the cost of the demolition of his industry and infrastructure by the Israeli AirForce.Capability Versus IntentionThe main recommendation of the Agranat report concerning the analytical procedures ofthe research department of military intelligence was to switch from a threat assessmentderiving from an overall evaluation of capability and intention to one relying on indicativesigns of enemy preparations for war on the ground. On the basis of the foregoing cases, oursecond conclusion has to be that Aman was obliged by force of circumstances to revert from astrict implementation of the Agranat recommendation to a traditional, integrated approach.In four out of the five cases -circumstantial,- though not -immediate,- indicative signstriggered the threat assessment. In September 1985, it was the redeployment of two Syriandivisions from Lebanon to the Golan accompanied by an -unprecedented- and intensiveretraining program. In November 1985, it was the introduction of antiaircraft missiles into theBekaa Valley and along the Syrian-Lebanese border. In May 1986, it was the completion offortification and construction work in the Bekaa Valley beyond the area occupied by Syria inJune 1985, when the IDF withdrew. In June 1986, it was the appearance of Syrian tanks atMashgharah over the existing red line delineating the status quo. Even in the instance ofAssad's "Golan- speech, the Syrian leader's seemingly bellicose declaration could be inter-preted as an -indicative sign,- albeit of a political kind.By themselves, though, these indicative signs were incomplete and ambiguous. All wereexplicable in less sinister ways. One could be seen as a reflexive response to Israeli conduct, theother as part of a program of routine redeployment. All could be read as either defensive oroffensive preparations?or both. It is true that what lent them particular point was the loomingshadow of Assad's extraordinary and single-minded dash for -strategic parity.- But even thislong-term program was open to alternative interpretations.If one accepts the Israeli assumption that war is an ever-present possibility and that Syriais not reconciled to the existence of Israel and, sooner or later, has to go to war to regain theGolan Heights, then any change in Syria's order of battle bears a potentially minatorysignificance. In a constantly shifting military context, however, where armies are constantlyseeking to improve and strengthen their dispositions, fieldworks, level of training, and44Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134armanents, it is impractical to rely exclusively on indices of capability, except in particularlyblatant cases. One is bound to supplement an inherently ambiguous interpretation of themeaning of the enemy's order of battle with an evaluation of his possible intentions in the lightof other kinds of evidence.Examination on the basis of admittedly incomplete data of Aman's assessments of threatin the episodes in question suggests that all rested on an integrated analysis combiningconsideration of capability with that of intentions. Research into the perception of threat ininternational relations indicates that anticipations of impending harm invariably entail theapprehension by the observer of a certain order or gestalt amid diverse and ambiguous itemsof information. The cases examined .here proved no exception to this tendency. When Syrianencouragement for guerrilla incursions against Israel's security zone in southern Lebanon,support for terrorism outside the Middle East, opposition to Israeli-Jordanian contacts, harshanti-Israel rhetoric and various other symptoms were combined with some change indeployment, the tendency was to piece it all together into a pattern of menace.In my view, there are three necessary conditions for threat perception: an assumption ofthe rival's hostility, the vital nature of the issue or area under observation, and a subjective senseof vulnerability. The observer's sensitivity may be accentuated by idiosyncratic factors andshared national experiences, such as war or some other traumatic event. There is no doubt thatin the case of Israel the threshold of threat perception is lowered by memory of the Naziextermination and previous Arab-Israel wars, especially the 1948 war of independence and thesurprise of Yom Kippur 1973.Against the background of these necessary but not sufficient preconditions, the eventcompleting the gestalt and thereby triggering the threat perception is often found to be aviolation of the -rules of the game,- the normative framework ordering the relations betweenthe parties. Rules of the game consist of the status quo, as well as explicit and implicitpermissions and prohibitions. Israeli perceptions of the Syrian threat in the period in questioncertainly seem to exemplify this characterization. Indeed, they suggest that threat assessmentby military intelligence analysts is subject to the same sort of psychological tendencies as threatperception in the sense of the subjective intuition of danger.Also familiar from the general phenomenon of threat perception was the tendency to gobeyond the evidence and project deliberate intention, planned malevolence, on random andperhaps benign events. This can be seen in the argument voiced in December 1985 that theIsraeli downing of the two Syrian jets had merely served as a pretext for a move?theadvancement of the missiles?prepared in advance. Another projection of this kind was thedubious argument that Assad might seek to divert attention from economic crisis by launchinga war. A third was the view that Syrian activity in the southern Bekaa was part of a steadyprocess of encroachment on the red lines status quo.Whether or not a given assessment of threat was well-founded in logical terms and theextent to which it was actually vitiated by subjective distortions cannot be answered definitelywithout access to the sort of primary sources that are not available to the researcher ofcontemporary intelligence. What is clear is that, notwithstanding Agranat's structural andprocedural recommendations and technical advances in intelligence-gathering equipment,there is ultimately no alternative to a sound analysis of enemy intentions, as free as possiblefrom pathological factors. Self-consciousness about personal, institutional, and cultural biasesmay help, though it is hard to transcend one's deepest instincts and fears. In the final analysis,because every situation in international relations is unique, riddled with uncertainty andambiguity, there is no foolproof analytical recipe.45Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134False Alarms?It is clear from the preceding account that the 1985-1986 period in Israeli-Syrian relationswas marked by considerable tension and a reciprocal fear of surprise attack. First, a series ofheightened military alerts on the Israeli side, based on perceptions of a Syrian military threatof varying intensity, triggered Syrian counteralerts. Second, Israeli military leaders openlyadmitted on a number of occasions that the early warning capacity of the IDF had beenseriously impaired by Syrian countermeasures and the nature of Syria's military deployment inclose proximity to the front line. Third, loose talk in Israeli military circles of the desirabilityof a preventive war against Syria in the light of the ultimate inevitability of war aroused seriousconcern in the West and presumably no less anxiety in Damascus.All these factors should have been seriously destabilizing. Indeed, if one were to apply thelogic of reciprocal expectations, it is hard to understand how war was avoided at all. Theoutbreak of hostilities could have resulted from one or other of the following three processes:a pre-emptive attack arising from miscalculation?or in anticipation of the other side'smiscalculation?against the menacing background of an escalating spiral of alert and'counteralert; a considered decision by Syria to take Israeli generals at their word when theylamented the inadequacies of their early warning system; a preventive war launched either byIsrael?as openly discussed?or by Syria which, concerned by Israeli threats, would surely besorely tempted to seize the initiative and to get its own blow in first.Why, in spite of these factors and Syria's enormous military buildup, was a war avoidedin the period in question? There are various possible answers to this question, which continuesto lie at the core of the Syrian-Israeli relationship.Despite Israeli angst, Syria was actually not confident of achieving surprise, and thescenarios depicting her stealthily preparing an offensive undetected were more the product offevered imaginations than reality. On the contrary, given Israeli expectations of this possibiltyand acute sensitivity after 1973 to ambiguous cues of an impending attack, even an ingeniousdeception campaign on the part of Syria would likely prove ineffective. Most important, theSyrians were surely well aware of this. Indeed, Syria may have been afraid to initiate genuinepreparations for fear of a real Israeli pre-emption. In this regard, it should be noted that thesuccessful deception by Syria and Egypt in 1973 was from their point of view a close-run thingand could have been aborted by a whole list of errors and misadventures that subsequentlycame to light. To launch a surprise attack against an alert opponent, one has to be highlyconfident of success, utterly desperate, prepared to run abnormally high risks, or rate theretrieval of one's national honor above the possibility of defeat. It is doubtful whether any ofthese conditions existed in the case of Syria in the period in question.In the Middle East, with its notorious penchant for conspiracy theories, the Israelis'complaints about the inadequacies of their early warning system were not taken by Syria atface value but were understood as cunning provocations intended to tempt Syria into a rashmove that Israel could then exploit for a pre-emptive attack along the lines of Eine 1967.Alternatively, but no less beneficial to Israel, her claimed lack of confidence in her famedintelligence services was taken as added evidence of hyperalertness and a declaration ofdetermination to try even harder to get it right in the future. From this perspective, it is nottortured soul-searching about one's failings that encourages an enemy but rather complacenttrumpetings about one's strong points. The latter, after all, can often be outflanked.Israel's alerts were not -false" in the usually accepted sense. That is, Syria was notplanning an attack but was testing Israeli alertness. Israel's early warning system passed the test46Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134with flying colors. It should be noted that Syria may have perceived Israel's prompt reactionsto be proof of the effectiveness of her early warning system, whether or not the test wasdeliberate or accidental. So what may at one level seems to be evidence of a precarious stabilitywas actually stabilizing, in that it reinforced the deterrent capacity of the IDF. This would tendto challenge the common assumption that the likelihood of war increases in direct proportionto the number of crises between the opponents?a view seemingly corroborated by experienceof the periods preceding the two world wars, but which may have lost validity in the light ofmodern surveillance technology.If it is accepted that the "false" alarms that characterized the 1985-1986 period improvedrather than diminished Israel's deterrent posture, then it may be that one has to look anew atthe very utility of the concept of the false alarm. An imminent enemy attack may be called offprecisely because of its detection, thereby apparently "falsifying" what was really a fullyjustifiable alert.' We may add to that the corollary that even an empty alert may sometimesbe justified if it provides a disincentive to an opponent gambling on achieving surprises. Alarms,then, may be compared to forecasts. Their justification is not whether the event they anticipateindeed occurs but whether they were logically well formed at the time they were made on thebasis of available evidence and were useful to decisionmaking. One can only verify withcertainty an intelligence estimate after the event, by which time it is too late.Furthermore, the usual assumption that "crying wolf" diminishes one's credibility andfosters complacency also requires qualification. It may hold under certain defined conditions,for instance, if the intelligence agency supplying the estimate has a less than impeccablereputation or if the premise that there is to be some kind of attack under all circumstances?and only the timing is in doubt?is far from unquestioned. In the case of an actor with achronically lowered threshold of threat perception or some kind of obsession and whose onlydoubt is not if but when, recurrent alarms may heighten and not reduce sensitivity. Theoft-cited example of the October War surprise, which was preceded and assisted by the "false"alarm of May 1973, should perhaps be seen as a limiting rather than paradigmatic case. At anyrate, it is clear that additional, comparative research is required here.NOTES1. Prime Minister Shamir in La Vanguardia (Barcelona), 28 Aug. 1988; Defense Minister Rabin in The JerusalemPost, 11 September 1988.2. Chief of Staff Dan Shomron in Davar, 11 Sept. 1988. (Davar is the semi-official organ of Rabin's Labor Party.)3. The Agranat Report, (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 1975); Prime Minister Rabin to the Knesset, in Ha'aretz, 27 May1976; Ha'aretz Nov. 1976; Shlomo Gazit in The Jerusalem Post Magazine, 16 April 1982.4. Reuven Pda'tsur, "Improvement is Possible," Ha'aretz, 18 Apr. 1985. See also Michael I. Handel, "Perception,Deception and Surprise: The Case pf the Yom Kippur War," Jerusalem Papers on Peace Problems, Jerusalem:The Leonard Davis Institute, The Hebrew University, 1976.5. Ze'ev Schiff, "A New Page Opens in Current Security," Ha'aretz, 4 April 1975.6. Interviewed in Yediot Ahronot, 24 April 1984. My emphasis.7. Ze'ev Schiff, op. cit.8. Ehud Barak, "Problems of Intelligence Work 1985," Ma'arakot, No. 298, March-April 1985.9. Ehud Barak interviewed on Israeli TV, FBIS, 17 Oct. 1985.10. Barak interviewed in Ha'aretz, 6 June 1985.11. Interview in Davar, 7 June 1985.12. In an address on 7 June 1985. FBIS, 11 June 1985.47Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134 Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 00618313413. The Jerusalem Post, 4 Sept. 1985.14. Davar, 11 Sept. 1985.15. Yitzhak Rabin in FBIS, 5 Sept. 1985; The Jerusalem Post, 19 Sept. 1985.16. FBIS, 13 Sept. 1985.17. FBIS, 12 Sept. 1985.18. Davar, 11 Sept. 1985.19. Air Force Commander General Lapidot interviewed on Israel radio, 19 Nov. 1985, FBIS, 20 Nov. 1985.20. Ha'aretz, 19 Jan. 1985.21. Al Hamishmar, 24 Nov. 1985.22. Yediot Ahronot, 16 Dec. 1985.23. FBIS, 18 Dec. 1985.24. The Jerusalem Post, 29 Dec. 1985.25. Al Hamishmar, 16 Dec. 1985.26. FBIS, 30 Jan. 1986.27. The Jerusalem Post, 26 Dec. 1985, quoting "senior military and diplomatic sources."28. FBIS, 28 Feb. 1986.29. The Sunday Telegraph, 9 Mar. 1986.30. Ha'aretz, 17, 18 Mar. 1986.31. FBIS, 10 Mar. 1986.32. FBIS, 21 Mar. 1986.33. Ma'ariv, 2 Apr. 1986.34. Interviewed in ibid, 23 Apr. 1986.35. FBIS, 7 Apr. 1986.36. Ibid, 8 May 1986.37. Ma'ariv, 23 Apr. 1986.38. FBIS, 9 May 1986.39. Interviewed on IDF radio, 11 May 1986; in FBIS, 12 May 1986.40. Ma'ariv, 6 May 1986.41. General Amir Drori, Israel radio 16 May 1986; in FBIS, 16 May 1986; General Moshe Levi, IDF radio 9 May1986; in FBIS, 9 May 1986; and on Israel radio 20 May 1986; in FBIS, 20 May 1986.42. The Jerusalem Post, 25 June 1986.43. FBIS, 19, 26 June 1986.44. Jane's Defence Weekly, 28 June 1986.45. The Jerusalem Post, 29 January 1987.46. Israel domestic radio, 6 Feb. 1987.47. General Avihu Bin-Nun, interviewed on Israel armed forces radio, 11 Feb. 1987.48. See Uri Dan, Ma'ariv, 23 April 1976; Shlomo Nakdimon, interview with Brigadier Yoel Ben-Porat, head of thecollection department of Aman in 1973, Yediot Ahronot, 21 Oct. 1983.49. Chaim Herzog, The Arab-Israeli Wars (New York: Vintage Books, 1984, pp. 305-6).50. Ma'ariv, 12 June 1978.51. FBIS, 18 June 1987.52. General Ehud Barak interviewed on Israeli TV, FBIS, 17 Oct. 1985.53. FBIS, 9 Jan. 1986.54. "The Pollard Case: Government's Memorandum in Aid of Sentencing," American-Arab Affairs, Fall 1987, No.22, pp. 136-7.55. The Jerusalem Post, 3 Oct. 1986.56. Bamahane, 11 June 1986.57. Arie Ofri, "Crisis and Opportunity Forecasting," Onus, 26:4, Winter 1983, Iv. 821-828.48Approved for Release: 2014/07/29 006183134