Israel probes Syrian intentions

May 15, 2006 at 1:19 PM
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TEL AVIV, Israel, May 15 (UPI) -- Israeli intelligence is trying to assess the significance of recent Syrian statements about examining "other options" to regain the Golan Heights.

Israel occupied those heights in the 1967 war.

Addressing a workshop on new challenges for the intelligence, the head of the Military Intelligence Research Division, Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser, said that, "In recent days we hear the Syrians say ... 'We've exhausted the attempts to get the Golan Heights by peaceful means ... we're close to exhausting this direction. We've got to examine other options."

"I am not sure to what extent this is a change of might be threat, but there is no doubt we have to examine its significance," Kuperwasser said.

The Golan front has been quiet for decades but a source in the northern Command told United Press International a provocation through Lebanon is possible. Syria uses the Lebanese Hezbollah and transfers arms to it, he said.

At the workshop, which the Jaffee Center for Strategic Studies organized, Haifa University researcher Uri Bar-Yosef said he examined 23 military intelligence strategic assessments since 1953 and found 20 were wrong. Bar-Yosef said he could not decide whether the intelligence was right or wrong in two other instances.

Maj. Gen. in the reserves Isaac Ben-Israel said later he thought of pointing out other cases in which the intelligence was right but noted that for each of them he could remember another failure.

Kuperwasser defended the intelligence record. Strategic assessment is a very complicated task and anyone who expects concrete alerts is expecting too much. At the most one should expect an indication of trends, Kuperwasser argued. He said the intelligence had warned the intifada would erupt in 2000 and predicted significant Hamas gains in the last Palestinian elections. Hamas won those elections.

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