Today is the 39th anniversary of the ‘Tishreen liberation war’ or the 1973 October war between Syria and Egypt on one side, and Israel on the other. Syrian state today is celebrating the victory of this liberation war.
But do we know what ‘victory’ and ‘liberation’ they are talking about? Knowing this comes at a time when the Syrian army is bombing its cities with fighters jets killing its people and destroying their history, culture and archaeology.
The 1973 October war surely had a psychological impact on the supposedly untouched Israeli military superiority. It also caused a big shake up in the Israeli politics. And there is no doubt the fighting soldiers had lots of bravery. But ignoring the possible betrayal of Anwar Al-Sadat and judging by the bigger numbers of losses and casualties on the Arab side, and the ground results of this less-than-three-weeks war, there were no victory or Liberation recorded for Arabs, or indeed the Syrians.
If Anwar Al-Sadat was an honest partner with Hafez Al-Assad, things would probably have been different on the Syrian front (and on the Egyptian front). Apparently, we now have a draft memo originated by the Soviet Ambassador in Cairo at the time, Vladimir M. Vinogradov, addressed to the Soviet politburo describing the 1973 October War as a collusive enterprise between US, Egyptian and Israeli leaders, orchestrated by Henry Kissinger.
This theory is supported by these unanswered Else questions:
How the Egyptian crossing could be a surprise if the Russians evacuated their families a few days before the war? The concentration of the forces was observable and could not escape Israeli attention. Why did the Egyptian forces not proceed after the crossing but stood still? Why did they have no plans for advancing? Why there was a forty km-wide unguarded gap between the 2d and the 3d armies, the gap that invited Sharon’s raid? How could Israeli tanks sneak to the western bank of the Canal? Why did Sadat refuse to stop them? Why were there no reserve forces on the western bank of the Canal?
Anyway, jumping back to the Syrian front and the current victory claims, within four days of the surprising launch on the Syrian front, Israel has pushed back the advancing Syrian troops behind the purple line. The war was concluded on October 25th 1973 with the Israeli army inside the Syrian territories, only 40km away from Damascus which was already within reach of the Israeli artillery. So, the war ended with the Golan Heights still under Israeli occupation, which its liberation was mainly the reason of the Syrian attack.
What we get from this is these Syrian celebrations today are just the type of propaganda the regime has managed to play for us for decades, serving the purpose of prolonging its presence and taking it as an alibi for its legitimacy.
The fact that the Syrian regime still celebrates a not-so-successful event since 1973 shows that was their last ‘achievement’ all this time. What’s better, is when you get some lonely politicians like Nabih Berri to congratulate Bashar Al-Assad on this occasion. If this was done by any other typical world politician, you would think they are making fun of the embattled Syrian president.
I am going to go back now to the all-time celebratory Syrian TV to see if I can spot how they won or what they liberated.
Photo credit: from Damascus October War Panorama, a heroic portrait of Hafez Al-Assad acclaimed by his people, in the North Korean mural style. Photo taken by Ian Cowe. Also you can check Martin Kramer great photo curation on October 1973: Panorama and Myopia.