Why Do All Sides of the Syrian Civil War Seem to Want Israel Involved?

Written by John Daniels

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Over the last few months, the diplomatic situation has worsened between Syria and Israel. This is all part of the building conflict of Syrian President Bashar Assad and his international supporters against the Free Syria Army (FSA) and its supporters. While Israel has tried to stay neutral, the two warring factions seem to be united in doing damage to the Jewish state by bringing it into the conflict.

Border crossingpoint Golan highsThe UN controlled Golan Heights border crossing between Israel and Syria. Image credit: Escia

Here is a timeline of events over the last several involving the Syrian conflict and Israel:

Why would the FSA and their allies want Israel in the conflict? For these Islamists and their allies its a win-win. Any damage Israel does to the Assad regime makes it easier to obtain their goal of taking over Syria. At the same time, any damage done to Israel weakens the Jewish state and is icing on the cake.

Why is Russia supporting Assad? The country has a naval facility in Tartus and as reported above has just reinstituted its Mediterranean fleet. As Russia’s primary access to maritime waters is through ports that are frozen part of the year, the base in Syria is very important to them and would probably be revoked under a Muslim Brotherhood controlled Syria. Granted they could hold the area militarily, but they learned their lesson about holding territory against Islamic fundamentalists through Afghanistan in the 1980’s and more recently Chechnya. It is much easier to maintain the status quo and keep the current regime in power, even if that power is fractured and contested by the FSA or Israel.

Why is Hezbollah supporting Assad? The terror group based in Lebanon is an Iranian proxy and the Iranians desire to maintain influential ties to both Syria and Lebanon. They also wish keep Israel busy with other conflicts so that they can continue working on nuclear weapons and missile technology. If Israel is caught in a long war of attrition with Syria, they are more likely to not take action if Iran crosses the “red line” as laid out by Prime Minister Netanyahu.

So, as the year has progressed the situation in the Golan Heights has worsened dramatically. In a situation similar to Israel’s Sinai border with Egypt, there are a variety of Islamic forces lined up and ready to launch attacks. At the same time President Assad has warned of a war of attrition against Israel and his allies in Iran and Russia seem willing to support such a conflict. A quick direct strike by Israel would likely finish off the Assad regime, but Israel has now promised Russia that such strikes would not happen. On the other hand, a long slow war of attrition in which Islamic groups around the Middle East were invited to join would be devastating to Israel and beneficial to both Assad and Russia.

John DanielsJohn Daniels (@TavernKeepers on Twitter) is a researcher and educator who focuses on world events primarily in Europe and the Middle East.

He is the managing partner of the news and commentary website Tavern Keepers 




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