In Syria, the Wars after the War Have Begun

Feb. 13 2018

On Wednesday, forces fighting for the Syria-Russia-Iran alliance deliberately opened fire with tanks and artillery on U.S.-backed forces, crossing the “deconfliction” line established to separate the two parties. The U.S. responded forcefully, killing some 100 of Bashar al-Assad’s troops. On Saturday, Israel shot down an Iranian drone in its airspace and subsequently lost an F-16 during a retaliatory raid. In turn, Jerusalem responded with intensive airstrikes that reportedly destroyed nearly half of Syria’s air defenses. All of these events represent serious escalations of Syria-related turmoil, which, far from winding down with the collapse of Islamic State (IS) and the major territorial losses suffered by anti-Assad opposition, may be expanding. Christopher Kozak writes:

Israel and the Russo-Iranian coalition are poised for future conflict over the Golan Heights. Iran and Lebanese Hizballah have entrenched a network of foreign and domestic proxies across Syria under the umbrella of Russian armed forces. Iran and Hizballah have also exploited the terms of the de-escalation zone brokered by Russia, Jordan, and the U.S. in southern Syria to develop further their military infrastructure along the Golan. Israel and the U.S. have failed meaningfully to constrain or reverse this trend. . . .

The Syrian civil war is not over. The wars after IS have begun. Syria remains a dangerous nexus for overlapping regional conflicts and great-power struggle despite the claimed defeat of Islamic State in eastern Syria. The confrontation between Iran and Israel in Syria is only one of the fissures that will fuel the next stage of the Syrian civil war. Turkey opened its direct conflict against the Syrian-Kurdish YPG with its military intervention into the majority-Kurdish Afrin canton in northern Syria on January 20. Turkey, Iran, and Russia are also engaged in a three-way struggle over the long-term future of the opposition-held Idlib province that resulted in the downing of a Russian Su-25 [plane] on February 3. . . .

The increasing tempo of these incidents is not a coincidence but rather the predictable outcome [of everything that has happened until now]. The U.S. has long attempted to distance the anti-IS campaign from the wider context of the Syrian civil war. This artificial division is not—and was not—sustainable. The U.S. must craft a coherent strategy to meet this new reality lest it find itself reactively mired in the next phase of the Syrian civil war.

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More about: Bashar al-Assad, Iran, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

Palestinian Acceptance of Israel as the Jewish State Must Be a Prerequisite to Further Negotiations

Oct. 19 2018

In 1993, in the early days of the Oslo peace process, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) under Yasir Arafat accepted the “right of the state of Israel to exist in peace and security.” But neither it nor its heir, the Palestinians Authority, has ever accepted Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, or the right of the Jewish people to self-determination. Robert Barnidge explains why this distinction matters:

A Jewish state for the Jewish people, after all, was exactly what the [UN] General Assembly intended in November 1947 when it called for the partition of the Palestine Mandate into “the Arab state, the Jewish state, and the city of Jerusalem.”

Although the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state does not stand or fall on this resolution—in declaring the independence of Israel on the eve of the Sabbath on May 14, 1948, the Jewish People’s Council, [the precursor to the Israeli government], also stressed the Jewish people’s natural and historic rights—it reaffirms the legitimacy of Jewish national rights in (what was to become) the state of Israel.

The Palestinians have steadfastly refused to recognize Jewish self-determination. [Instead], the PLO [has been] playing a double game. . . . It is not simply that the PLO supported the General Assembly’s determination in 1975, rescinded in 1991, that “Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination.” It is that that the PLO leadership continues to speak of Jews as a religious community rather than a people, and of Zionism as a colonial usurper rather than the national liberation movement that it is.

The U.S. government, Barnidge concludes, “should demand that the Palestinians recognize Israel’s right to exist in peace and security as a Jewish state” and refuse to “press Israel to negotiate with the Palestinians unless and until that happens.”

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More about: Israel & Zionism, Peace Process, PLO, US-Israel relations, Yasir Arafat