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


To Israel’s Leading Strategist, Strength, Not Concessions, Has Brought a Measure of Calm

Aug. 14 2018

Following a long and distinguished career in the IDF, Yaakov Amidror served as Israel’s national-security adviser from 2011 to 2013. He speaks with Armin Rosen about the threats from Gaza, Hizballah, and Iran:

For Israel’s entire existence, would-be peacemakers have argued that the key to regional harmony is the reduction of the Jewish state’s hard power through territorial withdrawals and/or the legitimization of the country’s non-state enemies. In Amidror’s view, reality has thoroughly debunked this line of reasoning.

Amidror believes peace—or calm, at least—came as a result of Israeli muscle. Israel proved to its former enemies in the Sunni Arab world that it’s powerful enough to fill the vacuum left by America’s exit from the region and to stand up to Iran on the rest of the Middle East’s behalf. “The stronger Israel is, the more the ability of Arab countries to cooperate [with it] grows,” Amidror explained. On the whole, Amidror said he’s “very optimistic. I remember the threat that we faced when we were young. We fought the Six-Day War and I remember the Yom Kippur War, and I see what we are facing today. We have only one-and-a-half problems. One problem is Iran, and the half-problem is Hizballah.” . . .

In all likelihood the next Israeli-Iranian confrontation will be a clash with Amidror’s half-threat: the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hizballah, Iran’s most effective proxy in the Middle East and perhaps the best armed non-state military force on earth. . . . “We should neutralize the military capability of Hizballah,” [in the event of war], he said. “We should not destroy the organization as a political tool. If the Shiites want these people to represent them, it’s their problem.” . . .

“It will be a very nasty war,” Amidror said. “A very, very nasty war.” Hizballah will fire “thousands and thousands” of long-range missiles of improved precision, speed, and range at Israeli population centers, a bombardment larger than Israel’s various layers of missile defense will be able to neutralize in full. . . . This will, [however], be a blow Israel can withstand. “Israelis will be killed, no question,” Amidror said. “But it’s not going to be catastrophic.”

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More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, Lebanon