While the U.S. Mulls a Response to Syria, Iran Mulls a Response to Israel

April 13 2018

On April 7, the Syrian government unleashed a massive chemical-weapons attack on a rebel enclave. Two days later, there was a strike on its T4 airbase—used primarily by Iran—that destroyed several unmanned aircraft and left fourteen dead, including some Iranian soldiers. Israel is thought to have carried out this strike, although Jerusalem, in keeping with its usual policy, remained mum. Thus, write Assaf Orion and Amos Yadlin, America’s expressed desire to keep Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons has converged with Israel’s determination to restrict Tehran’s presence in Syria:

In operational terms, the region is now anticipating two developments that ostensibly run separately along parallel axes: Iran’s response to the attack on its forces at the T4 airbase, attributed to Israel, and the American response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack in Duma. Iran’s expected response will be an attack, not necessarily immediate, either with a clear Iranian signature or by proxy, the latter being Iran’s preferred modus operandi. The action will likely not be launched from Iranian territory but rather from Syria or from other operational theaters such as Yemen (which is adjacent to the navigation lanes in the Red Sea), or from Lebanon, although an attack from Lebanon would pose a risk of wide-scale escalation. There is also the possibility of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, as has occurred in the past. . . .

The attack on the T4 airbase falls within the context of the last red line that Israel drew, whereby it cannot accept Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. . . . The very timing of the events has triggered a convergence between critical trends: the Israel-Iran confrontation in the Syrian context; the unfinished chapter of the Assad regime’s recurring use of chemical weapons; and the United States’ enforcement of non-proliferation. . . . Thus, Israel’s enforcement of its red line and the United States’ enforcement of its red line have met, while Russia finds itself exerting efforts to deter both countries from taking further action that could undermine its own achievements in Syria and its attempt to position itself as the dominant world power in the theater.

This [situation] has created an operational and perhaps even a strategic convergence in Israel’s and the United States’ efforts in the Syrian theater, first, through a sharpening dialogue with Russia, in which Israel would do better not to stand alone; second, by resumed U.S. engagement in Syria beyond the . . . containment of the Islamic State; and third, through the possibility of combining the issues of chemical weapons and the future of the Assad regime with the issue of Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

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More about: Chemical weapons, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

The Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey