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 U.S. Should Recognize Israeli Sovereignty over the Golan Heights

July 19 2018

Since the 1970s, American governments have sporadically pressured Jerusalem to negotiate the return of the Golan to Syria in exchange for peace. Had Israel given up this territory, Iranian forces would now be preparing to establish themselves on its strategically advantageous high ground. Michael Doran, testifying before the House of Representatives, argues that for this and other reasons, Congress should recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan. (Video is available at the link below.)

Between 1949 and 1967, [the period during which Syria held the Golan], thousands of clashes erupted [there]. By contrast, ever since Israel took control of the Golan Heights in June 1967, they have served as a natural buffer between the two belligerents. The last 70 years serve as a laboratory of real life, and the results [of the experiment conducted therein] are incontrovertible: when in the hands of Syria, the Golan Heights promoted conflict. When in the hands of Israel, they have promoted stability. . . .

From the outbreak of the [Syrian] civil war, Iran and Russia have worked aggressively to shape the conflict so as to serve their interests. The influence of Iran is particularly worrisome because, in the division of labor between Moscow and Tehran, Russia provides the air power while Iran provides much of the ground forces. . . . Thanks to Iran’s newfound ground presence [in Syria], it is well on the way to completing a so-called “land bridge” stretching from Tehran to Beirut. There can be no doubt that a major aim of the land bridge is to increase the military pressure on Israel (and Jordan, too). . . .

Would Americans ever consciously choose to place Iranian soldiers on the Golan Heights, so that they could peer down their riflescopes at Jewish civilians below? Is there any American interest that would be served by allowing Iran to have direct access to the Sea of Galilee, Israel’s primary water reservoir? Would it ever be wise to place Iranian troops [where they could] serve as a wedge between Jordan and Israel? The answer to all of these questions, obviously, is no. And the clearest way to send that message to the world is to pass a law recognizing Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.

As for the claim that the Jewish state’s seizure of the Golan in 1967 violates international law, Doran notes that Washington undermined this claim with its attempts in the 1990s to broker a deal between Jerusalem and Damascus:

The ready American (and Israeli) acceptance of the June 4, 1967 cease-fire line [as the basis for such a deal] is nothing short of startling. That line . . . leaves Syria in possession of territory along the shores of the Sea of Galilee and elsewhere that it acquired by force in 1948. In other words, to win over its enemy, [Syria], the Clinton administration dispensed with the principle of the impermissibility of the acquisition of territory by force—the very principle that the United States has remained ever-vigilant in applying to its ally, Israel.

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More about: Congress, Golan Heights, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy