While the U.S. and its allies have crushed Islamic State in northeastern Syria, and Bashar al-Assad—with the help of Iran and Russia—has eliminated all but a few rebel redoubts, the country is hardly at peace. Eden Kaduri and Jony Essa assess the current situation, and where it leaves Israel:
After eleven years of civil war, Syria is divided, subject to the influence of foreign forces, and suffering from a severe economic and humanitarian crisis. This transitional period is an opportunity for Israel to influence the future shape and stability of its northern neighbor. To be sure, the Assad regime remains obligated to Iran and does not intend to break off relations with it, even in order to return to the Arab world and obtain essential economic aid. Moreover, Iran is expected to increase its influence in Syria as Russia’s involvement is cut back due to the war in Ukraine. However, Assad will try to limit the presence and military visibility of Iran in his country in order to avoid paying the price of Israeli attacks.
Israel must therefore continue working to block Iranian entrenchment in Syria and the military threat that it poses—and in order to provide Assad with grounds and leverage to remove Iran from Syrian territory. This means a continuation of the aerial attacks, while retaining the mechanism of coordination with Russia, and improving the efforts to achieve more meaningful and long-term influence. In this framework, Syria should be seen as a divided nation, and Israel should work on building special ties with potential local allies, in particular the Kurds in the northeast of the country and the Druze in the south.