Israel’s alleged attack against Syria seems to have led President Bashar Assad
to hunker down and more fully align his regime with the Iran-Hezbollah axis. As
he fights for his regime’s survival, holding on to what some analysts say could
become an Alawite ministate, he is publicly moving to a more hostile position
vis-à-vis Israel and the West.
Assad told a local Lebanese paper that
Syria was becoming a resistance state similar to the one Hezbollah has created
“We have decided that we must advance toward them and turn
into a resistance nation like Hezbollah [did in Lebanon], for the sake of Syria
and future generations,” Assad told the Al-Akhbar daily on Thursday, according
to the Lebanese Daily Star.
He added that Syria would be cooperating more
closely with Hezbollah, stating, “That’s why we have decided to give them
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah echoed this sentiment
with the Now Lebanon website quoting him as stating on Thursday that Syria’s
role in the resistance against Israel was important and strategic. He then moved
to accept Syria’s offer for new arms, saying, “We are ready to receive any sort
of physical weaponry, even if it is going to disturb the balance [in the
Nasrallah seems to be referring to the transfer of more
advanced conventional weapons and perhaps chemical arms, which Israel and the
West worry could fall into the organization’s hands.
“With regards to the
Israeli strikes on Syria, the Israeli enemy is seeking to achieve its aims, one
of which is to exclude Syria from the equation and eliminate it as a factor
within the ongoing conflict with Israel,” he said.
“Over the course of Arab history,” he added, “no regime offered as much to the
Palestinian cause as Syria did.”
Such rhetoric aims to take advantage of
the alleged Israeli strikes for public relations purposes and shift the focus
from the Syrian civil war and sectarian conflict, to a conflict with
This is not good news for Israel, which may face a more hostile
Assad than it has in the past; however, he knows well that any attacks launched
against Israel from Syria would be met with a strong Israeli
The successful attacks against Syria also show that the
Syrian/Hezbollah axis is not in any position to retaliate against Israel, thus
exposing their harsh anti-Israel rhetoric as mostly hollow for now. However, it
is well known that Hezbollah has been gathering intelligence against Israeli and
Jewish targets worldwide, refraining from a direct confrontation with Israel
since the last one in 2006.
Hezbollah finds indirect means of attack more
effective, and these also add a layer of deniability, thus shielding the group
from direct attack. Perhaps Syria will also move to coordinate with Hezbollah on
such attacks in the future.
Joel Parker, a PhD candidate at Tel Aviv
University who is closely following developments in Syria, told The Jerusalem
that the location of the attack against Syria was important, as it was in
an area near many central government institutions – including a building of the
Republican Guards and the presidential palace.
“My thinking is that
Israel sent a message to Assad,” he said.
“The earthquake and the
mushroom cloud were a message that [Israel] can strike at the heart of the
regime if it wants,” he explained.
“Israel is saying, ‘We could destroy
you, but we don’t want to right now.’” However, analysts believe that more
attacks against Syria could put the country in a position where it would feel an
obligation to respond, even though it is busy dealing with its own civil war.
Reflecting such a mood was an editorial by Abdel Bari Atwan, the editor-in- chief
of the London-based daily Al-Quds al-Arabi
, who welcomed Syria’s statements in
recent days that it was planning to open up a new front against Israel in the
“We say that opening this front, with or without a decision by
Assad, will push hundreds, if not thousands, of Palestinians and Arabs in Syria,
Lebanon, and Jordan to take up arms again to face the occupation on any front
that is opened for them,” stated Atwan.