“The Syrian army’s tremendous strategic resources may well fall into terrorist hands.” (Israel’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz)
What should appear today in my series discussing Antisemitism and Jewish Survival is the treatment of Jewish Holocaust survivors, the “Displaced Persons (DP’s) in the “care” of American forces from 1945 to 1957. Since the point of my blogstream is, after all, “Jewish survival,” any realistic future for such is at least dependent on the ability of the state of the Jews to serve its Zionist purpose as refuge. It is this concern that distracts at the moment and to which I turn my attention.
Next week or sooner I will post my Displaced Persons article.
Treaties and non-aggression pacts are made between states in with national armies capable of asserting control over their boundaries. Israel’s need for greater strategic depth has been evident since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip and became a base for other Palestinian factions to launch missiles at Israel. Two mini-wars later and the Strip still poses a threat, if containable. But with the dissolution of Syria the threat is far more serious, the cost of containment far more expensive.
Almost difficult to remember that a few years ago Israel had a demilitarized and quiet border with Egypt and Jordan was not also under threat of takeover by the Muslim Brotherhood. Assad and Israel were conducting back-channel negotiations regarding land-for-peace, where the Golan would somehow return to Syrian sovereignty and the disputed north shore of the Kineret would be transformed into a Peace Park. In his exuberance and at a lull in the negotiations, George W. Bush reportedly approached Assad without consulting Israel with the promise to return the Golan if only Assad would abandon his Iranian alliance.
From the perspective of the post-Mubarak Islamist renaissance however forlorn those prospects with a Mubarak Egypt, they are today lost in the mists of an uncertain future. And the immediate battleground of the future of the region (Iran has moved down a notch in “immediacy”) is the breakup of the Syrian state.
“The situation in Syria has become exceptionally dangerous and unstable. Although the probability of a conventional war against the Syrian army is low, the terrorist organizations fighting Assad may yet set their sights on us. The Syrian army’s tremendous strategic resources may well fall into terrorist hands.” (Israel’s Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz)
And so we arrive at Israel facing an unprecedented situation in the world: surrounded not by states and national armies, but by multiple terrorist organizations controlling Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and thus far to a lesser extent, Sinai. And as this is written Jordan too is facing a serious challenge to the monarchy from its own Islamist Muslim Brotherhood.
The war in Syria long since destroyed central authority leaving the remnants of statehood distributed among warring ethno-religious factions. No central authority, no national military: just anarchy, with those warring factions possibly already possessing modern weapons recently delivered by Russia from the state armory, including an advanced and indigenously developed array of what has be described as the world’s largest supply of poison gas:
“Military analysts believe Syria may have one of the largest stockpiles of chemical weapons in the world. Specifically, the supply could include sarin, mustard and VX gases.”
Iran represents a threat in slow motion: Syria a disaster on steroids. And in the meantime the US and the EU stand by wringing their hands, helpless. Syria represents a clear and present danger to Israel and to Jordan and to Iraq and Turkey and even, yes, to Hezbollah’s Lebanon, Iran’s last legitimate-state outpost in the Levant. At an earlier time a superpower such as the US or USSR would have asserted some measure of control. Not today.
The current standoff between Russia and the US offers risk and opportunity for Israel. Al-Qaida irregulars are reportedly entrenched on the Golan and, with the defeat of Syrian forces along the border with Iraq, are described to control a “volatile 1,000-km chain from Baghdad to Damascus.” If Egyptian forces on the border of Sinai represented causus belli in 1967, is al-Quaida on the Golan less so?
For Israel, the implications of an attack on Iran is problematic due to blow-back resulting from the likely global economic fallout of yet another disruption to oil, as occurred following Bush invading Iraq. But al-Qaida terrorists on the Golan? That is a question of immediate threat. And al-Quaida is not Iran but a hands-on enemy of Madrid and New York and London. They have western blood on their hands. Syria in chaos represents a long-term threat to regional stability. Frightening to the region and the West as an Israeli preemptive act of self-defense, from where things stand now the outcome cannot be worse than what already exists as promise for the future.
Clearly the UN is incapable of serving as peace-keeper as recent, and multiple previous events demonstrate. Nearly two decades of Israeli occupation of the Sinai, and four decades on the Golan demonstrate her peace-keeping abilities.
Israel’s area of control might extended to the outskirts of Damascus and along the border of Lebanon to the sea. Hezbollah and Hamas lie outside this discussion, but clearly both would face a radically different future without their Iranian patron.
And what of Iran? The Islamic Republican Guards already trained and armed Syrian insurgents as they had Iraqis set to pounce following Bush invading that country. Will the ayatollahs just stand aside and observe Israel spoil their dreams of Hezbollah in Syria?
For years Israel has posed a threat to its nuclear weapons program. The cost of direct intervention against Israel is an open invitation to Israel to carry through that threat as an act of immediate self-defense, no longer mere pre-emptive action. Is Iran really willing to risk an attack on the homeland to protect its interests in Syria?
In 1967 Israel’s Jewish population was just over two million with no natural resources, limited land mass and a military poorly equipped by today’s standards. Her decisive victory established her as the pre-eminent military force in the region. Territorially she was far larger, enemy borders far distant from her population centers.
Today Israel is an increasingly energy independent with the discovery of offshore natural gas reserves. Were Israel to act to clear the Golan, push al-Quaida deep into the Syrian hinterland then not only would the state be distanced from potential terror threat, but her natural gas facilities would also fall under that defense umbrella. And while I don’t want to get to enthusiastic regarding the near and distant future of the state of the Jews, with Arab oil growing less important in a world in which the United States may today hold the world’s largest reserves, and other countries similarly discovering oil in shale; with the Middle East running out of water in a period of global warming and Israel the world’s leader in desalination technology; with Israel the only regional power capable of containing Shiite Iran as threat to Sunni Arabia…
Just maybe in this time of gloom and doom there is reason to hope.