Smoke rises during fighting in the village of Ahmadiyah in Syria, as seen from the Israeli side of the border fence between Syria and the Golan Heights [File].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last Wednesday, during the middle of the tranquil Passover vacation, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gadi Eisenkot headed north. The military had imposed a temporary closure on the West Bank, and all was quiet on the Gazan and Lebanese fronts. Eisenkot took the opportunity to visit the 91st Division, which secures the Galilee, and toured Mount Dov (Shaba Farms), which looks out over Lebanon and Syria.
Of all the sectors the IDF monitors carefully, it is Syria that is the most unpredictable and explosive, and which carries the biggest potential for a sudden escalation. Additionally, due to Hezbollah’s attempts to traffic weapons from Syria to Lebanon, and its ongoing fight against anti-Assad rebel groups, events in Syria have a direct impact on the Lebanese front.
Just over the Israeli border, in southern Syria, a myriad of heavily armed radical Sunni and Shi’ite factions continue to battle it out, in a zerosum game of kill or be killed.
Al-Qaida wages war on other Sunni jihadists in ISIS, and both are engaged in a fight to the death against the Alawite regime in Damascus and its Shi’ite backers – Hezbollah and Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps. Above them, fighter jets belonging to international coalitions carry out air strikes in crowded skies, and Israel, according to foreign reports, periodically targets weapons-smuggling runs seeking to bring strategic arms to Hezbollah’s depots in Lebanon.
The sectarian warfare that has torn Syria to pieces is unlikely to recede any time soon, and international efforts toward a cease-fire – however well intentioned – appear tragically ill-fated.
Syria, along with Libya, Yemen and Iraq, represents the breakdown of the 20th-century Middle East order. This chain reaction of implosions looks permanent, bringing along with it a high possibility of affecting additional countries over time.
The Assad regime’s murderous bombing raids on Aleppo, which have killed over 220 people since April 22, testify to the trajectory in which failed states are moving.
As civil wars rage, vacuums of power are filled by the rise of radical Sunni organizations, while the displacement of millions of Syrians continues. The developments are accompanied by the breakdown of any semblance of a national identity, in favor of competing sectarian groups.
The concept of the Arab nationstate has never appeared weaker, placing significant strain on the Arab countries in the area that have remained intact.
In the new Middle East, it is apparent that sub-state jihadist organizations, not state armies, are the most immediate threat to Israeli security. The old borders have lost meaning. ISIS and al-Qaida in Syria and Sinai, Hezbollah in Syria and Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza all qualify as modern exemplars of transnational foes.
Israel, like the pragmatic Sunni states that have so far weathered the Arab winter, is preparing for the day that terrorists combating one another in Syria direct their guns and missiles toward new targets.