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March 4, 2012
Israel fiddles while Syria burns
"No peace, no war" has been the arrangement with Syria since 1973. The outcome of the present civil war in Syria has the potential to change that arrangement for better or worse. Israel has stayed out of the fray at least publicly. No covert actions have yet come to light.
Like it or not, things are happening in Syria which will impact Israel considerably, So she should choose sides and try to affect the outcome.
The Obama administration has come out in support of the Syrian National Council (SNC) which is dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood and is working in cahoots with Islamist Turkey. If they do succeed in taking over Syria, it would put Israel in greater extremis. The Muslim Brotherhood is sworn to its destruction and Turkey is no friend. Luckily the SNC does not have popular support in Syria and is not gaining traction.
The recent Friends of Syria conclave held in Tunis failed to unify the 60 plus countries taking part. China and Russia were not invited. Nor was the National Coordination Board, consisting mostly left-leaning political parties and independent political activists, including three Kurdish political parties, and youth activists, invited. Nor was the Syria Democracy Coalition (SDC) which advocates a secular democratic federated state, invited.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly met with the SNC but failed to have it recognized as the official opposition other than by Britain. It recognized them as a "legitimate representative" of the Syrian opposition, rather than "a representative of the Syrian people" or as many had wanted, "the sole representative of the Syrian people." To make matters worse, Saudi Arabia walked out in disgust because the "friends" couldn't or wouldn't agree to supply arms to the Free Syria Army.
To make matters worse, the head of the SNC announced a few days later, that the SNC would have no problem dealing with Hezb'allah if it supported a democratic change in Syria. This is an ominous sign of things to come.
Ever since Obama made a very deep bow when meeting King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, US- Saudi relations have gone downhill. Saudi Arabia is angry with Obama for pulling the rug out from under Mubarak and for suggesting reforms in Bahrain, her immediate neighbor. She is also very concerned that Obama has not dealt with Iran more forcibly. Syria is another example where she is at odds with the Obama administration.
Saudi Arabia is determined to bring about Assad's downfall mainly because Syria is an ally of Iran whom she sees as an existential threat. Also she does not want a Muslim Brotherhood controlled Syria because she sees the Muslim Brotherhood as a threat. She has encouraged al Qaeda to infiltrate Syria and has been supplying arms along with Qatar to the Free Syria Army. The war is far from over.
The Free Syria Army is made up mostly of defecting soldiers and officers. They are outgunned and out-numbered but have the support of the people and will fight on. Recently one of their representatives met with an Israeli journalist in secrecy to enlist Israel in their cause. He was opposed to the SNC and definitely opposed to Turkey dominating Syria. He argued that it was in Israel's interest to remove the Assad regime as she would also be undermining Hezb'allah and Iran two other of her enemies. Even so, he thought of Israel as the enemy and said it would take 20 to 30 years before normalization takes place and the Golan could be discussed. You would think that, given its great need for support, he would have offered to make peace with Israel immediately after the fall of Assad, without the Golan being returned, even if he couldn't deliver on his promise.
Recently, a Syrian made contact with an IDF spokesperson on Face Book and wrote "We want to get rid of Assad and his regime and modernize Syria by promoting freedom of religion and freedom of thought. We do not want war with you and are definitely not interested in the Golan Heights."
And this individual is not alone. The Syria Democratic Coalition (SDC) embraces a similar view. They have considerable support from the following minorities: Kurds, Christians, Druze, Assyrians and even the Alawites. They want a federated state in which each minority has a delineated region and in which federal government is a secular democracy. Currently they are more fearful of a state ruled by Islamist thugs than a state ruled by the present regime and so have not become active in the revolt so far.
It is time for Israel to get off the fence. She must meet with the SDC and determine the bona fides of the group and the extent of its support. She must reach out to Saudi Arabia to find common cause in both the support to be given and the outcome to be achieved. It is entirely possible that Saudi Arabia would agree to the vision of the SDC because that would stop the growth of the Muslim Brotherhood, undermine Iran and Hezb'allah and strengthen Israel. She needs a strong Israel to opposed Iran and doesn't see Israel as a threat.
But this is easier said than done. Israel is in a very delicate position. She is seeking Obama's commitment to prevent a nuclear Iran. This is Israel's dominant issue. She doesn't want in any way to alienate Obama by working against his support of the Muslim Brotherhood dominated SNC. Similarly she doesn't want to oppose Turkey's plans for Syria. And she certainly doesn't want Assad pushed to the brink. He may then choose the Samson option and use his WMD's against his neighbors, especially Israel. Just on Saturday it was reported that Assad has ordered his army to fire a barrage of missiles at Israel should there be military intervention. Hezbollah and Iran have agreed to do likewise. Israel prefers to leave well enough alone. She also prefers to deal with one enemy at a time. To add to the complications, Syria and the Kurdish PKK operating in Turkey are allies as they both see Turkey as the enemy. In a way Syria becomes Israel's ally as well.
Sometimes, fiddling is the best course of action.
Ted Belman is the editor Israpundit. He made Aliya from Canada in 2009 and now lives in Jerusalem.
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