What seemed highly improbable just a few months ago, appears very real today. In the topsy-turvy middle east anything is possibly these days. A large amount of politicians have counted Bashar Assad out since the beginning of Syria’s brutal civil war. These naysayers include former Primer Minister Ehud Barak and President Obama. Yet, in power Assad stands and now with a very invigorated Putin behind him, Assad’s moves on the Golan border are forcing Israel into a very tough position.
Israel can no longer afford to pretend to be neutral as the last vestiges of resistance to the Assad regime it helped create is destroyed. Beyond that, remaining neutral allows Syria, Iran, and Hezbollah to build up right on Israel’s border.
Can’t Israel Trust Russia to Reign in Assad?
Trusting Putin depends how much one really believes he is a trustworthy individual. Putin’s goal is to what’s best for Russia and it is far easier for him to force Israel into a weakened bargaining position. Make no mistake, Putin has no interest in destroying the Jewish state, but he wants to make the quiet he is supposed to enforce worthwhile. A cornered Israel dependent on the good graces of Russia, is exactly what Putin wants. Yet if te middle east has proved one thing over the past few years, it is unpredictability.
Already Out of Putin’s Hands
There is a false notion often bandied about across a wide spectrum of geopolitical thinkers that says Russia is in direct control of Iranian actions as well as Syrian. Russia has always viewed Syria as his puppet, but when it comes to the Iranians it is often an uneasy partnership that only works because of shared short-term interests. Assad’s regime owes its existence to both Russia and Iran and therefore as long as its two benefactors have a mutual interest in not fighting Israel, Assad can be held back.
Iran has a short window of time to take action against the Jewish State. Russian intervention in Syria has allowed Assad and the Iranian forces there to be able to strengthen and position themselves with little problem in forward attack position on the Golan border. Hezbollah still has 100’s of thousands of rockets aims at Israel. Russia does not want a war with Israel, but if one occurs the Arab and Iranian assumption is that it is Israel who will refrain from attacking out of fear of Russian intervention. As far as Russian reigning them in, Putin wouldn’t be able to, even if he wanted. Iran, Syria, and Hezbollah are all needed by Russia in their fight against American and Turkey proxy forces in the region.
In the coming days, the tension already in full display on the Golan border is bound to increase due to a failed Israeli assassination attempt on Syrian General Majid Heymoud reported by the Iranian Fars News Agency. Will Israel risk upsetting its delicate relationship with Russia in order to preempt an Iranian-Syrian play for the Golan?