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Israel Fuels Syrian Fire, Risking Regional Outburst

By       Message Nicola Nasser       (Page 1 of 3 pages)     Permalink

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By Nicola Nasser**

 

The timing of the Israeli air raid early on January 30 on a Syrian target, that has yet to be identified, coincided with a hard to refute indications that the "regime change" in Syria by force, both by foreign military intervention and by internal armed rebellion, has failed, driving the Syrian opposition in exile to opt unwillingly for "negotiations" with the ruling regime, with the blessing of the U.S., EU and Arab League, concluding, in the words of a Deutsche Welle report on this February 2, that "nearly two years since the revolt began, (Syrian President Bashar Al-) Assad is still sitting comfortably in presidential chair."

 

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Nonetheless, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu keeps saying that Israel is preparing for "dramatic changes" in Syria, but senior Israeli foreign ministry officials accused him of "fear-mongering on Syria" to justify his ordering what the Russians described as the "unprovoked" raid, according to The Times of Israel on January 29. Another official told the Israeli Maariv that no Israeli "red lines" were crossed with regard to the reported chemical weapons in Syria to justify the raid. On January 16 Israel's National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor said there was "no evidence" to any Syrian steps to use such weapons. On last December 8 UN Chief Ban Ki-moon said there were "no confirmed reports" Damascus was preparing to use them. Three days later U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said: "We have not seen anything new" on chemical weapons "indicating any aggressive steps" by Syria. On January 31 NATO Chief Fogh Rasmussen said: "I have no new information about chemical weapons (in Syria)." Syria's Russian ally has repeatedly confirmed what Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on February 2 that "we have reliable information" the Syrian government maintains control of chemical weapons and "won't use" them. That's what Syria itself keeps repeating, and "there is no particular reason why Israel is to be believed and Syria not," according to a Saudi Gazette editorial on February 3.

 

More likely Israel is either trying to escalate militarily to embroil an unwilling United States in the Syrian conflict, in a too late attempt to pre-empt a political solution, out of a belief that the fall of the Al -- Assad regime will serve Israel's strategy, according to the former head of the Military Intelligence Directorate, (Major general, reserve) Amos Yaldin, or to establish for itself a seat at any international negotiating table that might be detrimental in shaping a future regime in Syria.

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Escalating militarily at a time of political de-escalation of the military solution in Syria will not secure a seat for Israel in any forum. This is the message that the Israeli chief of General Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, should have heard during his latest five -- day visit in the U.S. from his host in Washington, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin E. Dempsey; the head of Israel's National - Security Bureau, Maj. Gen. (Res.) Ya'akov Amidror, who was in Moscow at the same time, should have heard a similar message from his Russian hosts.

 

The Israeli military intervention at this particular timing fuels a Syrian fire that has recently started to look for firefighters among the growing number of the advocates of dialogue, negotiations and political solutions both nationally, regionally and internationally.

 

The escalating humanitarian crisis and the rising death toll in Syria have made imperative either one of two options: A foreign military intervention or a political solution. Two years on since the U.S., EU, Turkish and Qatari adoption of a "regime change" in Syria by force, on the lines of the "Libyan scenario," the first option has failed to materialize.

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With the legitimate Syrian government gaining the upper hand militarily on the ground, the inability of the rebels to "liberate" even one city, town or enough area in the countryside to be declared a "buffer zone" or to host the self-proclaimed leadership of opposition in exile, which failed during the Paris -- hosted "Friends of Syria" meeting on January 28 to agree on a "government -- in -- exile," more likely because of this very reason, the second option of a political solution is left as the only way forward and as the only way out of the bloodshed and the snowballing humanitarian crisis.

 

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*Nicola Nasser is a veteran Arab journalist in Kuwait, Jordan, UAE and Palestine. He is based in Ramallah, West Bank of the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories.

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