MIDDLE EAST

Assad sends ‘message of goodwill’ to the U.S.

Not retaliating for the recent Israeli airstrikes on its territory and, instead, sending its fighter jets to bomb Sunni militant targets inside Iraq is probably the only mystery element in Tuesday’s cross border airstrikes by Syrian warplanes on positions of Islamist insurgents near the border with Iraq and also inside Anbar province.

But still it is not that big a mystery as it has been the norm that Syria responds to the frequent Israeli airstrikes against its territory with just a threat of retaliation one day at the time and the place of its choosing. This was what Syrian officials have been quoted in international press as saying following Israel’s Monday airstrike on targets inside Syria, in retaliation for what Tel Aviv said was a missile attack from Syria on Sunday that killed one Israeli and wounded another in the Golan Heights.

Assad’s envisioned aim behind the sudden attack on the claimed Islamist insurgents’ targets was a message to the U.S. about its readiness to serve in a war against terrorism, a war against ISIS

Raed Omari

Israel’s action versus Syria’s inaction is not much of an important matter here as it turned into a drama of “words versus deeds.” However, what matters in this context is the Syrian government’s choice to launch airstrikes into western Iraq at the time it is busy with internal fighting against rebels seeking to end the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

Syria has not yet claimed the airstrikes against targets said to be belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) on the border with Iraq and also inside western Iraq in the Sunni stronghold of Anbar. However, U.S. officials have affirmed that the airstrikes were the work of Assad's government.

Normalization with America

To believe that Tuesday’s deadly airstrike against targets inside Anbar province was launched by Syria’s warplanes, is to understand is that Assad’s envisioned aim behind the sudden attack on the claimed Islamist insurgents’ targets was a message to the U.S. about its readiness to serve in a war against terrorism, a war against ISIS. It was like a “goodwill” message and an indirect normalization endeavor with America that Assad sought through the airstrikes.

Plus, Assad knew that the U.S. has been allegedly considering airstrikes in the ISIS-controlled area stretching across Syria and Iraq since the Islamist militia’s seizure of large swathes of Iraqi territory. Through the airstrikes, the Syrian regime sought to tell Washington: “ We are here and can do the job on your behalf.”

The fact that the airstrikes coincided with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit to city of Irbil and his meeting with Kurdish is evidence of such a hypothesis.

The Syrian airstrikes can be also viewed with regard to what has been thought of as the emergence of Iranian-American closeness, which no doubt lured the Syrian regime to ensure a stake and benefit from this growing mutuality between long-time foes Washington and Tehran over the shared ISIS threat.

Allowing ISIS to thrive in Syria

ISIS has also been battling the al-Qaeda affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.

Why has Syria shown the world that only now ISIS has turned out to be a threat for the country? Why have such airstrikes not been previously launched by the Syrian regime on ISIS’s positions in Syria? Why this time and only this time in Iraq? The answer to such must-be-asked questions has come from the Americans themselves this time, at last realizing the dishonesty of the Syrian regime’s rhetoric on terrorism.

Following the controversial airstrikes, the White House National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan was quoted in international press as saying: “'The solution to the threat confronting Iraq is not the intervention of the Assad regime, which allowed ISIS to thrive in the first place. The solution to Iraq's security challenge does not involve militias or the murderous Assad regime, but the strengthening of the Iraqi security forces to combat threats."

However, there might have been another drive behind Syria’s airstrikes which is to communicate gratitude to long-time ally Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki whose Shiite militias’ fighting alongside Assad in Syria is no secret at all. The message here was: “As you support me in my war against the Sunni fighters in my country, I will support you in your war against the Arab Sunnis and ISIS in Iraq.”
 

_________

Raed Omari is a Jordanian journalist, political analyst, parliamentary affairs expert, and commentator on local and regional political affairs. His writing focuses on the Arab Spring, press freedoms, Islamist groups, emerging economies, climate change, natural disasters, agriculture, the environment and social media. He is a writer for The Jordan Times, and contributes to Al Arabiya English. He can be reached via raed_omari1977@yahoo.com, or on Twitter @RaedAlOmari2
 

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Last Update: Sunday, 29 June 2014 KSA 11:45 - GMT 08:45
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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