Thinking the Unthinkable: Can Israel Remove Syria's Assad?

Ceylan Ozbudak

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For two years, the world has watched Syria bleed, hoping that the community of nations might come together and take action to restore order there. In March 2012, Kofi Annan offered a six-point peace plan, which fell flat. Since then, united military action has been a vain hope, and the bloodshed has continued.

On Tuesday, 27 March 2013, the 22 nations of the Arab League authorized a resolution to approve supplying arms to the rebel forces, and yet, there is no plan for concerted action and internal divisions paralyze the League.

Meanwhile, on the same day, NATO refused a request by Syrian rebel leader Moaz al-Khatib for Patriot missiles to shoot down Syrian planes. The U.S. is overcompensating for its mistakes in Iraq and Afghanistan, and without American consent the “lions” of Europe are unlikely to arm the opposition.

Without sufficient weaponry for the rebels, Assad’s forces will continue to command military superiority, kill more Syrians, and maintain this civil war.

And so the fighting continues: As a million Syrians forage for food in makeshift shelters across the Middle East, the International Rescue Committee reports that border camps in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq are swollen with more than 650,000 refugees, most of them women and children. Meanwhile, the UN’s latest tally since the hostilities began in April 2011 is 70, 000 fatalities.

We cannot continue to stand on the sidelines and watch

Assad’s brutal war has destabilized a government in Lebanon; drawn Iran’s special forces into Syria, isolated Iraq’s government from its Sunni citizens, forced Israel to enter Syrian territory from the Golan Heights, and sent refugees to Turkey, Jordan, Iraq and Lebanon. The entire region is being affected by Assad’s war, and we all share a moral and political duty to act to remove this warlord in our midst. The message is clear: This is a Middle Eastern problem,

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent apology to the people of Turkey for the 2010 Mavi Marmara incident is a sign of better relations between our two nations. Jerusalem will surely make good on Netanyahu’s promise of compensation to the families of the Turkish dead, and it is certain that when it does so, Turkish-Israeli relations will undergo a renaissance. As the Middle East’s two strongest military and economic powers, these countries should work together to end Russian support for Assad. Erdogan has offered the Russians a naval base in Turkish waters previously and that offer, combined with guarantees that a post-Assad Syria would not mean the end of Russian influence and access to Syria, just might tilt Moscow away from Assad. Keeping America away from the operation also helps reassure Putin that Syria will not become Libya: an American client state.

The elements, which oppose Assad are up against disciplined troops with sophisticated military hardware

Ceylan Ozbudak

Joint involvement of Turkey, Russia, and Israel at this stage of the conflict has distinct political advantages: First, since the Syrian opposition is based in Turkey, it is convenient for Ankara to broker an agreement between the rebels and Russia to ensure that Moscow’s concerns about Christian and Alawite minorities is fully allayed. If that means Russian armed forces wish to set up "safe zones" during a transition period that must be seriously considered. In short, consequences of removing Assad cannot be overlooked. But fear of tomorrow must not stop us from finding creative answers to stop the massacres today.

Second, unless Turkey and Israel work together to stop the killings in Syria and get more involved at this stage, the Jihadists will continue to grow in strength. As the world watches Syrians being slaughtered by Assad forces, Jihadists come to Syria for the spoils of a new Syria. Turkey nor Israel or other nations can allow that to happen on our borders. Syria cannot become a new Afghanistan.

The elements, which oppose Assad are up against disciplined troops with sophisticated military hardware. Two years of guerrilla warfare has proven ineffective to dislodge his grip on the Syrian people. If the rebels are to have any reasonable hope of victory, they will require sophisticated weapons and air support. If these components are not forthcoming from anyone, then one of two outcomes will happen: Either the rebels will fail, and Assad will continue his murderous regime, or help will come to the rebels from some other quarter. In the latter event, neither Israel nor Turkey will have any room to complain if extremists come into the picture and take advantage of the disorder there.

The U.S. and EU will not act. They are not threatened as directly as we are in the region. For all its faults, Israel has the air superiority to neutralize Assad’s air forces. That factor alone would go a long way to tipping the scales in favor of Syrian civilians who are being bombed by their own government

Assad and his family deserve an exit route to exile. After this record of violence, it is far more expedient to offer him safe asylum than to compel him to choose between continuing his campaign of destruction, and risking the fate, which befell Gaddafi and Mubarak. But a new Syria cannot solve its many domestic problems on its own. Syria and Syrians need their neighbors to help end the conflict and create a Syria that is democratic, pluralistic. The overdue interjection by two regional democracies – Turkey and Israel – helps send a message to Syrian democrats that we helped, forces Jihadists to retreat, and ends Assad’s evil hold over Syria.

How many more lives need be lost before we put aside our divisions and act in a concerted fashion for the people of Syria?


Ceylan Ozbudak is a Turkish political analyst, television presenter, and executive director of Building Bridges, an Istanbul-based NGO. She can be followed on Twitter via @ceylanozbudak

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.