Due to the weakness of the Syrian forces, a number of regional and international powers have warned against sealing a peace deal in Syria that parties who support the regime and Iran, can benefit from. This is what Israel said as it believes that any plan to end the war there must not allow Iran to stay in Syria as a military power; otherwise, it will view this as a threat to its security. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu talked about this and said he will inform Russian President Vladimir Putin of this message considering he is the godfather of the Syrian solution. Netanyahu said that Israel does not object to the arrangements of a solution in Syria but it strongly opposes the possibility of military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria.
Truth be told, Iran and its proxies’ military presence poses a threat to other countries as well. Allowing Iran and its Lebanese, Iraqi and other militias to stay in Syria will threaten regional balance and affect the security of Turkey, Iraq, Jordan and the Gulf. It’s not unlikely for Iran to finally be convinced of reaching agreements with Israel and end the role of its agents which threaten Israel, like Hezbollah in Lebanon or Hamas in Gaza. However, their threat on other countries will remain for years.
According to some official statements, it’s unlikely that Israel will accept any reassurances made by Iran or by a party that reflects its stance, such as the Syrian government, if they intend to keep thousands of fighters and experts for a very long time without a regional solution in which Iran and Israel are part of.
So why has Israel begun to voice its opinion regarding the Geneva negotiations when it has been silent during the past six years of war? It’s probably because the aspects of a political solution have become clearer. Israel has since the beginning been against any change in Damascus because it had co-existed with the regime for almost half a century. Despite their disagreements and estrangement, Israel thought its neighbor Syria was more secure and restrained than Egypt and Jordan which it has peace deals with.
Weakness shines through
However, the Syrian regime’s military capabilities are weak and Iran wants to compensate for that by providing its own forces and militias. This alters the security and political formula in the entire region and not just in Syria.
The Syrian regime’s military capabilities are weak and Iran wants to compensate for that by providing its own forces and militias. This alters the security and political formula in the entire region and not just in Syria.Abdulrahman al-Rashed
Is it possible for the Syrian regime forces to end the fighting and solidify peace with all this increased Russian support they’re receiving? Russia is not only supplying the regime with fighting troops but it has also provided the regime with police forces that organize traffic in some Syrian cities! The region’s countries, particularly Israel, Jordan and the Gulf, will most probably not oppose it if the Russians assume the task of filling the security and military vacuum through its forces or through international troops when needed as long these forces do not include Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ troops or other foreign militias. However, is Russia willing to carry out this huge task? Or will the Syrian government accept to give up its Iranian ally? Will the Iranians accept to exit Syria without any gains or as the proverb says will they leave the mawlid without chickpeas? We must not forget that Iran has through Syria and via the use of terrorist groups turned the Americans’ life in Iraq into hell. It’s doing the same against Saudis in Yemen and also against Israel through Hezbollah.
I think the success of a possible agreement in Syria is based on interpreting the role of Iran and its militias. The new American administration agrees with most of the region’s countries that it’s important to diminish Iran’s expansion in the region’s land and sea and not allow it to expand on a vast area that includes Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. This is all greatly linked to a Syrian agreement to end the war.
This article was first published in Asharq Al-Awsat on March 12, 2017.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed
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