The so-called ‘axis of resistance’ would need a pile of lies to cover up its scandal in Syria. Equating the Syrian war with fighting Israel no longer fools anybody, even the most naïve. This lie was repeatedly discredited during the turmoil of the Syrian war that started seven years ago, but its most dramatic exposure was in Daraa.
The Daraa understanding
Although the features of the major understandings in Daraa between the parties influencing the conflict and the parties influenced by the conflict are not quite clear, its general orientation is not ambiguous, and its content has to do with an understanding between America, Russia, Israel, Jordan and other Arab states on replacing the Iranian militia with Assad’s army.
This understanding seems to have replaced the de-escalation zone agreement - which was reached during the first meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Hamburg a year ago - ever since it collapsed last week.
Developments on the ground in Daraa did not prevent the Americans and Russians from moving forward with preparations for the Trump-Putin summit, which means that the collapse of the de-escalation agreement in Daraa, was authorized by the United States. Furthermore, leaks reveal that the US administration has via its embassy in Jordan told the armed groups in Daraa, via a WhatsApp text message, to do what is best for themselves and their people and not to base their decisions on the assumptions that American troops will intervene to help them because this will not happen!
For its part, Israel — the most skeptical party with regards to the agreement and the most willing to put it to the test — called for an area free of Iran and its militia extending 40 kilometers from the Israeli-Syrian cease-fire line signed on May 31st, 1974. Israel also maintained the need to have freedom of movement in the Syrian airspace and the freedom to launch strikes on Iranian targets, which is actually what it did a few days ago by targeting bases and warehouses in the vicinity of Damascus airport, without any Russian objection worth mentioning or reaction from Syria or Iran.
Israel, Syria security equation
This incident exposes the lie of resistance and fighting against Israel, especially when it comes to the function of Assad’s Syria, which Iran has said since the first day of its intervention that it is only protecting the resistance there. Why does Israel accept that the Assad army is close to it but rejects the Iranians and their Lebanese, Iraqi, Afghan, Pakistani and other militias? And why is this Russian backed reassurance towards Assad amid a complete alertness against Iran and its tools? The truth is that there is an ongoing serious process of rehabilitating the Assad regime to restore Syria’s original task as the guardian of the borders of Israel and the guarantor of its security, while keeping at the same time a margin of maneuver and skirmish for Hezbollah, before it turns into one of the most complex non-state organizations in the region.
Rami Makhlouf, the former corner stone of the Syrian economy, has spoken about this task since the first weeks of the Syrian crisis. In his interview with the New York Times, he said: “As long as Syria lacks stability, Israel will too.” This means that Syrian stability is Israeli stability, which can be deduced by any observer, if he would look at the situation at the borders between the two countries since 1974 until 2011.
In the first two years of the revolution, the Israeli press was full of articles and analysis written by the most esteemed Israeli observers who considered that the fall of Assad or the collapse of Syria into chaos was a strategic disaster for Israel. Before that, it was Israel who opened the door to Assad to take him out from the isolation he entered after the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, as proven by the testimony of former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jeffrey Feltman at a seminar in Washington. The meetings which Imad Moustapha, the Syrian ambassador, held with Jewish lobbies in the American capital since 2006 have opened the channels for peace talks with Israel under the patronage of Turkey, a fact that was later revealed in 2008. This expedited inviting Assad to the Annapolis peace conference a year earlier (2007)!
The position of Israel remained the same regarding the historical role of the Assad family in relation to Israel's security, until it appeared that Assad himself had changed and become a puppet in Iran’s hand. At this point, Israel started dealing with Syria as an Iranian base in the absence of Assad and his role.
Curtailing Iran’s role
Soon after Russia intervened in the Syrian crisis and the relative release of Assad from Iran’s hands, Tel Aviv returned and chose the Assad option again, making Benjamin Netanyahu the politician talking to Vladimir Putin the most, and Israel the most coordinating state with Moscow in Syria.
In Daraa, the circle has been completed, and time is turning back slowly. Assad is being rehabilitated at the peak of the US assault on Iran in Iran and of the Israeli attack on Iran in Syria. Assad is gradually going back to walking in his father’s footsteps. However, this time it would be without the imagined regional roles, and without the exaggerated status as he will just be a guard at Israel’s gates and Syria’s ruins.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Nadim Koteich is a leading Arab satirist. His show DNA airs Monday to Friday on Future and Al Hadath channels. He is a columnist with Asharq Alawsat. He tweets @NadimKoteich.