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Israel to Establish ‘South Syria Army’ to Stop Iranian Expansion | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Israeli soldiers walk near mobile artillery units near the border with Syria in the Golan Heights. (Reuters)

Tel Aviv – Israel is planning to establish a Syrian army in the southern region of Syria on the border with the Golan Heights and Jordan to stop Iranian expansion, according to informed Israeli sources.

The idea for the “South Syria Army”, which will be affiliated with Israel, is based on a close model of the South Lebanon Army that Israel founded and supported during the 1970’s. The South Lebanon Army was led by Saad Haddad and later on by Antoine Lahad.

The sources said that the idea is beginning to form in accordance with the US-Russian agreement to a ceasefire in southern Syria and prevent Iranian troops, “Hezbollah” and other regime affiliated militias from controlling the region.

Israel considers Daraa, Suwayda and other areas on the border with the Golan Heights as political and security interests. Tel Aviv has allies there, including the Druze “Fursan al-Joulan militia” and some sides that claim to be part of the Free Syrian Army.

These allies could serve as a foundation for the establishment of the “South Syrian army”.

The sources confirmed to Israeli media that the purpose of these forces would be to prevent “Hezbollah” and other pro-Iranian militias from taking over the Golan Heights after the war against ISIS is over and US troops have left the area.

The current assumption in Israel is that the expected departure of US troops will leave the region completely open to Russia.

Despite Israel coordinating its activity in Syria with Russia, Tel Aviv does not trust the Russian leadership. It also doubts that Moscow can reach understandings with Iran over controlling the region in accordance to their joint interest in keeping Syrian regime head Bashar Assad in power.

This is at the root of Israel’s reservations to Russia being solely responsible for monitoring southern Syria, but it will be forced to peacefully live with the outcomes that have so far been achieved between Moscow and Washington. It is therefore forced to create alternatives, like forming the “South Syria Army”.

Asked if Israel believes that such an idea can be a success given Syria’s bad experience with the South Lebanon Army, the sources replied that this has not been overlooked by some members of the opposition.

When Israel decided to withdraw from Lebanon in 2000, it did not discuss the plan with its Lebanese allies and left them behind, without caring about their fate. They were then forced to escape to Israel, leaving behind all of their possessions. Even then, Israel did not immediately allow them to enter its territories and only granted entry to 6,000.

According to the sources, opposition groups’ main fear is that Syria will be divided into three areas of influence: Russian, Iranian and Turkish. They fear that these countries will decide Syria’s political future without taking their demands into consideration.

They after all are the ones who sparked the revolt and it is within their right to find an alternative where they can live freely away from Assad or Turkey or Iran’s injustice. They have in the meantime found Israel that is constantly providing them with medical and food supplies, said the sources.

The Israeli sources added that it is becoming increasingly clear to opposition and rebel forces that they are being pushed into a “narrow political alleyway.” The forces will then be left with little room to bargain in the face of Russian control of the country and its expected division of the area.

This is especially clear after most of the legitimate militias, except the Kurdish ones, have lost US support and have become irrelevant in the game of the great powers. They are now left to carry out negotiations with Russia from a position of weakness.