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Is Syria Slipping? - ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive
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Although the rhetoric of an anticipated US strike on Iran is escalating on every level, the real danger looming on the horizon is the possibility of an Israeli-Syrian war. It is clear that the Israelis are moving intensively on the Syrian border, and possibly even within Syria itself, both by air and land according to the numerous news reports. This comes amidst an Israeli silence, continuous Syrian denial and leaked US information that supports Israeli maneuvering on the Syrian border.

All this news serves to exacerbate the level of danger between Israel and Syria. Israel continues to provoke and intimidate Syria, while Damascus is in an unenviable position both internally and externally.

It has become legitimate to ask how Syria backs militants in Iraq and smuggles weapons to Hezbollah under a political and media guise in its confrontation with Israel. Likewise, its interference in Lebanon to protect its party [Hezbollah], among other things, is done under the pretext of resisting Israel.

Meanwhile, Damascus continues to reiterate that “it reserves the right to retaliation” and that the response “will come in time”. According to the Syrian Information Minister, Mohsen Bilal, Syria is “scrupulously gauging the enemy’s pulse.”

Syria’s dilemma is that it is now closer to war than Iran  and who knows; perhaps this is part of the plan to strike Iran. This coincides with a time in which Damascus isn’t holding many cards, after it placed all its eggs in Iran’s basket and seems to be on the verge of a confrontation with Israel, which I do not believe it is qualified for  or else Israel would not have continued its provocation.

The predicament that the Syrian regime finds itself in today is that inasmuch as it is adopting restraint towards Israel’s provocation, it still finds itself in an exceedingly awkward situation, both internally and externally. This is especially so since Syria does not practice politics or wars except in the slogans that it raises to mobilize the streets in Damascus and Beirut, and which are the cause behind its supporters in Lebanon being cornered everywhere.

So the question is: Is Syria slipping down a slope of Israeli provocation towards an unequal war? This war, if it erupts, will be completely different than the 33-day war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon.

This war will not be a confrontation between militias and an army, it is a bigger battle. Any Israeli loses will mean the fall of Olmert’s government and the advent of another, which of course will be worse than the one that preceded it  most likely [Binyamin] Netanyahu?

Or, Damascus can exercise discipline and rationality, which will cost it much of its supporters in Syria and Lebanon, especially since Syria poses a major obstacle to the presidential elections in Beirut. Moreover, Syria’s relations with the Arab states are not as they should be by virtue of the numerous errors it has committed, in addition to its alliance with Tehran at the expense of the regional states.

These are the pressing questions today since the indications of Damascus sliding fast into a sudden confrontation with Israel are not unlikely; however, it is undoubtedly unequal.

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed

Tariq Alhomayed is the former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat. Mr. Alhomyed has been a guest analyst and commentator on numerous news and current affair programs, and during his distinguished career has held numerous positions at Asharq Al-Awsat, amongst other newspapers. Notably, he was the first journalist to interview Osama Bin Ladin's mother. Mr. Alhomayed holds a bachelor's degree in media studies from King Abdul Aziz University in Jeddah. He is based in London.

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