If it demonstrates nothing else, America’s decision to support the rebels against Syrian President Bashir al-Assad indicates that the US has arrived at a long term endgame plan for the future of both Syria and the region – and it won’t be just the removal of al-Assad from office.
The opposition in Syria is now dominated by pan-Islamic Sunni jihadists. In the event of al-Assad’s downfall the last thing the Israelis and the US want is a new Syrian government made up of Islamists who despise Israel more than they do the pro-Assad Shia foe they’re fighting now. Indeed, if there is anything both sides fighting in Syria hate even more than each other, it’s Israel.
One could be forgiven for thinking that the Israelis and the US might have considered al-Assad the better of two evils but, since they clearly haven’t, one can only assume that both Israel and the US have some other plan up their sleeve that will prevent the jihadists from gaining any power – and that can only be achieved by having ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria and even elsewhere.
Since January of last year the US has been rotating thousands of troops through Israel ostensibly for training and joint exercises. Americans have been training Israeli troops using the experience the Americans have gained from action in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now, it seems that experience may be used in Syria just over the border from Israel via the Golan Heights.
The new circumstances put Russia in an awkward position. Now that there’s a possibility that the US may enter the fray directly, the Russians may reconsider their position and back off supplying the S-300 surface to air missiles that had been promised to Assad. While the Russians would have had no problem with them being used against Israeli aircraft, the prospect of them being used against American aircraft with American pilots and crew if the US decide to enforce a no-fly zone may well be too mush of a risk to take.
Despite the UN having taken a stance against arming either side of the conflict, it now seems that Israel and the US, together with their allies France and the UK, have spent considerable time planning their next moves to dislodge al-Assad. The timing is also significant considering that the announcement to supply arms came on the same day as the Iranian elections which have been overshadowed in the news by Syrian war. While results are expected today (Saturday 15 June 2013), a clear winner of Iran’s election may not be known until after the next round of elections on Friday 21 June when a run-off election may be held if no winner emerges today with more than 50% of the vote. No matter who wins, however, the result is unlikely to change Iran’s foreign policy relating to Syria, Hezbollah and Israel, and nor will it likely influence Iran’s determination to pursue nuclear power. The best that the US an their Western allies could hope for is that there will be post-election turmoil in Iran as there was in 2007 though this is unlikely since President Ahmadinejad is prevented from running again.
These are just some of the considerations that will determine the regions future but the long-term agendas of Israel and the US supported by their neoconservative allies will not change; both want eventual regime change in Iran and Syria and both want to see the demise of Hezbollah in Lebanon.