Normative Narratives

Conflict Watch: The U.S., Israel, and Syria

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Israel launched an aerial strike on Syria yesterday, in response to growing tension in the Golan heights and intelligence that Syria may be moving advanced arms to extremist factions in the region (most notably Hezbollah in Lebanon).

“Many increasingly see no possible positive outcome of their neighbor’s bloody conflict, no clear solution for securing their interests in the meanwhile. Israel’s military leadership now views southern Syria as an “ungoverned area” that poses imminent danger.”

“For Israel, as for other nations, the Syrian civil war presents pressing security challenges, including the prospect of chemical and other sophisticated weapons falling into the hands of rogue groups, and radical Islamists ultimately coming to power. But speaking to members of Parliament from his faction this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu signaled a new focus, saying, “The first and primary threat is an attack on our citizens and soldiers from the Golan Heights line.”

The U.S. is still weighing it’s options in Syria, although Israeli actions may force the Obama administrations hand. America and Israel both seem reluctant to send ground forces into Syria for different reasons, it seems that military aid and aerial support are the two most likely forms that increased intervention will take.

“So far, President Obama has been reluctant to get involved in the Syrian conflict. He has ruled out placing American forces on the ground, a stance he reiterated on Friday at a new conference in San José, Costa Rica, where he was meeting with Latin American leaders.

Mr. Obama told reporters he did not foresee a situation in which “American boots on the ground in Syria would not only be good for America but also would be good for Syria,” adding that he had consulted with leaders in the Mideast who agree.”

“Mr. Obama has always made clear that any action should be taken with allies and neighbors. But NATO has been reluctant, and Russia, which keeps a naval base in Syria, has been opposed. Israeli officials have said that they do not want to go into Syria, fearing that any Israeli attack would fuel Mr. Assad’s argument that the civil war in his country is the result of foreign provocations. Some Israeli officials have argued that the Arab League should be in the vanguard of any attack, but it has shown little interest in direct military intervention in the Syrian conflict.

That has left the same trio that led the attack on Libya in 2011: the United States, Britain and France. There has been constant discussion among their militaries about “options of every kind,” one official involved in the talks said this week. “Clearly, an airstrike would be much more complex than in Libya,” the official said, noting that most of the targets there were in the desert.”

By next week there should be lots to talk about on this front, and I will have much more time to look into the matter.

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