Sputnik/Moscow: Shortly after the US recognised Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, Aleppo was subjected to air strikes attributed to the Israeli Air Force (IAF) by the Syrian military. Speaking to Sputnik, Ghassan Kadi, a political analyst of Syrian origin, shared his views on what was behind the reported Israeli attack.
A few days after Donald Trump signed a presidential proclamation recognising the Golan Heights as Israel’s territory, the Syrian state-owned media reported that Israel had launched air strikes against the Syrian city of Aleppo. Tel Aviv neither confirmed nor denied the claim.
Commenting on the alleged attack, Ghassan Kadi, a political analyst of Syrian origin, suggested that “Israel’s main objective in the Aleppo airstrike is to demonstrate to the regional players, including Russia, that Israel is still capable of launching such attacks”.
At the same time, “they are also for public consumption in a bid for Netanyahu to win votes in the upcoming elections”, he said, referring to the early parliamentary vote that will be held in Israel on 9 April 2019 to elect members of the Knesset, the country’s unicameral parliament.
“In reality, and unless they turn into massive and continuous air-raids, which is something that Israel will find extremely difficult to achieve, with or without risking retaliations that can reach deep into Israel, sporadic strikes will not create much impact on the ground either against Syria itself, or in favour of the so called ‘Tel Aviv struggle against Iran'”, the political analyst opined.On 28 March, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated his vow to prevent any alleged deployment of Iranian ballistic missiles in Syria.
“Iran is constantly trying to place in Syria precision long-range missile [sic] that are very advanced and highly lethal missiles. We are not prepared to accept this. Our activity against Iran’s attempt to establish military bases in Syria and to place advanced weapons there, continues all the time”, he said.
Why Trump’s Golan Move Failed to Spark Protests on the Ground
When asked why Donald Trump’s recognition of the Golan Heights as Israel’s territory had failed to stir fierce protests akin to those triggered by the transfer of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, Kadi agreed that “the condemnation remained mainly official”.
“Jerusalem is different”, he explained. “Jerusalem is not only seen as the capital of Palestine, but also as a Muslim holy shrine. Its American recognition as the capital of Israel stirred up religious emotions throughout the Muslim World”.
As for Trump’s Golan move, the analyst believes that it is much of a symbolic nature and does not change anything on the ground.
“America’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan is no more than tokenistic and does not change anything”, he said. “The issue at hand is the Israeli occupation, and not how superpowers of vested interest regard it”.
According to the analyst, the same applies to Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital: “It did not change anything other than stirring emotions”.”It is neither America nor Israel that has the authority to legitimise any question that involves justice and morality. Throughout history, bigger and stronger nations have allowed themselves to pillage smaller ones under the law of big-fish-eat-small-fish. This does not make it legitimate though”, he emphasised.
Following Trump’s recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan Heights, the UN made it clear that the move would not affect the legal status of the Syrian territory, which has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Russia, Turkey, as well as a number of Arab and European states, condemned Trump’s move.
The move followed Washington’s transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalemon 14 May 2018, which was accompanied by massive protests launched by the Palestinians in several cities across the disputed territories. For its part, Hamas, an Islamist movement, announced the beginning of the third intifada (“rebellion”).
Russia Continues to Play the First Fiddle
Washington’s political gestures towards Israel raises question as to whether Trump will pass the “military baton” to Netanyahu after the US withdrawal from the region.
“When we talk about the US withdrawal from Syria, we have to seriously ask ourselves, which withdrawal?” the analyst remarked, referring to Trump’s regular flip-flops on the issue.
According to Kadi, Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s conclusions, which indicated no collusion with Russia, have untied Trump’s hands: “After the Mueller report, Trump may become more at liberty to do what Trump wants, including withdrawal from Syria if this is what he really wants”, the analyst noted.”But if and when this happens, inadvertently, he would not be passing the baton to Netanyahu, but to [Russian President Vladimir] Putin”, he said in a reference to Russia’s increasing role in Syria and Middle Eastern affairs in general.
In late December 2018, Donald Trump announced the withdrawal of the 2,000-strong military contingent from Syria. However, in response to mounting pressure from US lawmakers and Washington’s allies, the US president announced in February 2019 that the Pentagon would leave at least 400 US troops in the region after the pull-out of most US forces from Syria this spring.
Meanwhile, Russia has maintained a military presence on the ground in Syria since 2015. Moscow’s intervention at the request of the legitimate Syrian government led by Bashar al-Assad has become a game changer in the Syrian Civil War and contributed much to the elimination of Daesh (ISIS/ISIL)* in the region.
*Daesh (ISIS/ISIL) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia while Russia thus far has failed to name the White Helmets as terrorists officially though there is every reason to do so. (ed)