Despite shooting down a Syrian jet it claimed crossed the Golan Heights line into its territory, Israel on Thursday indicated supported for President Bashar al-Assad remaining in power.
“From our perspective, the situation is returning to how it was before the civil war, meaning there is a real address, someone responsible, and central rule,” said Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Oddly, this is exactly in line with what both Iran (Israel’s bête noire) would want.
In other words, Israel feels that Assad — whose government in April was accused by Israel of committing a crime against humanity after it launched chemical attacks on its own people — is winning against the insurgents. As far as Israel is concerned, the war is essentially over.
This is also Assad’s narrative. The AFP on Wednesday reported that while the government controlled 17 percent of the country in early 2017, it has now managed to eliminate most of the rebel strongholds, now controlling two-thirds of Syria.
In an open letter to military rank and file, Assad wrote, “Our date with victory is near. They [the rebels] were ultimately forced to leave — humiliated, rolled back, their tails between their legs — after you gave them a taste of bitter defeat.”
Israeli military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jonathan Conricus said that with Assad’s troops (which are heavily supported with Russians forces, including mercenaries, and Iranian military) are gaining ground, Israel sees “how the ISIS-affiliated terrorists are scattered and are losing terrain.”
Israel is likely placated by the fact that the Russian military police has built eight observations posts on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, which will serve to keep insurgents away from the border.
Iranian-backed troops have already pulled out of the Golan Heights. On Wednesday, Alexander Lavrentyev, Russia’s envoy to Syria, explained that, “Iranian forces have actually been withdrawn from (the southern de-escalation zone in Syria) in order not to irritate the Israeli administration, which has increased the number of attacks on Iranian sites in this territory.”
The Syrian civil war, which started as an uprising in March 2011, has claimed at least 500,000 lives and resulted in the displacement of roughly 12 million Syrians, both within the country and outside.
The government has only recently admitted that hundreds of people it arrested since the start of the war had been killed while in custody (some, several years ago), although most rights groups estimate that number to be much higher, with thousands of prisoners executed since the start of the conflict.