Israel and Syria, an unstable relationship

At Open Democracy, Paul Rogers writes: Israel’s long search for impregnable security in the region has in its own view been aided by the stability of neighbouring autocracie. Egypt under Hosni Mubarak, Jordan under King Hussein and now King Abdullah, Saudi Arabia under the House of Saud, and even Syria under Hafez and now Bashar Assad – all recognised the power of Israel and were all too aware of Israel’s ultimate nuclear capability.

Israel was the regional superpower, even if that could never be acknowledged.

True, uncertainty in Lebanon (and to a degree over Gaza) remained an exception to the pattern, with Syria’s support for Hizbollah a continuing irritation and Israel’s failures against that movement in the conflict of 2006 a source of real concern. At the same time, the Assad regime’s acceptance of the status quo over the strategically vital Golan heights was a reassurance, and overall – southern Lebanon and Gaza excepted – Israel’s immediate position was secure.

In the two years since the Arab awakening, such certainty has eroded: notably with Egypt (and particularly Sinai) but now much more with Syria. There is an acute concern with the United Nations peacekeepers on the Golan heights, especially as Austria’s government has warned that it might withdraw its significant contingent. Austrian units make up barely a third of the total UN force, but their commitment has been substantial and a pullout could encourage others to follow suit in a way that leads to the collapse of the operation. [Continue reading…]

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