Conflict in southern Syria

One of the expanding regions of conflict in Syria is in the the south in the provinces of Dera’a and Quneitra. The Assad regime is making a concerted effort to take back the region supported by the forces of Hizbollah from Lebanon and elements of the Iranian National Guard (IRG).   The south is the only region of Syria controlled by the original democratic insurgency of the New Syrian Army that started the revolution to depose Assad.  So far the Islamic State forces have not made an appearance there, although there are regions controlled by the pro-al Qaeda forces of the al-Nusrah front.  The reason given by analyst Jonathan Spyer (see J. Post 13/2/15, “Hizbollah, Iran, Assad offensive against southern “buffer zone” near the Golan Heights” at http://www.jonathanspyer.com) for this offensive is that Iran wishes to open a front against Israel.  Hence the presence of the Iranian general who was killed in the IAF attack a few weeks ago with Hizbollah leaders on the Syrian side of the Golan.  The move is also an attempt by Assad to protect the southern approaches to Damascus.

This move towards the south is not only a threat to Israel but also to Jordan, that has now made a concerted effort to attack the IS forces in eastern Syria, after the barbaric burning alive of their pilot.  It is reported that Jordan has opened a headquarters for the fight against IS that is being supported by the US and includes forces from other Sunni Arab countries, as well as representatives of the democratic opposition.  This may also help them to counter the attack of the Assad Shia forces.  Although Israel is not represented at this HQ, nevertheless Israel is taking mostly covert action in the Golan area to prevent the close approach of the Iranian forces towards the Israeli border.  No doubt there is coordination between the Jordanians, US, the democratic insurgents and the Israelis in countering this new Assad-Iranian offensive.

Altogether approaching the fifth year of the war Syria is divided between 5 armies, there is the Syrian Army of Assad supported by Hizbollah and the IRG that controls Damascus and most of the North East towards Awali Latakia, the New Syrian army of the democratic insurgency in the South, elements of the Al Qaeda Al Nusrah front in various locations, and in the north and east the Islamic State (IS) forces, and in the far north the Syrian Kurdish forces of the so called People’s Protection Groups (YPG) supported by the Pesh Merga from Iraqi Kurdistan, who recently mounted a successful defense of Kobani.  How this incredibly complex situation will play out in time is impossible to predict.

The new move of the US Administration to get specific authorization from Congress to prosecute the war against the IS will eventually presage the increase of US and allied forces in Syria, that are not friendly towards the Assad regime either.  The main concern for Israel is that Iran not obtain a foothold on the Golan that could become a stepping stone to armed conflict with Israel, especially if Iran has break-out nuclear capability.  This is something that must disturb the sleep of PM Netanyahu

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