Israel Stands to Gain From Assad's Ouster

While the fall of the Assad regime could cause short-term turmoil for Israel writes Eli Avidar, it will ultimately be beneficial because it will be the end of territorial continuity between Iran and southern Lebanon.

al-monitor Syria's President Bashar al-Assad (C) stands with leaders of the army, including Fahad Jassim al-Freij (front L) and Daoud Rajha (front R) at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in a ceremony to mark the 38th anniversary of the 1973 October War with Israel, in Damascus. 2011.  Photo by REUTERS/Sana/Handout/Files.

Topics covered

turkey, syria, middle-east, lebanon, kurds, kurdistan, israel, iran, hezbollah, general assef shawkat, assad, arab

Jul 25, 2012

Ever since the demonstrations began in Syria in January 2011, the world has waited for a tie-breaking development in the struggle between the regime and the rebels. This took place last week [July 18] in the form of an explosion in the national security building [in Damascus] that took the lives of Defense Minister General Daoud Rajiha and his deputy, Assad’s brother-in-law General Assef Shawkat. This attack on the regime’s "holy of holies" proves that Assad no longer has the ability to consolidate the coalition of minorities that has retained his family in power.

Even Druze soldiers have deserted the Syrian army over the last year, though this fact has been kept top secret. Some of the deserters returned to their families, while others joined the ranks of the rebels. The rules of the game have changed dramatically, and the list of those still faithful to the regime will dwindle significantly. The Alawites, members of the ruling denomination, will be brought to Damascus to defend the presidential palace, even at the price of the fall of other battlegrounds and a surge in desertions. But clearly, these are only delay tactics and the end of the regime seems inevitable.

The events taking place in Syria are likely to affect the entire Middle East. While Turkey supports the rebels, it has reason for worry: the Kurds took control of four regions in Syria, and it is possible that they might try to unite with their brothers in Turkey and establish an independent Kurdistan, at last. There are also forces pushing for the union of Sunni Northern Lebanon with Syria (or whatever will remain of it). And the Druze, dispersed over three countries, may jockey to improve their position too, especially in light of fading hopes for liberating the Beirut government from Hezbollah’s grasp.

Jerusalem is justifiably concerned regarding the fate of Assad’s chemical weapons repository. However, it would be sheer stupidity for Hezbollah to try to get its hand on these stockpiles because such an attempt would give the world grounds for dismantling the Shiite organization by military means, something that many hope will happen. Assad’s government has an interest in holding onto its chemical stockpile until the fall of the regime that now appears inevitable. Chemicals weapons are perhaps the last card remaining in the hands of Assad and heads of the Alawite regime, in order to negotiate to save their lives and obtain safe exit from the borders of Syria. After the pictures of the dead Muammar Gadhafi and Hosni Mubarak behind bars, survival [and freedom] are no small matter.

In the short term, the fall of the Syrian regime will cause considerable security-related headaches for [Israelis]. The border with Syria, which has been quiet for many years, may heat up: terrorist gangs may try to harm soldiers and citizens, similar to the scenario on the southern border. But in the long term, the fall of the regime will be net profit for Israel. Without Assad, the evil axis loses its territorial continuity between Iran and Southern Lebanon. Members of the Iranian revolutionary guards and Hezbollah representatives will not be able to remain in the country (high-ranking members of the Islamic Jihad have already fled back to Tehran). Syria’s automatic support for terror will cease, at least temporarily. Syria had never been a Middle Eastern power like Saudi Arabia or Egypt, but from Israel’s perspective, Syria may turn out to be the most important domino of all in the Arab Spring.

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