In the decade-long Syrian Civil War, rebel groups designed to topple President Bashar al-Assad’s government had more than enough foreign backing from countries such as Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Turkey, Great Britain, France, and of course the United States. Reasons vary depending on the country, but as for the United States, retired NATO Supreme Allied Commander during the Kosovo War and 4-star U.S. Army General Wesley Clark disclosed to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman in 2007 publicly that General Clark was approached with a memo from the Secretary of Defense’s office in the wake of 9/11 which laid out how seven countries were going to be “take[n] out” in five years, beginning with Iraq before moving onto Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, and Sudan, before ‘finishing off’ Iran.
Other explanations point to strategic alliances. In the case of Syria, obviously allied with Russia for military and economic purposes, presents itself as a proxy in the ongoing warring competition of influence between global and regional powers. This is why some contend the Cold War had not ended in 1991 with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, not only have regional dominance objectives remain the same exemplified through CIA-initiated regime changes and bipartisan sanctions, but now foreign influence and meddling has shifted US interests further and further from any benefit to the American people and into the hands of a foreign state.
These revelations go against the open proclamation from former US President Barack Obama in 2011 when he called for Bashar al-Assad to step down as President of Syria:
“We have consistently said that President Assad must lead a democratic transition or get out of the way. He has not led. For the sake of Syrian people, the time has come for President Assad to step aside. The United States cannot and will not impose this transition upon Syria. It is up to the Syrian people to choose their own leaders, and we have heard their strong desire that there not be foreign intervention in their movement. What the United States will support is an effort to bring about a Syria that is democratic, just, and inclusive for all Syrians.”
By now, it has been extensively established how the United States and other western governments used the ‘humanitarian’ cover to justify foreign invasion of a sovereign country as demonstrated through a long list of destabilization efforts beyond Iraq and Libya, stretching back to Guatemala, Iran, Chile, Indonesia, Yugoslavia, etc. While the United States and Saudi Arabia have unquestionably contributed much in covertly supplying and training foreign rebel forces in Syria, a lesser acknowledged source of clandestine support to opposition groups in Syria against the Assad government is Israel. This would not seem surprising at first, considering the two countries share a border and so conflict becomes an inevitable spillover, but the full explanation behind terse Syrian-Israeli relations explain the larger context of a sinister constructive plan years prior to the 2011 .
Just last year, Assad made it clear from the onset that no peace talks or normalization efforts will take place until Israel returns the Golan Heights. In the aftermath of the Six Day War of 1967, Israel captured the Golan Heights and has since retained it as territory under military occupation, deemed illegal by the United Nations Security Council since it is land seized by force – a violation of international law – and demanded the withdrawal of Israeli armed forces in its 1967 UN Resolution 242. For years, Israel has sought to sustain possession the Golan Heights primarily for “its geostrategic significance due to water sources and its physical location,” according to a 1981 CIA report. In the case of the Syrian Civil War, more was to come.
In 2015, Russia Today reported that “a big oil deposit” was discovered in the Golan Heights with “enough reserves to last Israel for decades.” All past presidential administrations have refused Israeli lobbying efforts in the United States to recognize the Golan Heights as part of Israel until President Trump formally did in March 2019, citing “aggressive acts by Iran and terrorist groups, including Hizballah, in southern Syria [that] continue to make the Golan Heights a potential launching ground for attacks on Israel.”
Besides cited strategic, security, and resource motives for retaining Syrian territory, Israeli interests in Syria’s overall fate provide context for its involvement in the proxy war of the Syrian conflict. In February 1982, just as the Sabra and Shatila massacres ensued in which hundreds of Palestinians civilians in refugees camps were murdered by Lebanese Phalangist militias in IDF-controlled areas (and permitted into the camps by Ariel Sharon), former associate of the Foreign Ministry and Israeli journalist Oded Yinon published in the Hebrew journal Kivunim (“Directions”) – a journal belonging to the Department of Information of the World Zionist Organization – an article titled ‘A Strategy for Israel in the 1980s.’
Yinon’s article laid out the political plan for Israel to render itself an imperial regional power with a hegemonic presence in relation to its Arab neighbors. In order to attain this goal, Arab states had to be dissolved based along sectarian divisions. For Syria, Yinon goes on to strategize:
“The dissolution of Syria and Iraq later on into ethnically or religiously unique areas such as in Lebanon, is Israel’s primary target on the Eastern front in the long run, while the dissolution of the military power of those states serves as the primary short term target. Syria will fall apart, in accordance with its ethnic and religious structure, into several states such as in present day Lebanon, so that there will be a Shi’ite Alawi state along its coast, a Sunni state in the Aleppo area, another Sunni state in Damascus hostile to its northern neighbor, and the Druzes who will set up a state, maybe even in our Golan, and certainly in the Hauran and in northern Jordan. This state of affairs will be the guarantee for peace and security in the area in the long run, and that aim is already within our reach today.”
These geopolitical ambitions to construct “Greater Israel” formed the cornerstone of Zionist factions within Netanyahu’s Likud Party. The Israeli military and intelligence enterprise would be no exception. Military correspondent for Haaretz, Ze’ev Schiff, wrote about Israel’s interests in seeing to it that Iraq be reduced into Sunni, Shi’i and Kurdish states. Based on Greater Israel objectives, the resulting condition of surrounding Arab states is smaller, weaker, and even dysfunctional in order to minimize any collective challenge to Israel. The main targets would be Arab countries directed by cohesive nationalist interests, especially Ba’athist ideologue states like Iraq and Syria.
In 1996, again Israeli hegemonic ambitions veered foreign policy – this time in the United States. Known as “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” this foreign policy document was produced by a clique of neocons within the Bush Administration – Richard Perle, Douglas Feith, David and Meyrav Wurmser – explaining how Israel can debilitate Syria:
“Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq – an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right – as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions.”
“Most important, it is understandable that Israel has an interest supporting diplomatically, militarily and operationally Turkey’s and Jordan’s actions against Syria, such as securing tribal alliances with Arab tribes that cross into Syrian territory and are hostile to the Syrian ruling elite.”
That same year, David Wurmser further detailed in “Coping with Crumbling States: A Western and Israeli Balance of Power Strategy for the Levant” the shifting power struggle in relation to Syria with Israel’s end goal to balkanize and isolate Syria:
“Jordan’s potential endangers Syria. In response, Syria has tried to cobble together a broad coalition, to include Saudi Arabia, to oppose, embarrass, isolate and eventually defeat Jordan. However, Saudi support for Syria, which is crucial for Damascus, is ambivalent. This has led Syria to take an active interest in Saudi succession. Jordan, in turn, tried to forge a Turkish-Israeli-American coalition to buttress its efforts.”
Wurmser made it clear Israel would have an advantage in siding with Jordan: “…if Jordan wins, then Syria would be isolated and surrounded by a new pro-western Jordanian-Israeli-Iraqi-Turkish bloc, the first of which can help contain and manage (through its more solid and traditional regime) the scope of the coming chaos in Iraq and most probably in Syria. In the long-run, a Hashemite victory could usher in an era defined by a stable balance of power system rooted to tribal alliances.”
How does this all relate to Israeli involvement in the Syrian Civil War? One assumes Israel – consistently praised for its democratic values in a sea of tyranny – and the militant Salafi-Wahhabist hybrid of jihadist fanaticism which manifested itself as rebel terror groups in Syria would be staunch enemies, but over the course of the war, fishy details have emerged to challenge this official narrative. Israel has claimed its stance of neutrality in the war and yet former Israel army chief General Gadi Eisenkot admitted in 2020 that Israel directly provided weapons to anti-Assad opposition fighters in Syria, making Eisenkot the most senior Israeli official to admit so. These include terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda, referred to as Jabhat al-Nusra in Syria.
Prior to this confirmation, Israel had previously maintained it only extended humanitarian aid to displaced Syrian civilians in the codenamed Operation Good Neighbor as the limit to their involvement in the war. In 2016, former Mossad chief Efraim Halevy revealed in an Al-Jazeera interview that “Al-Qaeda, to the best of my recollection, has up to now not attacked Israel,” and disclosed Israeli assistance in providing “tactical” assistance to Jabhat al-Nusra.
UN observers also reported regular contact between Israel Defense Force officers and armed Jabhat al-Nusra militants in the Golan Heights, primarily involving medical treatment of wounded anti-Assad “rebels” and releasing them back into Syria to fight. Even among the list of international coalition members pledging to provide military and/or humanitarian support in the fight against ISIS, Iraq and Iran are listed while Israel is absent. This has certainly not gone unnoticed with Israel’s explanation being more pressing concerns with Iran. In fact, the first direct clash between Israeli forces and ISIS-affiliated fighters broke out in the Golan Heights when the jihadist group opened fired, according to former Israeli defense minister Moshe Ya’alon. The ISIS militants later apologized after launching the attack.
Another astonishing admission, this time from Israeli military intelligence chief, Major General Herzi Halevy relayed Israel’s long-established position that it “prefers ISIS” over the Assad’s government, echoing the desire of fellow Israeli officials for ISIS to conquer the whole of Syria in order to cripple an ally of Iran. Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah offered his own explanation for why Israel launched a stream of attacks against Syria in March 2017 when Russian backing was turning the tide of the war in Bashar al-Assad’s favor – deliberately trying to assist ISIS to prevent its defeat in Syria.
Hezbollah forces from the beginning have allied with the Syrian government against ISIS and other rebel groups. Meanwhile, Israel’s Strategy Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz worried the US joining the fight against ISIS would distract them from pressuring Iran. This turns the conversation to just how much American involvement in Syria is the result of Israeli pressure groups within its government.
Even prior to American involvement in 2014, a Congressional resolution backed by President Obama authorizing military strikes against Syria over its false chemical weapons attack in Ghouta received heavy backing from two influential foreign policy lobbying organizations. This was followed by a New York Times piece which reported that the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) sent out 300 of its members to Capitol Hill “as part of a broad campaign to press Congress to back President Obama’s proposed strike on Syria.” The NYT goes on to say the spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Mark Regev declined to not only discuss Mr. Netanyahu and Mr. Obama’s conversations but whether Netanyahu had called members of Congress after the president insisted he personally lobby them.
It might explain why Israel’s intervention in the Syrian conflict was minimal compared to Turkey or Saudi Arabia; Through Israeli pressure groups within the United States for example, the dirty work falls upon countries with more military might followed by both the blame and repercussions involved with facilitating a humanitarian crisis involving the influx of Syrian refugees. While the United States and Europe were faced with tackling this refugee crisis, Israel and Arab Gulf states refused their part in sharing the burden despite their contributions to destabilizing Syria.
In 2018, when President Donald Trump announced his decision to withdraw American troops from Syria, it had generated a rift with mainstream pro-Israel organizations in the United States. That same year, Hassan Nasrallah proclaimed the military strikes against Syria from numerous Western powers were the result of “Zionist lobby” pressure within the United States. He went on to say at an election rally that even after pressure on the United States, Israel “was disappointed by the limited bombing,” as it had “failed to change the equation in its favor.”
Now that Assad’s government has all but won the war, what now? After past calls to assassinate the Syrian president from both the United States and Israel, relations are shifting after proxy forces on both sides have effectively solidified international allegiances, particularly with Hezbollah, Iranian, and Russian involvement on the side of Assad’s Ba’athist government. The course of the civil war has caused untold devastation, especially the migrant crisis which led to the resurgence of nationalist sentiment among native Europeans. So as reconstruction in Syria commences, the imperative aim of western nationalists is obviously to ensure their countries do not become embroiled in yet another foreign conflict that yields no benefit to the native working class population – merely for the military industrial complex and Zionist lobby.