As I read or watch the news about Syria these days, I cannot avoid that same sense of foreboding. Syria remains trapped in a bloody civil war between those backing the regime of Bashar Assad and those backing the insurgents. The Assad regime represents an heritage of dictatorship in which an Alawite minority received privileges over the Sunni majority; they are also closely aligned with the Iranian regime religiously as well politically and strategically. They have received training from the Iranian Revolutionary guard, weapons and funds from Teheran and they have been instrumental in supporting and feeding the Hezbollah Iranian client army in Lebanon. The insurgency started as a search for freedom and secular democracy, but it was soon taken over by the Arab volunteers coming to wage Jihad against the Assad regime. Today, the insurgency is dominated by Jihadists (Holy Warriors) with close connections with the Muslim Brotherhood as well as the global Jihadi movement.
Meanwhile, across the UN patrolled zone that separates Syria from the Golan Heights, Israelis are preparing to defend themselves should the Syrian civil war spill over the border. Both fighters in Syria know very well that Israel will not tolerate the crossing of certain red lines...decades of mutual distrust led to an intimate knowledge of each other. Assad, indebted to Iran, continues to serve as a conduct of weapons for Hezbollah in spite of this risking Israeli air strikes to stop the smuggling across the Lebanon border, and Israel conduct surgical strikes against the convoys to avoid provoking Assad beyond what the Syrian dictator is willing to take. The insurgents probe at Israel's determination by sending periodically missiles over the border into the Golan and they even expelled some of the UN troops from some of the bordering areas. In the meantime, Palestinian troops in Syria claim to have received a “green light” from Assad to attack Israel.
The head of the Israeli Air Force warned the Knesset that Israel must be prepared for a “surprise war” on the Syrian front and that based on the current conditions, air superiority will be the key to contain the danger. That Israeli air superiority, however, is currently challenged by the Russian delivery of S-300 missiles to the Assad regime. These ground-air rockets have on-board computer guidance making them extremely effective against enemy airplanes. Russia justifies the delivery of these missiles to the embattled Syrian regime as a deterrent against foreign intervention in the Syrian civil war.
So why would Russia support the Assad regime? For the same reason that they support the Iranian regime: Russia has a strategic interest in Iran; this has been true for more than two centuries and it played out both, under the regime of the Czars as well as the Soviet Era...so now it continues to play out under the current Russian regime. This interest has also led Russia to attempt to form a coalition of Muslim states to counteract the NATO presence in Europe. Turkey is currently trying to straddle the fault line between the two blocks in order to increase their influence in the Middle East, but the spillover of the Syrian fight into the southern border of Turkey is moving the Erdogan regime back in the direction of the West.
In the case of the fall of the Assad regime, one possible scenario has Hezbollah launching an all out bombardment of Israel using their existing arsenal, which is today, according to Israeli intelligence, larger than it was when it launched the last war in 2006.
Back in the land between the river and the sea, Hamas is trying to bolster its position in the Palestinian street against an embattled and badly damage Abbas regime and trying to capitalize on what they see as their victories over Israel during the latest confrontations.
And around the world, a collection of well meaning but extremely naïve anti-Israel activists continue to demonize and delegitimize Israel in any way they can, believing that the Palestinians represent the progressive forces; this in spite of the abysmal record of Palestinian leaders in the areas of Human Rights, corruption, gender discrimination, labor right repression, censorship, etc...
Yes, the storm clouds are gathering and we can already hear the thunder and see the distant lighting. It is true that not every year did the Santa Rosa Storm come to the city as I watched from that tenth floor balcony...but can Israel afford to ignore the signs?