Articles - Addostour - Date: 2019-04-16
By: Oraib Al Rantawi

Israel continues its series of air raids deep inside Syria.

Each time, it attacks military targets thought to be Iranian, and each time, the Israeli narrative is proven to be true, at least from a military perspective, after aerial or satellite photos are released. 

At first, the Syrian response followed a singular and repetitive pattern: 'We will retaliate when the place and time are right,' but without that time ever coming. Today, we see photos of Syria's surface-to-air missiles in pursuit of Israeli missiles, downing some but failing to stop others from reaching their targets.

After Washington's decision to recognize Israel's annexation of the Syrian Golan, and after the Netanyahu government has revealed a decision to plant a quarter-of-a-million settlers in the Golan over the next ten years, we believed that we would see a different response from Syria. We did not expect Syria to wage a war against Israel, but we did not rule out retaliatory strikes, at least relating to the Golan, so as to force the extreme right-wing Israeli government to think twice before deciding to launch another offensive. Unfortunately, none of that happened.

The air raids send messages of humiliation to many parties: Humiliation for Syria, subject to Israel's lawless encroachment on its airspace... Humiliation for Iran and Hezbollah, i.e., the 'axis of opposition and resistance', that  receives strike after strike but without offering any serious retaliation. Humiliation for the proponents of the notion that this axis should fight as a unit, attack as a unit, and defend as a unit – because if one part is infected, the whole axis falls to fever and delirium. Humiliation for Russia, which suffered a blow to its image as a deterrent superpower protecting Syria's security and stability – but not against Israel, it seems. And humiliation, no doubt, for many among the Arab leadership.

We know that the above parties have few options, given the pressing challenges and priorities that they face: Iran is under blockade and is drowning in sanctions. Hezbollah is deeply committed to its domestic agenda, and protecting its stability and that of its social environment's stability is an existential requirement. Damascus has not yet recovered from the wounds of the eight-year war within and against it, and may not do so for years and decades to come. 

For its part, Russia never claimed to have come to protect Syria from Israel. It has understandings with the Hebrew state over many dossiers that it wants to uphold, with Israeli security topping the list. Russia may even be relying on Israel's repeated attacks on Iranian military sites to reduce Tehran's influence on Syrian soil, since Moscow's interests expand as the need to fight extensive ground battles against terrorist groups diminishes.

We understand and acknowledge all these facts, but they will not break the cycle of damage that Israel's lawless actions inflict on the allied parties. This series of events threatens the very notion of 'resistance and opposition' at its roots and places the parties to this axis in direct contradiction with their own rhetoric and slogans, putting their credibility at risk.

Waging an all-out war against Israel may not be realistic or possible at this point (although many of the axis's leaders continuously threaten it, claim not to fear it, and even pledge to make it 'the war to end all wars'), but at each time Israel attacks, it should experience a rough encounter, at least to save face, maintain credibility, and recover a sense of initiative.

Some might argue that it is impossible to ensure that a 'rough encounter' will not develop into an all-out confrontation, and I agree that cannot be definitively ruled out. However, Israel has demonstrated time and again that it has no interest in being implicated in an all-out war, whether across all fronts, or just the Southern [Gaza] front. A rough encounter could lead to a new tahdi'a [lull or calming down] or hudna [truce], and the experiences of Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon provide proof of that.

Someone might also argue that Syria, an independent state with a government, law, and institutions, cannot be compared to Hezbollah and Hamas. Be that as it may, if Israel feels that its actions will not be left unanswered, it will hesitate before making a rash decision to target Syria's strategic or military command sites. 

Either way, Syria and its allies have the means to restore Damascus's former status as a deterrent power, if not improve upon it.