Israeli airstrike adds new dimension to war in Syria


On Jan. 30, a recent airstrike by Israel raised many questions concerning the current trajectory of the Syrian Civil War that has been waging since March of 2011 and the possibilities of American involvement in the Syrian Civil War, also known as the Syrian uprising.
While some initial reports included a Syrian research facility among the list of targets, the BBC reported that the strike’s main target appeared to be a battery of SA-17 missiles and their launchers in a convoy, which were possibly destined for Hezbollah, a militant group and Syria’s Shia allies in Lebanon.
The alliance between Israel and America has been one of the most prevalent governing factors of American policy in the Middle East. This recent Israeli military action elevates America’s attention of the Syrian uprising.
According to the Associated Press, the attack appeared to be the latest salvo in Israel’s long-running effort to disrupt Hezbollah’s efforts to build an arsenal that is capable of defending against Israel’s air force and spreading destruction inside the Jewish state from just over its northern border.
While the region is no stranger to conflict, clashes in this area are rarely forthright and are typically embattled in long-seeded power struggles between various groups.
The Syrian uprising, which is in its second year of existence, involves the Syrian Ba’ath Party government and the rebel forces seeking to oust it. The Ba’ath regime, currently led by President Bashar al-Assad, has been in power since a successful coup d’état in 1964.
The Assad family comes from the minority Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shi’ite Islam, a group that accounts for roughly 12 percent of the Syrian Population. The tight control Assad has maintained over the Syrian security forces has generated much resentment from the Sunni majority, which represents close to three-quarters of the Syrian populace.
The United Nations said in early January that the conflict’s death toll has reached more than 60,000 people, according to a Reuters’ report.
The same report stated that the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Jan. 28 that the number of Syrian refugees and individuals awaiting registration is 714,118. This includes the 5,417 Syrian refugees registered in North Africa.
Chair of the UTSA Department of Political Science, Mansour El-Kikhia, who has appeared in interviews with CNN and the Daily Show, offered his insight to the Paisano on the developing issues in Syria.
El-Kikhia stated that, when looking at the potential of American involvement in Syria, “It is very important that Americans and American policy makers in particular understand that they are members of the American political system, that they represent America, that they’ve been elected by Americans [and] that they serve the U.S. Congress, not in the Israeli Knesset.” What this means for policy makers, according to El-Kikhia, is that “their actions should be determined by American interests.”
While there are times when national interests coincide, El-Kikhia reasoned that this is not the case, and that Americans have no direct interest in being involved in another Middle Eastern conflict.
“Israel will take any opportunity to seize its own interests—it’s normal. [But] it is important for the United States to understand and differentiate between its interests and Israeli interests.”
Regarding the prospect of American or European involvement, El-Kikhia stated that without sanctions from the United Nations, there is little legal recourse available to intervene. Furthermore, Russia and China, who support the Syrian regime, maintain veto power in the U.N. so that such sanctions are highly unlikely. Nations will continue to intervene as it serves their own particular interests in a system where, as El-Kikhia stated, “There are no friends—there are only interests.”
On the future of the conflict El-Kikhia said, “Many Syrians have gotten tired—tired of the bloodshed, tired of the huge number of refugees, tired of all the instability that is taking place.” This weariness will facilitate the probability of a dialogue being open between the forces in order to take steps towards a resolution. The Assad regime can “either get out of power with a little bit of dignity or it can be killed like the Gadhafi regime in Libya.”
El-Kikhia argued that, in comparing the Syrian and Libyan uprisings, “Libya was lucky in the sense that the opposition had a base of operations. The eastern province opposed the regime and it served as a launching pad for rebel operations.” El-Kikhia said, “In Syria, such a launching pad is not available. You have one village for the regime and one village against the regime. Libyan society is homogeneous, Syrian society is not, and the minorities, fearing the majority, supports the regime.”
Syria is a complex issue that perpetuates towards complex goals, and while the final resolution remains unclear, El-Kikhia assured that, for Syria, it will, indeed, be a “slow death.”