Fragile Ceasefire in Syria (Representational Image only) Image Courtesy: wikimedia.org
Even as the US-Russia brokered ceasefire in southwestern Syria seems holding since it began on July 9, Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu opposed the deal stating “security concerns” over Iran and Hezbollah’s gaining presence in the country.
PM Netanyahu claimed the ceasefire poses a “security threat” to Israel as it is aware of Iran’s ambitions in the country to expand its military base in Syria close to Qunietra province. Israel’s opposition to the fragile ceasefire comes days after the US and Russia reached a consensus during G20 Summit in Germany’s Hamburg.
Netanyahu cautioned Iran’s long-term ambitions in the territory if they manage to set a stronghold in Syria especially towards Israel’s northern border areas near Golan Heights and Quneitra. Both these areas are vital to Israel’s security and given the ongoing ceasefire agreement, the Syrian government forces backed by Russia and Iran are expected to consolidate its military hold in the country.
Golan was captured by Israel during 1967 six-day war and continues to occupy it illegally despite several UN resolution passed over the conflict. Syria attempted to reclaim the plateau several times but failed in its attempts.
Israel had earlier voiced reservations regarding the deal stating Iran, Hezbollah and other Shi’ite militias must be kept away from the Israeli and Jordanian borders. It has also objected to Russian troops “policing the ceasefire”.
The apprehensions also come in the wake of Iran’s backing of Hezbollah based in Lebanon much to the discomfort of Israel. The Iranians, according to reports, have developed a stronghold in Iraq and Hezbollah may get drawn towards Quneitra province has caught Israel in a predicament.
Setting up military bases and aerial and naval bases in the country is likely to help Iran pursue its ambitions, which includes its domination over Israel and in the whole of West Asia including in the main cities of Mecca and Jerusalem.
Following Netanyahu’s hostility over the deal, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, however, on Monday said they would do all they could to address Israel’s “security concerns”. Russia is seen as the key to maintain the ceasefire addressing concerns of Israel and Iran as well.
Turkey President Recep Tayyib Erdogan has earlier accused Iran of playing sectarian politics in the region by putting its weight behind shia-militants and attempting to undermine Turkey and Saudi Arabia.
Skirmishes continue in hinterlands towards northern and southeastern parts of the country where Turkey backed Free Syrian Army have launched a latest offensive against US backed SDF/YPG fighters. The Turks have expressed their discomfort over SDF forces gaining hold in the country. Turkey is concerned about its own place in the region and so it has grown wary of Iran, getting closer to its territory even if the US is staying put in south Syria to contest any of Iran’s advances.
Amid this cutthroat rivalry, a frail ceasefire holds in south-west part of Syria. Even as the growing regional tensions have brought the Arab states closer for an apparent face-off, the present truce can be used to build a wider consensus in the region. What remain to be seen is whether Russia, which is emerging as the main peace-broker in the region, will be able to put a cap on each side in pursuing their regional interests and avoid any ceasefire violation.