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Anti-Assad rally Photo: EPA
Anti-Assad rally Photo: EPA
 
 

Assad's fall good for Israel

Op-ed: Greatest opportunity to curb Iran's ambitions lies in toppling Syrian regime

Yishai Fleisher
Published: 11.26.11, 15:11 / Israel Opinion

Everyone is talking Iran. Go to any AIPAC meeting and you will hear about Iran, and if Israel's PM speaks publicly he will surely mention Iran. 

 

This is what Prime Minister Netanyahu said at the Joint Session of Congress: "Time is running out, and the hinge of history may soon turn. For the greatest danger facing humanity could soon be upon us: A militant Islamic regime armed with nuclear weapons." On CNN, Ehud Barak made similar points. The threat of Iran has been articulated loudly by Israel.

 

Indeed, even the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report confirmed Israel's long-standing concerns that Iran aims to build a nuclear weapon, which Israel sees as a threat to its existence.

  

However, the greatest opportunity to curb Iran's ambitions is sitting on the world's doorstep. The potential upcoming fall of the Syrian regime opens the door for Israel to finally gain greater regional stability and for the world to begin throwing off the yoke of Iranian fear.

  

Syria is the long arm of Iran, its striking force. From within Syria's borders the powerful terror/political groups Hezbollah and Hamas suckle the poison milk of armament, training, and Jihad inculcation in relative safety. Syria provides the key overland route between Iran and Lebanon which has served as a conduit for the transfer of massive shipments of military hardware to Hezbollah in from Iran.

 

The US State Department estimates Iranian support of Hezbollah ranges between $100 and $200 million annually. Through this military might, south Lebanon has become the sole domain of Hezbollah.

 

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Syria is also host to Hamas leader Khaled Mashaal and Hamas' control room of terror. That makes perfect sense as both Hamas and Hezbollah are Iranian proxies, and Iranian proxies feel good in Syria.

 

But now, the Syrian regime is facing what the Iranian regime faced in 2009 – a popular revolt. This time there is also an ethnic component: Bashar Assad's sect, the Alawites, are but a 15% of Syria's majority Sunni population. The Syrian regime, true to its emulation of the Iranian regime, is simply killing people in the streets to put down the revolt. So far the UN believes that the assault on opposition supporters has left more than 3,500 dead in nine months. People on the ground report much greater numbers, upwards of 10,000.

 

In Syria, opposition forces are gathering steam. Syrian army defectors, some 15,000 Sunni conscripts, are banding together under the name Free Syria Army and are transforming the uprising into an armed insurgency. A new umbrella organization called Syria's National Council is trying to unite anti-government groups. Even the Arab League, usually reticent to call out a member state, has strongly condemned and then suspended Syria from its ranks.

 

Support of Hamas will wither

However, while Syrians unite to fight the regime, and members of the Arab League feel the pressure of the Arab street, China and Russia have shown support for Assad's grip. In early October, Russia and China vetoed a UN resolution blaming the Syrian regime for the escalation of violence. Syria has long been Russian's main ally in the Middle East and Russia maintains a naval base there. China fears instability in a region that sells it oil. Both Russia and China also have important economic and geopolitical interests in Iran and do not want its power diminished.

 

But even the Chinese and Russian wall is destined to crumple. Ausama Monajed, an adviser to the president of the Syrian National Council, was quoted in "The Atlantic" saying that "The only thing saving the regime so far has been that Russia and China were prepared to block any resolution against Syria at the Security Council. But now it has become clear that the Arab League will use its leverage with Russia and China to persuade them to back their position and not use their veto power, and it is clear that neither Russia nor China would compromise their position with the Arab League, particularly Saudi Arabia, just to save Assad."

 

So far the Arab Spring may have benefited Iran overall. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-Syrian Fulbright scholar and columnist for Harvard International Review, wrote on Fox: "In terms of the nuclear proliferation, the events of the Arab Spring seem to have benefited the Iranian regime due to the fact that it has diverted the attention of the international community from Iranian nuclear development to the socio-political transitions in neighboring Arab nation."

 

That may have been true up to this point. But with the upcoming fall of the Assad regime Iran's power will be weakened, at least locally. The pernicious overland route between Iran and Hezbollah will be hampered or broken. Hezbollah will have to go at it alone and maybe face its own Arab Spring down the line. Without the Assad-state, the Iranian backing of Hamas and Hezbollah will wither and leave the terror proxies more vulnerable to an Israeli attack as well.

 

And for those who fear a Hezbollah preemptive strike on Israel, Michael Young from the Lebanese English paper The Daily Star argues that Sunni and Christians in Lebanon will balk at the idea of Hezbollah taking Lebanon into a war against Israel on behalf of Iran. Without Assad's regime to control these groups, Hezbollah will have hostile elements at its rear preventing it from attacking Israel as an Iran proxy.

 

Hopefully the effects of a successful Syrian uprising will spread even farther. Maybe the fall of Syrian dictatorship will re-inspire the Iranian people to try again, to stand up to despotic violence and throw off the yoke of Ali Khamenei and Ahmadinejad once and for all.

 

No one knows what will replace the brutal Assad regime: A Jihadist junta, a drawn out civil war or, or even the eventual rise of a freedom loving society. But it is certain that breaking the Syria-Iran axis will benefit Israel and the world also stands to gain through any weakening of the ambitious Iranian war machine. 

 

 

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