Bashar Assad is under pressure to retaliate against Israel. According to Israel’s Channel 2 Middle East expert Ehud Yaari, for the first time in recent Syrian history, Syrians are going on television and asking their government to attack Israel on the Golan. According to Yaari, this is unprecedented: the Assad family tried to suppress such calls for many years as it did not want to embroil itself in a war against Israel. The fact that such calls are being made publicly now could mean that Assad is preparing his retaliation.
What Assad has to take into consideration is that by attacking Israel, he will risk the stability of his regime.
In the event of a Syrian attack against Israel, should the situation escalate, it’s possible that the Israeli air force will target his air force. All of his air force, including his helicopters.
Should that happen, it will be much easier for the US and its allies to deploy a no fly zone over Syria to prevent the humanitarian disaster there from worsening, and to weaken Assad.
Losing his aerial superiority will bode very badly for Assad and his forces as this has given them much advantage until now. The loss of his air force could embolden the opposition forces to move against him with more motivation and energy thus speeding up his downfall.
This does not mean that Assad will not retaliate. He is under pressure at home. It also seems that he is being encouraged by Iranian officials. The commander of the IRGC, Mohammad Ali Jaafari, stated after Israel’s attack that “The Zionist regime (of Israel) can only be dealt with through resistance and retaliation.”
Basher Al Assad has to be very careful about his decision to retaliate against Israel, perhaps more than ever as he risks losing his air force. And this is something that Iran – nor even, quite possibly, the Russians – could help him replace. Without his air force, Assad’s days in power could be reduced by half, at the least.