First, I must pay a tribute to the passing of Dr. Charles Krauthammer, long-time columnist of The Washington Post and fan-favorite commentator on Fox News here in the in the US. He swayed me as much as anyone to the power of conservative politics and his deep commitment to the defense of Israel had me in near-acolyte status.
Frankly, I was surprised that he was unwilling to acknowledge the momentum that Donald Trump was building during the last Presidential campaign, but I think he was so offended by the candidate’s antics that he simply could not bring himself to believe that his populist message was surpassing the failing messaging delivered by unappealing Establishment candidates.
His cancer caused him to be out of the public spotlight for most of the initial period of the Trump presidency. But I would suspect that Charles would condemn the President for his childish tweets, praise him for moving the US Embassy to Jerusalem, encourage his discussions with Kim Jung Un for denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, endorse his having left Obama’s stillborn Iran Nuclear Deal and condemn his imposition of tariffs to cure inequitable trade deals. But that’s just my guess.
I’m going to miss his voice.
Now to the story at hand. I believe the building crisis in southwestern Syria will prove to be one of the most important military and political confrontations since the 1967 war.
This is an intentional manipulation of a humanitarian crisis – the penultimate use of “human shields” if you will – by the Syrian Government, supported by their Iranian benefactors and Hezbollah fighters, to attempt to re-establish their presence as close to the Golan Heights as possible under the guise of the destruction of Syrian rebel forces.
The fighting going on there today is already a violation of a cease-fire negotiated by Russia, Jordan, the US, openly broken by the Russians whose aircraft are bombing rebel positions in Daraa, sending refugees (including fighters) south toward the Israeli and Jordanian frontiers.
The US warned the Assad regime to respect the cease-fire or it would take “firm and appropriate measures” against violations, but I do not think that Trump anticipated at the time that Russia would so brazenly violate a trilateral agreement it helped negotiate.
It would behoove Trump to convey to Vladimir Putin before matters escalate any further that Russian violations will not be tolerated. Netanyahu is scheduled to meet Putin in Moscow five days before the first Trump – Putin summit meeting and the speculation is that Israel will not intervene in Assad’s assault on these rebel positions, provided he receives assurances that there will be no Iranian or Iranian proxy positions 60 – 80km from the border between Syria and the Golan.
Putin seized Crimea under the Obama Administration, moved against the Ukraine and Obama demurred to assist the Ukranians to resist the Russians with lethal weaponry. Believe me, I’m no big fan of the Ukrainians: they drove my ancestors to the US and to pioneer Israel before the Revolution and into the 1920’s because of their anti-Semitism, so I am not overwhelmed by compassion for them.
While Trump would like to see an improvement in our relations with Russia, he cannot countenance the barrel bombing of anyone on behalf of a lying, murderous ophthalmologist like Herr Dr. Assad.
The only complicating factor here is that, according to Middle East Eye, at least 270,000 people have fled the fighting and are living in tent cities along the Jordanian and Golan Heights frontiers. Based upon what we have witnessed in other operations where Syrian and Russian aircraft have softened up areas before dispatching Syrian Army and Shi’ite militia forces into neighborhoods, the killing is indiscriminate, barrel bombing is common and permitting hospitals to resupply unusual.
Will Israel and Jordan (and the US) really just “stand down” while this carnage occurs within full view of their borders?
Jordan has already accepted over 600,000 Syrian refugees. Despite the disagreements I have previously expressed with the Hashemite Kingdom particularly as it relates to the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf and its custodianship of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock, I cannot quarrel with the compassion King Abdullah has shown the Syrians, particularly when his economy is so ill-suited to provide the social services necessary to support the massive Palestinian refugee community (to whom he continues to deny citizenship in order to preserve their “right of return”) already in his territory.
Israel was not a participant in the cease-fire agreement, but it is clear that the Syrian rebels and civilians have fled as close to Golan border as possible. As close as 100 meters in some cases. There is, however, a cease-fire agreement in place between Israel and the Syrian government which created a “buffer zone” between the countries monitored by the UN. The “buffer zone” is supposed to be demilitarized and Israel has already warned the Syrians that any military intrusions into this zone will be considered a “legitimate target”.
As quickly as events seem to be moving in that area, with the Russians paying no heed to their own cease-fire agreements, with Assad feeling like he has the wind at his back, is it difficult to conceive that within a period of days Syria will risk the possibility of a cross-border response by Israel, which is really relying upon the Russians to push the Shi’ites at least 60 km from the border and turn a blind eye to further strikes against Iranian facilities, and move to purge southwestern Syria of rebel forces?
The video will be awful, the Russians will not give a care, the Jordanians are powerless to intervene and the world will wonder (at least that small part) how the Jews could have watched Assad drop his barrel bombs within meters of their border.