March 15 marked the third anniversary of the beginning of unrest that led to the ongoing Syrian civil war. As the conflict drags on into its fourth year with no end in sight, Israel–which shares a contentious United Nations-patrolled border with Syria in the Golan Heights region–finds itself in a precarious situation due to new threats such as al-Qaeda-affiliated rebel terror groups, as well as old foes like Hezbollah, Iran, and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
“None of the sides are capable of a decisive victory to end the war and rule over the entire country,” Amos Yadlin, a retired Israeli Air Force general and former head of the Israel Defense Forces Military Intelligence Directorate, told JNS.org. “It has been a moral disaster.”
According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the conflict has resulted in more than 146,000 deaths, while more than 2.5 million Syrians have fled abroad and another 6.5 million have been internally displaced, resulting in the worst humanitarian disaster of the early 21st century.
Despite the massive humanitarian toll and the use of chemical weapons against his own people, over the last year Assad has seen his fortunes improve as Western and Arab countries have been unwilling to directly intervene in the conflict or to successfully end the conflict diplomatically.
On Sept. 6, 2011, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz visits a company and battalion commander course exercise in the Golan Heights. Last month, the IDF announced that it was deploying a new division to the Syrian border in the Golan Heights to maintain “operational readiness,” Gantz said. Credit: Ori Shifrin, IDF Spokesperson’s Unit.
Lebanese-born Middle East analyst Tony Badran, a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, blamed U.S. President Barack Obama for indirectly strengthening Assad’s position with his handling of the chemical weapons situation last fall.
“The Obama administration, by brokering this chemical weapons deal, has strengthened Assad’s position,” Badran said. “Because Assad now understands there is not going to be any threat of direct involvement of outside powers against him. It also validated him as a partner and gave him free reign to pursue all avenues of destruction up to weapons of mass destruction.”