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Monday, July 15, 2013

Choose your poison?

Haaretz reports that Israel is easing its opposition to Western countries arming the al-Qaeda-backed Syrian rebels out of fear that a victory for Assad will be a victory for Iran. Assad, whom Israel viewed as a stabilizing influence is apparently now seen as more willing to attack the Jewish state.
At the same time, Israel has toned down its objections to arming the rebels, mainly due to the increased and conspicuous involvement of Hezbollah and other Shia groups, supported by Iran, in the Syrian conflict. Hezbollah forces played a key role in capturing the strategic town of Qusair last month, and Hezbollah fighters along with Shia volunteers from Iraq are currently fighting in the battle of Aleppo.
Israeli officials believe that the Syrian civil war is far from over and that victory is not assured for either side. There is concern about the appearance of victory for the pro-Iranian camp and a growing belief that Assad has decided to throw in his lot with the radical axis.
Assad who was once seen as a moderating influence, ensuring calm on the Syria-Lebanon border, now appears to be interested in encouraging terror attacks on Israel, Israeli officials conclude. For now, though, he is not expected to allow regular units of the Syrian army to participate in such attacks. Another major concern is that the continued success of pro-Iranian forces in Syria without a response from the West will embolden Iran to forge ahead with its nuclear program despite international pressure and sanctions.
In recent meetings between Israeli officials and their Western counterparts, the Israeli attitude toward the latter supplying the rebels with arm was more positive. Israel is also more accepting of continued supplies from Gulf nations that are also concerned about growing Iranian influence in the region and are eager to support the Sunni rebels. At the same time, Israelis are still cautioning about advanced weapons, especially anti-aircraft missiles, reaching jihadist groups.
The opportunity to make a positive change in Syria was missed when the West failed to back the rebels from the outset, before they were taken over by the radical Sunni groups. Israel's only interest in a Sunni-Shi'a war should be for it to take as long as possible, for the Islamists to kill as many of each other as possible and for them to leave us alone. 

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