Clash over Syria Highlights Entanglements in Ongoing Civil War
By Matthew Minor
Syria’s civil war began a potentially dangerous new chapter when Israel struck down an Iranian jet last week. According to The New York Times, the clash began when Israel intercepted an Iranian drone, claiming that it breached its airspace from within Syria.
After Israel attacked the control center it claimed launched the drone, an Israeli F-16 jet crashed under heavy fire from Syrian forces, reports The New York Times. Israel’s jet is believed to be the first jet lost to enemy fire in decades. Subsequently, Israel launched a wave of strikes against targets that it called “part of Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria.”
As Syria’s war enters its seventh year, Israel’s clash with Iran underscores the global nature of the once regional conflict.
The Washington Post reports that Syria’s civil war brought a number of powers together despite conflicting interests. Israel bombed Syria numerous times during the conflict to counter Iranian influence through the political and military presence of Hezbollah, while the Syrian government sought to consolidate its control over areas in open revolt.
Meanwhile, Russia continues to provide support to the Syrian government, while American forces continue their attempt to end the war. In addition, Turkey began a bombing campaign on Kurdish forces in Syria that it sees as terrorist threats.
As the entanglement grows, so does the potential for miscalculation and suspension of cooperation between longtime allies. America’s relationship could change dramatically with fellow NATO member, Turkey.
According to The Wall Street Journal, Turkey has long objected to U.S. support for Kurdish militias it views as an existential threat. In particular, Turkey objects to U.S. support for the Kurdish People’s Defense Unit (YPG), the main Kurdish militia in Syria. The YPG has ties to the Kurdistan Workers Party, on organization that both the Turkish and American governments designate a terrorist group.
Soon after the jet was downed, Israeli officials, who have long criticized Iran’s involvement in Syria, warned against any further aggression.
In an editorial in The Jerusalem Post, Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Eyal Ben-Reuven of the Israeli Defense Forces wrote of an impending war between Israel and Iran. Highlighting Iran’s involvement in Syria, Ben-Reuven accused Iranians of exploiting the conflict between Syria’s ruling government and rebels to spread its own influence.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu informed The Wall Street Journal that, “we will not allow a regime hell-bent [sic] on the annihilation of the Jewish state…to entrench itself militarily in Syria.” Syrian officials did not immediately respond to the comment.