Is Israel Hastening the Fall of Assad?

John Glaser, May 14, 2013

Israel’s official silence following its airstrikes on weapons depots in Syria earlier this month fueled accusations in every direction. Damascus condemned it as an attempt to destroy the regime, Tehran said the real targets were Iran and Hezbollah, analysts in the U.S. said it was a demonstration of “credibility.”

But now a Syrian rebel commander has a different take: “The assault was in support of Assad.”

Abdul Qader Saleh, commander of the Al-Tawhid Brigade, told the Turkish news agency Cihan that Bashar Assad’s regime has in fact already been defeated and that Iran and Hezbollah , with Israel’s backing, are preventing his downfall.

“The Syrian opposition was on the verge of taking over Assad’s weapons caches and that is why Israel attacked Syria,” Saleh claimed.

“There were several senior Syrian officers who were planning to defect and hand over weapons to the opposition. Israel bombed those caches for fear they would fall to the hands of the opposition. They contained air defense systems and heavy artillery. The assault was in support of Assad.”

This clashes with analyses that claim Israel aims to overthrow Assad in order to get to Iran. The claim is about as credible as the rest of the assertions of Israel’s intent. But Saleh’s accusation isn’t out of nowhere.

Efraim Halevy, who served as chief of the Mossad from 1998 to 2002, argued the same in a piece in Foreign Affairs:

Israel’s most significant strategic goal with respect to Syria has always been a stable peace, and that is not something that the current civil war has changed. Israel will intervene in Syria when it deems it necessary; last week’s attacks testify to that resolve. But it is no accident that those strikes were focused solely on the destruction of weapons depots, and that Israel has given no indication of wanting to intervene any further. Jerusalem, ultimately, has little interest in actively hastening the fall of Bashar al-Assad.

Israel knows one important thing about the Assads: for the past 40 years, they have managed to preserve some form of calm along the border.

If you compare the threat assessment Israel must be doing on Assad with the threat assessment Israel must be doing on Sunni rebel extremists possibly coming to power in Syria, clearly the latter is significantly worse. Israeli foreign policy is menacing and criminal, but it isn’t stupid.

Not only does Israel in all likelihood see Assad as less threatening than al-Qaeda-affiliated militias, but there is also an argument out there, made yesterday by Thanassis Cambanis in Foreign Policy, that Iran’s backing of Assad is draining the Islamic Republic’s resources and reputation in the region. Israeli policymakers may be viewing that favorably.




36 Responses to “Is Israel Hastening the Fall of Assad?”

  1. Give me a break. Every word that I've heard, although I'm not on the ground of course, is that Assad has been steadily winning against the rebels. The rebels are western backed, which, if you were to believe this rebel commander, would indicate that the West was actually in opposition to Israel. This seems like misinformation, because, even if the Assads have been peaceful towards Israel, they are allied with Iran, which Israel considers a threat.

  2. Oh…. So, Glaser, you're now claiming the Iranians are "irrational" after all…with their support of Assad and everything? Interesting…

    Anyway, this is one of the most illogical and ridiculous things I've ever read…

    No nation fires on another, unprovoked, causing significant material damage and killing people in order to maintain a "stable peace" among the two nations, much less to 'assist' the incumbent 'regime' being fired on. I understand Mr. Efraim Halevy is a former Mossad chief, but his analysis is absurd…it's also transparently disingenuous. Would he have reason to 'lie' or 'mislead' in this situation? Hmm…… Perhaps I should check with a so-called Syrian rebel commander…one who's not busy chewing on human hearts that is…for an 'unbiased', and certainly "credible", assessment of the 'situation' because I'm retarded… So Hannibal Lecter claims Assad called in the Israeli airstrikes on the Syrian military in the Damascus suburbs now? Hmmm…yeah, that seems extremely "credible" and 'plausible' to me….

    Glaser…

    Does all of this mean you are now on board with Israel bombing Iran's "nuclear program" in order to maintain the "stable peace" Mr. Halevy proclaims is the end all/be all of Israel's foreign policy decisions?

    This is beyond insane…

  3. Yes, it is. And Abdul doesn't know what he's talking about, he's no strategic scholar. But I'm sure he was dreaming about stealing any cache of weapons.

  4. [...] Is Israel Hastening the Fall of Assad? [...]

  5. Perhaps someone will want to tell iran then why its people were killed in that attack….

    this is all bs. If anything, israel wants a perpetual stalemate in syria in which the takfiris and iranians all kill eachother. That is why they attacked the iranian battalion last week; because syrias army, with irans help has pretty much defeated the "rebels" over the last 2 months

  6. syria and iran have had very major differences in the past and have even almost had it out violently……

    now, syria has no choice but to surrender its security to hezbollah and iran. Our meddling is going to blow up in our face good.

    Iran will only be strengthened by this and israel will have to face iran on yet another border as a reward for being the greedy murderous racists that they are

  7. It's clear that Israel could do great damage to Syria with its air force, and that any operation would be fully supported by the U.S. That the US and Israel could flatten the country and overthrow the regime in a week is not disputed. What is uncertain is the extent of the resulting blowback, destabilization and chaos in the region that would make Israel less safe and further isolated in the Middle East. For the Israelis it would be short term gain but long term disaster, no matter how armed to the teeth Israel's military might be.

  8. I despair of Anti-war.com. Mind you the British Liberal press are just as bad.

    Don't you know your secretary of state has just been threatening and insulting the Syrian government, in a Joachim von Ribbentrop impression threatening some European state in the '30's?

    In a series of elaborate insults in Stockholm, Kerry has threatened the Syrian government unless they come to his "peace" conference.

    It is clear the Obama-Kerry regime's paramilitaries are losing and the "negotiations" like Ramboiette 1999 and Ohio 1995 are only concerned with obtaining a surrender of Syria.

    So why is this not being said. It is clear Israel has been recruited to make further threats.

  9. This argument forgets the entire Clean Break strategy was based on "expediting the chaotic collapse" of governments throughout the region. To suggest that the Israeli government is "criminal, but not stupid" is akin to saying the same thing about the U.S., which I would argue is clearly false — tons of high officials don't rise to power because they are brilliant thinkers. They tend to be soaked in hubris — a grave form of stupidity. Furthermore, Israel's policies are clearly as stupid as they are cruel, for they are unsustainable in the long run just as American imperial policy is unsustainable in the long run. The argument that Israel is somehow in league with Syria against the rebels is a rich conspiracy theory. Given the political influence in Washington, if Israel didn't want Syria to be in the state it is now it likely wouldn't be. Yes it is apparently true (as far as we know) that the U.S. isn't directly supporting the rebels with armaments but their allies are and they are providing other material support. They wouldn't be doing this if they didn't have Israeli political approval.

  10. "This clashes with analyses that claim Israel aims to overthrow Assad in order to get to Iran. The claim is about as credible as the rest of the assertions of Israel’s intent. "

    Pretty obvious that Israel's policy on Syria is driven by its twin obsessions with Iran and with Hezbollah. The idea that Israel is much worried about direct border security with Syria is, frankly, stupid.

    It's reasonably clear that the Israeli regime would be very happy to have sunni extremists in charge of a chaotic and dysfunctional Syria, where their presence would help to maintain US support for Israel, and to decouple Syria from its alliances with Iran and with Hezbollah.

    Israel just doesn't want to get the blame for it. Hence articles like the one by Efraim Halevy.

  11. Also, I think Mr. Glaser does excellent work generally, but I'm curious why articles at Foreign Affairs and Foreign Policy are suddenly being taken as the most credible source for information out there. Sure, sometimes you get diamonds in the rough at these publications, but in general the reason I come to antiwar.com is to get away from the Council on Foreign Relations spin on things.

  12. [...] Is Israel Hastening the Fall of Assad? John Glaser, May 14, 2013 [...]

  13. I think the main reason for the strike was to slow down the serious momentum that the syrian military had gained. Prior to the attack major strategic victories had been achieved by the S.A.A. obviously destroying key military equipment was a bonus but I think the U.S. saw that if assad and crew were allowed to continue routing those rat bastard terrorist islamist cannibals then the war may have ended quickly in assads favour. I do believe despite what they say that the u.s and isreal are very happy with bloody war that is destroying syrian society and infrastructure as well as bleeding Iran and Hezbollah dry financially and in men.

  14. The Israeli raid, in support of the losing mercenaries, dealt quite a morale blow for those still alive fighting the Assad regime. What self-respecting hired Muslim mercenary, let alone a Jihadi, wants to have Israel fighting on it's side?

    They're not as big suckers as Abbas and the Palestinian Fatah party yet

    The Syrian rebel commander was probably just trying to keep the few soldiers he has left in the fight, before the ones still standing desert him completely, and he has to go back to Jordan and get a real job

    Who want's to be Israel's sucker other than John McCain, Lindsey Graham and Abbas, anyway?.

  15. Thanks, Stu. It's not that CFR spin is suddenly the most credible information. The point of my post was really to suggest that perhaps it's not as black and white as "Israel is in league with Sunni rebels to overthrow Assad" vs. "Israel is backing Assad against Sunni rebels for the sake of stability."

    It is hardly inconceivable that while Israel would like to change the regime in Syria – and won't do anything to prevent Assad's fall, it sees the potential rise of Sunni jihadists aligned with al-Qaeda as more threatening. Despite Syria's support of Hezbollah, the Assad regime, and his father's before it, has been reliably submissive to Israel's subjugation of the Palestinians and its regional mayhem, including the issue of the Golan Heights. Assad hasn't just been submissive to Israel, but to Washington (remember George W. Bush's extraordinary rendition program in which people were rounded up and sent to Syria, among other places, to be tortured?).

  16. So when Israel shelled Syrian troops trying to get at the opposition forces near the Golan Heights, the IDF was actually aiding Assad's forces by shelling them? Israel effectively made that area a safe-haven for the opposition/AQ/Nusra.

    This spin by Glaser is trying to save Nusra/AQ's face; that Nusra is not allied with Israel when in fact Israel and Nusra/AQ are working together.

  17. I think the answer is that Israel doesn't want its new neighbors to have access to the toys that its old neighbors will have left behind. This is still about weaking Iran. If Israel wanted to keep Assad then it would bear down pressure on the US and their puppets in congress would be howling about keeping Assad. If you drive to beach going 35 miles a hour or 70 miles a hour. You will still arrive at the beach sooner or later. Israel has bombed Syria in the past before this uprising. Israel is just trying to prolong the destruction so it will be a longtime before someone can put Syria back together again.

  18. Right, we tend to get swept up in "either-or" debates on such issues. I can agree that many in Israel are probably concerned about weapons getting into the hands of the rebels and I'm on board with the possibility that the attack was really to prevent weapons from falling into their hands (I doubt they were to prevent Hezbollah from receiving them as shipment — it just doesn't seem likely Assad would be concerned about sending weapons to them at this stage given all he has to deal with). Still, I think in general there is a somewhat crazed notion within certain elements of Israeli leadership that see a breakup of the state as beneficial in the divide and conquer sense. It wouldn't be the first time leaders forget about blowback or unintended consequences (however predictable) in pursuit of misguided strategy. I agree that it would absolutely be in the Israeli government's best interest to keep Assad going — and I'm sure there are many individuals in Israel (whether in the government, military and intelligence structures or among citizenry) that also see things this way. I'm just not sure Netanyahu is among them. Of course the question of how much control he has over foreign policy is certainly something worth asking as well. Anyway, thanks for the great work.

  19. I think some of the comments left here are reading too much or too little into what John has written. My take away is that John is saying it’s not as simple as Israel being against Assad and for the rebels.

  20. "Israel ……. sees the potential rise of Sunni jihadists aligned with al-Qaeda as more threatening"

    Why would they see it that way, and where is the evidence that they do?

    So far Sunni jihadism has been immensely beneficial to Israel in cementing US support and creating havoc for its enemies. What does Israel supposedly fear jihadis might be able to do to it that its secular enemies can't? Israel has military supremacy over Syria and an easily secured border with it. Syria's only plausible potential threat to Israel is via Hezbollah, and the replacement of Assad by Sunni jihadists ends that possibility for good (and probably – in Israeli fantasies at any rate – lights the fuse for the final destruction of Hezbollah). You could argue that Jordan might be the next domino, but I suspect the Israelis believe the US and Saudis can be relied upon to protect the Jordanian regime.

    "Despite Syria's support of Hezbollah"

    Any analysis of the region is incomplete if it ignores the rather irrational and distinctly paranoid obsession Israeli regime members (and US regime members, for that matter – Americans in general, in fact) have with Iran.

    As Stu's comment above points out, there are ways in which regimes and regime members often are profoundly stupid. The obsession with Iran is one of the ways the US and Israeli regimes are, in fact, collectively "stupid". (Which is not to say that there aren't plenty of clever people in and around the regimes in question exploiting said stupidity for very real benefits to themselves and their interest groups, of course).

  21. I was reading some of your posts on this site and I conceive this website is rattling informative! Retain putting up.

  22. In this unjust war brought upon the Syrian people by the west and their tyrants, anyone can say anything when the time is right and the matter is good for them at the time.., one thing is for sure.., Israel is not interested in having a jihadist ruled Syria.., in the other hand if they takeover Syria.., then israel existence will be at risk.., yet it is easier for USA-NATO – Israel having a real excuse to crush such government and occupying Syria.., having said that.., the plan, the agenda, the main interests of USA and EU government since 1990 is to occupy the entire northern part of Persian gulf and central asia as they already are present in the southern part of persian gulf and having military bases in some other country in north.

    Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran are the only country that are not militarized by USA and NATO. But having a sunny muslims government linked to Saudi Arabia and other tyrant regimes is what differs the Obama doctrine then Bush regime and thats where israel has become edgy.

    Israel government in being a apartheid regime.., is also paranoid.., as USA government wanting to dominate the world.., in many ways thinks and it sees everyone as its enemy.., but the real issue for USA and NATO is being able to continue with the idea from Neo con when Madeline Albright succeeded in her plans dividing Yugoslavia, knowing that Russian wont interfere and using sunny Muslims whom not only were the Balkan mafia, but feuded against socialism or any kind of democracy.., Hillary Clinton was assigned to proceed the same with Syria.., not knowing that Syria is going to be a different story.., everyone knows that Syrian war is a proxy war, a continuation of what the Neo cons idea back in 1990 presented by Paul Wolfowitz to Bill Clinton whereby starting the balkan war was the start in adding to US and NATO occupation, or if you will stealing lands expanding EU and having a passage to central asia via Kosovo.., the Swedish Neo fascism is in charge of Balkans economy which is why USA having so "superb" relation with Swedish government at this time.., in simple terms the Neo Cons idea is about USA being the world economy dominator saying: now that USSR is no longer there, it is time for America to stand against governments that are against USA imperialism rule where after devastating the country by bombarding it to ruins, they can pay for rebuilding their devastated country with their oil or other form of natural resources.., which in reality the country becomes what USA and EU wants it to be…, and that's the 20th century democracy presented by USA – EU "democratic" governments supporting terrorism to get what they are after.

  23. Everything we are doing in the Mideast is at the behest of Zionists here and from Israelis. One by one they are destabilizing each neighbor or country of possible opposition in the region. Israel figures that she can, with US forces and various economic means, break up each of these nations and render them militarily and politicaly impotent . If Islamists are left in control, Israel knows she has so much control over the US govt she can keep us fighting our "war of terror" and those regimes for the foreseeable future. False flag operations of various sorts and media hype can keep the American sheeple cowering fearfully and angry enough to continue lashing out at any target Zionism wishes to see destroyed.

  24. Mojo, that is exactly the case. you have got it right. It is exciting to see somebody tell it as it is when there are so many lies and distortions out there. Thanx

  25. sure, sure.

  26. Glad you agree. It means you've been paying attention as I have for the
    past 55 yrs…much of which time I lived in that region.

  27. ??

  28. Great weblog here! Also your site quite a bit up fast! What web host are you the usage of? Can I get your associate link on your host Thanks. is bubblegum casting legitimate

  29. Well l definitely enjoying every little bit of it. It is a great website and nice share. I want to thank you. Good job! You guys do a great blog

  30. OPEN MULTIPLE URL'S WITH JUST ONE CLICK
    BEST SEO TOOL NOW YOU DO NOT HAVE TO WORRIED ABOUT OPENING VARIOUS

    URL'S WITH THE SINGLE CLICK OF YOUR MOUSE BUTTON. THE

    FAST URL OPENER CAN HELP YOU ACHIEVE THIS GOAL AND

    SAVE YOU SOMETIME AND BOTHERATION OF CLICKING THE

    MOUSE KEYS AGAIN AND AGAIN.
    ENJOY THE WONDERS OF FAST URL OPENER AND SAVE TIME

  31. This got me thinking, does the visitor feel that by giving me a name and email address they will get something of value and without it they are receiving commodity information? I look at my own behavior, registration does not bother me yacon a great diet supplement

  32. Goethe observed that architecture is ‘petrified music’, but for composers, his idea might seem more poetic in its inversion: music is fluid architecture.2012 Apple Blossom Handicap

  33. Turkish news agency Cihan that Bashar Assad’s regime has in fact already been defeated and that Iran and Hezbollah , with Israel’s backing, are preventing his downfall.firstcnaclasses.com certified nursing assistant training

  34. The bottom line is: Plant your soybeans if you think the soil temperatures won’t get cold (less than 40°F) for at least 24 hours. If you planted two or more days before the cold rain, there should be no imbibitional injury due to cold temperature.here

  35. Damascus condemned it as an attempt to destroy the regime, Tehran said the real targets were Iran and Hezbollah, analysts in the U.S. said it was a demonstration of “credibility.”Julian Rivera

  36. Damascus condemned it as an attempt to destroy the regime, Tehran said the real targets were Iran and Hezbollah, analysts in the U.S. said it was a demonstration of “credibility.”Volkswagen servicing