A Note on the Escalation of the Syrian Crisis

Created on Monday, 06 May 2013 00:40 Published Date

Parent Category: Defence Analysis & Decision Making - Category: Defence Analysis

User Rating:  / 3

By Zenonas Tziarras, Junior Scholar & JSESSTL Ass. Editor, Strategy International*

It has been reported that Israel conducted two airstrikes in Syria in the last few days. It is also said that these airstrikes targeted military facilities and equipment that was destined for Hezbollah. After a Syrian official called Israel’s attack “a declaration of war”, many speak of a turning point in the Syrian crisis and a war between Syria and Israel.

Things are both simple and complicated at the same time. This is indeed a turning point in the crisis not so much because of what Syrian officials have stated but because Israel’s actions demonstrated that the security risk stemming from Syria just reached the point where regional powers cannot remain unresponsive; it is within this framework that we should also evaluate Turkish Prime Minister’s remarks that Assad will pay for the deaths of thousands in Syria. This in turn means that as long as the Syrian regime escalates the violence and its cooperation with militant groups, such as Hezbollah, we will witness an increase in such actions/attacks.

But can Syria really go to war with Israel – or any other country for that matter? It could try but that would by no means be a smart decision. This brings us to a vicious cycle: Israel strikes military facilities in Syria thus limiting the regime’s military capabilities as well as the supplies of regime-friendly groups operating in Syria. On the other hand Syria makes provocative statements about retaliation when in fact it is so busy dealing with the rebels domestically that it would be catastrophic to try to handle two wars at the same time. This again leaves Syria with practically no deterrent capability, making it vulnerable to more airstrikes or other kinds of external attack.

Whether or not these last developments will lead to a new war remains to be seen. What we do know is that if Syria retaliates two things may happen: a) the Syrian regime will find itself in an unprecedentedly difficult position which will eventually lead to its end; and b) West will have one more reason/pre-text to intervene, either directly or through regional proxies. Should the latter happens, the intervening powers should be well informed about what they are dealing with in Syria as well as the intensions of countries like Iran and Russia. In any case, this would not be a walk in the park and might bear significant costs for the whole region.

*Zenonas Tziarras is a PhD Candidate in Politics and International Studies at the University of Warwick, UK, and a Junior Research Scholar at the think tank Strategy International in the program “Peripheral and Global Governance & Relations with Turkey”. His Doctoral research focuses on  Turkish foreign policy under the AKP in the Middle East and employs a Neoclassical Realist analytical framework. He holds a BA in Mediterranean Studies and International Relations from the University of the Aegean, Greece, and an MA in International Relations and Strategic Studies from the University of Birmingham, UK. He has attended specialization courses in International Security at the University of Delhi, India and training courses in Leadership and Conflict Resolution at Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey. He has presented papers at conferences in Cyprus, Greece, Turkey and the UK. He has also been research assistant in programs on conflict analysis and resolution, while he has completed an internship at the Peace Research Institute of Oslo Cyprus Centre. He co-edits the online magazine “The Globalized World Post” and writes regularly on Turkish, Middle East, and Eastern Mediterranean political affairs. You can find his personal website here.