Inability to engage in Gaza support; Suspicious silence by Syrian regime

Israeli tanks near the occupied Golan Heights - November 9, 2023 (AFP)

Israeli tanks near the occupied Golan Heights - November 9, 2023 (AFP)


Enab Baladi – Yamen Moghrabi

Since Hafez al-Assad came to power in Syria in 1971, the Syrian regime has raised the slogan of liberating Palestine and the Palestinian cause. Al-Assad’s speech was not devoid of mentioning Palestine and repeating the slogans of liberation and the cause, and so does his heir, the head of the regime, Bashar al-Assad.

After the Islamic Resistance Movement (Hamas) launched Operation Al-Aqsa Flood and Israel’s escalation against the Gaza Strip in the framework of Operation Iron Swords last October, which caused the death of thousands of Palestinian civilians, the Syrian regime does not seem able to intervene or even repeat the same slogans that it got used to.

What is remarkable is that there is no direct intervention by the regime in the ongoing battles, in contrast to its ally, Hezbollah, whose commander Hassan Nasrallah, announced several times his entry into the battle, but within the “rules of engagement.”

This absence does not only occur at the military level but also at the diplomatic and media levels, which indicates changes in the Syrian regime regarding dealing with the Palestinian issue or an inability at all levels that prevents it from escalating, even if only as a threat.

Iran moves

Since the launch of Operation Iron Swords, Iranian and Hezbollah talk has spread about the unity of the battlefields, that is, the readiness of Iran’s allies in the region (Hezbollah, Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq, the Syrian regime, the Houthis in Yemen) to engage in the battle alongside Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Golan Front remained almost silent, except for separate incidents, announced by Israel and not the Syrian regime, while Hezbollah in southern Lebanon engaged in battles within the “2006 rules of engagement,” and the Houthis announced the launch of marches and missiles towards the Eilat region in southern Palestine and the adoption of an Iraqi militia called the Islamic Resistance in Iraq targeting US bases in Syria and Iraq.

On December 3, the Israeli occupation army announced that it had monitored a single missile launch from Syrian territory towards the occupied Palestinian territories and responded to its source with artillery shelling.

According to the Deputy Press Secretary of the US Department of Defense (Pentagon), Sabrina Singh, the number of attacks launched by militias supported by Tehran on US bases in Syria and Iraq from mid-October to December 5 reached 76 attacks.

Meanwhile, on December 4, the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said that four attacks occurred on three separate commercial ships operating in international waters south of the Red Sea and that these three ships were linked to 14 separate countries, as US forces responded to distress calls from the ships and provided assistance.

Iran announced the killing of two Revolutionary Guard advisors on December 2 during an Israeli bombing in Syria.

The announcement came after an Israeli bombardment on several points around the Syrian capital, Damascus, in the early hours of the same day.

The Iranian Tasnim agency quoted the Public Relations of the Revolutionary Guards as saying that Mohammad Ali Atayi and Taghizadeh, two advisors to the IRG, were killed by the “Zionist entity” during their “advisory mission” in Syria.

The official Syrian media did not talk about human losses during the Israeli targeting, as the official Syrian News Agency (SANA) quoted an unnamed military source that the air defenses responded to an aggression with missiles in the vicinity of the capital.

Attention is paid to normalization

What is surprising is the silence of the Syrian regime and the failure to launch any attacks from the areas adjacent to the occupied Syrian Golan despite the spread of Iranian militias in the region.

Basil Haffar, a research fellow at the Idrak Center for Studies and Consultations, told Enab Baladi that the Syrian regime does not view what is happening in Gaza as a decisive moment or a fateful battle for the region and is only trying to invest in the event, not participate in it, and does not throw its weight heavily. The regime just wants to get some benefit out of this event.

Haffar explained that this investment comes through the regime’s attempt to consolidate the path of normalization with it, especially since the countries that normalized its relations with it (the UAE and Saudi Arabia) are not among the countries enthusiastic about the idea of resisting Israel, but rather they are on the other side that signed the Abraham Accords.

Therefore, the regime’s silence and lack of interaction, as it used to in previous battles, indicates that the regime is anticipating and registering a position alongside the normalization countries in an attempt for these countries to participate directly or in agreement with Israel in floating the regime, so the latter presents this card to it by not interacting, according to the research fellow.

Not able to respond

From the first moments of the start of the Gaza battles last October and the repeated statements of Israeli officials about the future of the Strip, it seems clear that the battle is not like the previous battles in 2008, 2014, and 2018.

There is a lot of talk about the future of occupied Palestine in general, including the attempt to displace millions of Palestinians to Egypt, Jordan, and other countries, which means that the region as a whole faces a new future that will affect the Syrian regime and from this point, we can talk about the latter’s lack of involvement in the battles.

In addition to the political game that the Syrian regime is trying to play under the current circumstances, there is another reason for the Syrian regime not to engage seriously in the battles, the most important of which is the collapse of its military capabilities, which have been exhausted by the battles inside Syria since 2011.

During the past years, and even before 2011, Israel bombed Syrian regions under various pretexts, and the Syrian regime’s response was its famous phrase, “We will respond at the appropriate time and place,” in addition to sending identical messages to the Security Council and the United Nations, and the usual statements of condemnation.

In the last two years, the rhetoric has changed to a common phrase used by official media about shooting down hostile Israeli targets.

According to researcher Basil Haffar, the regime’s army is not prepared to play a role in a battle of this size, neither in terms of organization nor armament, and it is also unable to fully control its elements.

Haffar added that the regime is unable to protect itself from any Israeli attack or strikes on its vital facilities, and these are all points that constitute an obstacle to participating in or even suggesting this war.

Even the militias did not participate and preferred to exert pressure in Iraq and target US bases, hoping that a discussion would be opened in Congress regarding the American presence in the region, tilts the balance towards withdrawal from Syria and Iraq, but so far, these parties have not been able to make a difference in the battle itself.

The military decision in Syria does not appear to be in the hands of the regime alone. In addition to the military alliances with Iran, there is also the Russian side, which holds the reins of a number of files in Syria, which also directly affects the decision-making process.

The Russian presence may give the Syrian regime a margin for maneuver. According to Haffar, the Syrian regime is weak militarily, but the presence of Russia and its support gives it an additional military dimension, especially since most of its military movements come in partnership and coordination with Moscow.

What about military capacity?

According to the Global Fire Power website, which specializes in the military capabilities of armies, the Syrian army ranks 64th out of 145 countries, while Israel ranks 18th among the strongest armies in the world.

According to the report, Israel is superior in terms of air forces and manpower, while the Syrian side is superior in terms of artillery and tanks, knowing that this superiority comes in terms of the number of military units present, not in terms of the technical aspect.

Although the Syrian regime imported a number of modern air defense systems (Pantsir), they were not in sufficient numbers to cover all Syrian airspace, and no modern systems were created that form multiple layers of coverage as they were in the 1970s, and the development of these systems must be complete, not partial, as happened in the 1990s.

In a study by former Staff Colonel Khaled al-Mutlaq, published by the Harmoon Center for Contemporary Studies in 2020, the Syrian forces rely on weapons imported from the former Soviet Union and currently Russia, and these weapons do not have high-precision systems and are called single-use weapons, due to the shortfalls that appear after the first real battle in which the weapons are used.

Most of the technical and electronic capabilities of Syrian weapons in the air defense sector have disappeared, and technical personnel have been unable to develop these systems or find a real alternative to them.



النسخة العربية من المقال

Related Articles

  1. Al-Assad condemns in Palestine what he is committing in Syria
  2. Assad dodges Gaza war
  3. Gaza under attack: Al-Assad is absent despite chronic “resistance rhetoric”
  4. Assad’s presence at Arab-Islamic summit: A show-off opportunity at Gazans’ expense

Propaganda distorts the truth and prolongs the war..

Syria needs free media.. We need your support to stay independent..

Support Enab Baladi..

$1 a month makes a difference..

Click here to support