Syria will not liberate the occupied Golan for decades to come

Druze men at the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights flash the V for victory sign as they look out across the southwestern Syrian province of Quneitra, visible across the border on July 7, 2018 (Photo by JALAA MAREY / AFP) (Photo credit should read JALAA MAREY/AFP/Getty Images)

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

The Syrian state will not be in a position to liberate the occupied Golan for decades to come.  US President Donald Trump made a giftof the territory to Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu last month. The move was Trump’s support for Netanyahu’s domestic election campaign; Netanyahu is facing severe accusationsof bribery and corruption. No government in Damascus can regain the occupied Golan in the next decades due to the hefty price the Syrian government would pay for any war with Israel to recover the territory. The only hope for Syria would be to copy the Lebanese experience and delegate power to a Syrian resistance. However, the Lebanese experience is unique and would be difficult to imitate, unless Syria were to regain good ties with the west and with Arab countries allied to the US.

Yes, the Lebanese resistance managed to impose on Israel in the year 2000 a humiliatedunconditional unilateral withdrawal of most occupied territories. Ehud Barak, then the Prime Minister, decided to end over two decades of occupation and abandon his allies in the “South Lebanese Army” (SLA), withdrawing from Lebanon following repetitive attacks of the resistance that left over 1000 Israeli officers and soldiers killed.

Moreover, in the second Israeli war on Lebanon in 2006(the first war was the 1982 invasion), Israel refrained from destroying the capital Beirut, the Ministry of Defence and many official institutions and infrastructure (bombing some official targets and destroying many bridges). The reason Israel held back from using its destructive firepower from these and other targets – even if it failed to achieve its goal of limiting Hezbollah’s military capabilities – is also due to the split within the Lebanese government between friends and enemies of the hegemony and dominance of the US and its allies.

The presence of Lebanese friends of the US such as Prime Minister Fouad Siniora, and many ministers and political leader’s hostile to Hezbollah, led the US to exert pressure on Israel and prevent it from destroying the country. The US believed its allies in Lebanon might achieve by political influence what Israel has failed to do in 33 days of war against the group.

The situation in Syria today is different: Israel, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, Turkey, Europe and the US all worked together to change the Syrian regime and create a failed state controlled by Takfiri jihadists. The Israeli Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said he would rather see ISIS on Israeli bordersthan the Syrian army. Many Israeli top military commanders shared this view.

Indeed, Israel tried to promote a “Syrian security zone”, like the one created in Lebanon in the ‘80s, to de factopermanently annex the Golan and to move a few kilometres further into the southern Syrian territories occupied by al-Qaeda and ISIS. In such a scenario, no country in the world would have contested Israel’s move.

To Israel’s consternation, the Syrian army and its allies managed to retake the momentum and turn the situation upside-down, recovering all southern territories from Israel’s friends in al-Qaeda and “Jaish Khaled Bin al-Waleed,” a group that professed loyalty to ISIS. This is what pushed Israel in 2019 – when all countries who had bet that Syria would fall into a chaos in a matter of months were obliged to recognize their mistaken judgment – to ask Trump to offer the Golan, the property neither of Israel nor of the US, as a gift to Netanyahu’s election chances.

The danger in such recognition is the fact that, notwithstanding the world’s rejection of Trump’s illegal move, the international position towards the Golan may change in the years and decades to come. This is exactly what happened to Palestine, now reduced to a small territory surrounded by Israel where no Palestinian can return to his abducted home. Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and many leaders followed. The US move, regardless of the words spoken by world leaders in defence of international law, will face no effective resistance nor any serious opposition from the supposed leader of the Islamic World, i.e. Saudi Arabia, nor from other Arab and Islamic countries (apart from Iran and its close allies).

Thus, Israel is playing a waiting game to gain further recognition of its occupation of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. However, what if Syria decides to recover the occupied territories?

The Israeli military is capable of bringing Syria back to the stone age. Its Air Force can destroy Syria’s electricity, dams, bridges, military and civilian infrastructures if Syria were to declare war on Israel in the name of recovering the Golan, as it did in the 1973 war.

Unlike Lebanon, Syria doesn’t have US allies within its government, legislative and military apparatus because power is in the hands of the President. Neither does Syria have ties with Arab states who could rebuild the country in case of severe damage or exert enough pressure to stop Israel from bombing Syria.

The late President Hafez Assad knew all this when he agreed to negotiate and went to Geneva after years of negotiation to sign a peace deal. Assad led a delegation of over 100 people, under the auspices of US president Bill Clinton, prepared to make peace with Israel on the basis of land for peace. It was Prime Minister Ehud Barak who withdrew from the deal because domestic pressure and public opinion did not allow him to withdraw entirely from Lebanon and the Golan. He wanted to keep some control over Tiberias and the water that flows into the lake from upper Jordan, Banyas Spring and other streams. Barak simply failedto honour Yitzhak Rabin’s commitment to Assad (and later Shimon Peres) that Israel would withdraw to the June 4 line. He wanted to keep a permanent Israeli presence on Mount Hermon and made security demands that could not be met by Assad. Barak thought he could twist Assad’s arms to the last minute and was unaware that the Syrian president was not bluffing and not ready to compromise on any inch of Syrian territory. 

In 2010, ten years following the death of his father, President Bashar al-Assad was also willing to engage in peace talkswith Israel in exchange for the Golan and return to the June 4 line, but Netanyahu, then Prime Minister, rejected the offer.

Israel is not looking to exchange land for peace. It holds tightly to David Ben Gurion’s strategyof exerting hegemony over the Middle East by military might. Only Syrian resistance groups who have gathered warfare experience in the last eight years of war could engage in guerrilla warfare to regain the Golan, similar to the Hezbollah experience in defeating Israel in the year 2000. Nevertheless, Syria can expect a violent Israeli response if this path to liberate the Golan is adopted.

Japan failed to regain the northern Kuril Islandsoccupied by Russia following the Second World War. The United Arab Emirates is unable to regain control of the two Islands of Tunb and Abu Mussafrom Iran. China, to date, is not retaking Taiwandue to US protection of the Island. Ukraine will not recover Crimea from Russiaand Septa and Melillawill not be given back to Morocco, remaining under Spanish control. There are territorial disputes between African countries, Pakistan, India, Australia, Cambodia, Korea and many other countries.

Even superpowers such as China and other powerful countries have not forced the recovery of their territories, because the price is not worth it. This is the situation of the Golan today. This is why Israel is likely to hold the land for decades to come.

Proof-read by:  C.G.B.

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8 thoughts on “Syria will not liberate the occupied Golan for decades to come

  1. Guessing game? We don’t need to be so pessimistic about the recovery of the Golan Heights. Resistance forces in the Levant are in ascent, and though I agree with Mr. Magnier that fighting a war for territory is a useless exercise from a military, et al perspectives, border movement and territorial exchanges are an old pattern in the ME, even to recent times.

    Syria does not have to purposely engage in a war for territorial recovery, as the triggers or red lines crossed that can unleash a war between Israel (plus allies), and several enemy countries, are many. The Axis of Resistance has expanded exponentially, multiplying the points for potential kinetic action, some stronger than others. Hezbollah, for example, despite Lebanon’s size and severe limitations, is much better prepared to fight a war with Israel, than Syria, for well known reasons. The current state of deterrence between Israel and Hezbollah, which Syria has not been able to reach, despite protestations and threats for the constant Israeli bombing, speaks volumes of Hezbollah’s position as a respected enemy in the mindset of Israel warmongers. Same goes for Iran.

    The underlying threat to the Levant countries enemies of Israel, is the destructive capacity Israel and the US/NATO can unleash on them. Part of US/NATO military planning has been a massive response to any attack that endangers the existence of Israel, and as I write, Sen. Lindsey Graham, yet another Israeli stooge at Congress, is advocating for a “defense pact” between the US and Israel, only giving law status to an existing de facto condition. The immediate reason for the defense pact is the consolidation of the latest theft perpetrated by Israel, aided and abetted by the US, the Golan Heights, and the upcoming massive robbery of the West Bank Netanyahu is already advertising as part of his electoral campaign. The long term reason is to provide Israel a cover for their not-so “low intensity conflict” with Arab neighbors in the region, co-opting them, bombing them, invading them, directly or by proxy, carrying targeted assassinations, special operations, always keeping them on alert, for the danger is perpetual.

    The same is true in the other direction. Israel knows that what’s facing is an ensured hell of guided missiles with special dedication to military sites, and unfortunately, T-A airport must go in the first salvo, hence increasing civilian casualties are also ensured. IMHO as an apprentice “armchair general,” Netanyahu is pushing the envelope for multiple reasons, electoral and otherwise, one of them, however, is to mount continuous, in crescendo provocations on the surrounding countries, with the sole purpose of creating an open conflict. With someone, anyone. The Axis of Resistance will surely respond, that’s all the US needs to unleash a bomber armada on Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, carpet bombing the countries back to the stone age.

    Enter Russia and China, and the nuclear/conventional/political protection they can extend to these countries in times of need. Would the Russia/China umbrella be strong enough to dissuade the US from intervening, other than sending weapons, advisers, pilots, soldiers, openly fighting with the IOF, and lending all their intel network (FVEY), to Israel? What would Russia’s role be, since Putin is cuddling every so often for mass consumption with war criminal Netanyahu? That is to be seen. What’s clear is that one of the trends Netanyahu is creating, massive territorial theft, could easily lead to war. Just the other day Lebanese Shebaa villagers walked on their land currently occupied by Israel, mocking Israeli “security” measures, and against UNIFIL permission. They are pointing the way.

    For Hezbollah, and Iran, the struggle of the Palestinian people is one and the same with Lebanon, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain, Afghanistan, etc. The massive theft and expropriation instigated by Netanyahu, can unleash yet another Intifada in the West Bank and Jerusalem, which can trigger Hamas intervention, and if Netanyahu unleashes all hell on Gaza, Hezbollah might reckon time has come for another bout to show Israel the limits of power. Netanyahu did not go into details on his West Bank territorial theft, his strategic goal, however, is the Al-Aqsa compound, Haram al-Sharif.

    And that is a definite red line, for the Axis of Resistance, and for the Ummah.

    Netanyahu is a prisoner of his own diabolic, Machiavellian creation, having to deliver Palestinian land and lives to a hungry wolf-pack of hatemongers hellbent on killing and dispossessing all Palestinians from their so-called “chosen people” land, in order to stay in power. Sooner or later, he might realize he stretched his hand, when someone (Hezbollah?) cuts it.

    Lone Wolf

    PS: A relatively recent effort on territorial recovery gone FUBAR, was the disastrous Malvinas exercise, which put the Argentinian army to shame with an ignominious defeat that should be a lesson for any army foolishly committing men and treasure in pursuit of delusional wars for land.


      I have the slight suspicion Netanyahu will use Trump’s “magnanimity” to have a go for open war with Iran/Syria/Lebanon. As cowardly as he is, Netanyahu will not to go war alone, even against Syria, US will have to bleed in support of messianic crazies. Just in case 2020 kicks Trump out, there is no time to waste for an operation that could elevate them both to stratospheric heights among the deplorables in both countries. Trump will bet his reelection on kicking Iran’s butt, and Netanyahu will seat safely on his throne, crowned Israel’s “king,” forever.

      The designation of IRGC as a “terrorist organization” by the US,,

      supposedly done to help Netanyahu’s election, is not such, only. Netanyahu’s electoral gifts are being used as a cover in preparation for a military operation of unknown magnitude on Iran and Syria.

      Golan Heights can be used as a launching pad against Syria, another reason for their theft. US bases in Iraq and Syria are protecting a sizable amount of proxy cannon fodder they can unleash on any direction when needed.

      In light of these new developments, Trump’s announcement of a Syrian withdrawal can be examined in 20/20, and it was clearly a probe and a trap. Many fell into his TV Reality show portraying the “erratic” madman twitting in the middle of the night he wants US troops out of Syria, making it look as if he was disgusted with the uselessness of having troops advancing no purpose by being in Syria. The announcement had multiple purposes, one of them was to probe the reaction of the forces in the region, and observe their alignments. This is an old Bolton pony trick, and Trump is the best performer for this kind of trash acting. Another purpose was to get “Mad Dog” Mattis out of the way, he would have opposed going to war in support of Israel, or going to war against Iran, either one.

      Enter Bolton/Pompeo/Trump/Netanyahu not-so hidden plans, yet another reason for Trump’s extreme “generosity” with Netanyahu, his re-election cardinal for their plans to go forward. It looks as if a possible US/Israel-initiated war, hinges on whether Netanyahu gets reelected. Or not.

      Lone Wolf

  2. sadly i agree with most of this. there are “wild card” factors like russians on the ground and such but the israelis have already shown their repulsive disregard for “collateral” casualties by hiding behind civilian aircraft and recon planes. i do think any attempt to “bomb syria to the stone age” would come at a heavy cost, however.

    in the twisted eugenic “logic” of israeli leaders, one of their citizens equals up to 1,000 from any other group. while they might destroy most of damascus or random military outposts, they’d also bring a steady deluge of rockets from lebanon, iran and various pockets of land around golan. the syrians and hezbollah have spent the past few years fighting takfiri lunatics jacked up on amphetamines; once the battle moves from the air to the land a bunch of gym bros and hipsters from tel aviv are going to be eaten alive.

  3. If the Syrians aren’t willing to stand up now for the Golan then they never will. Once the country is rebuilt and the military has gone soft again it will be to late. Now that the Israelis believe they have support for owning the Golan watch for them to stage some stupidity with American backing that will allow them to demand a buffer zone carved out of Syria to protect their territory in the Golan. That will then become the part they annex next. The cycle will repeat until Syria is gone.

    1. Do you not understand the situation? Syria attempting to take back the Golan at this time would result in Syria’s destruction at the hands of Israel. It’s easy for armchair generals to talk big about what is “necessary” when they have no skin in the game and it is not their country that faces annihilation.

      1. How is Israel going to destroy Syria? Its ground forces are no match to the Syrian Arab Army, NDF and auxiliaries. All whom have 8 years of grueling desert, rural and urban real-live combat scenarios, are by now have been distilled down to perhaps the best fighting force in the world.

        Ya, Israel could target infrastructure, but its already mostly destroyed by 8 years of a ferocious war. That wont change the dynamics in a Syrian bid to retake the Golan. In 2006, Israel had total air superiority, and 75,000 IDF troops and two armored battalions with 400 Merkava ( Chariot of God ) MBT’s- (44 of which were totally destroyed by Hezbollah), and sadly and tragically and incompetently, Israel couldn’t take and hold even Lebanese border villages.

        Bottom line is that the Israeli Armed Forces are perhaps the most overestimated army and air force in the world. Their troops are LGBQT queens whom are mostly exchange students from the U.S., and the remainder are criminals on the run from justice in their native Russia.

        Bottom line, Israel cant do a damn thing without U.S. intervention, and the U.S. is a spent force already. Just go visit a Veterans Administration hospital in the U.S. and look at the chaos and misery and hell brought on by its involvement in Iraq , where a loose tribal confederation bogged down 14 out of the total 16 battalions of the U.S. Army, grinding them into the Iraqi sands using daisy-chained artillery rounds (IEDS’s) and snipers, like ‘ Juba the Baghdad Sniper ‘ , with hundreds of kills on YouTube before all his videos were taken down.

        And look at Afghanistan, where NATO and the U.S. have been fighting for 18 years now an enemy riding motorcycles, armed with AK-47’s, RPG’s, and IEDS’s, dressed in bedsheets and beach sandals only. Yet the Taliban are making major gains as of late.

        And the U.S. remains humiliated. Always will when messing around with determined Muslims.

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