Israel has reason to fear that the ceasefire declared in Syria could end up strengthening Iran, Assad forces, and Hezbollah.
A position paper by the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies posits that Israel has acted prudently and wisely during the recent hostilities in Syria. The Jewish State chose to remain uninvolved, yet maintained proper relations with Russia without harming its strategic relations with the United States. Israel was even able to coordinate tactically with the Russians during infrequent airstrikes in Syrian airspace.
However, the experts say, the ceasefire is liable to have negative implications for Israel, for several reasons.
For one thing, the situation that has now been frozen on the ground serves to strengthen the pro-Assad coalition and Iranian dominance in Syria.
In addition, Israel will now find it difficult to strike from the air to thwart the transfer of advanced weapons from Syria to Hezbollah. Such strikes are liable to lead to accusations of Israeli violations of the ceasefire or of creating friction with Russia. The latter has deployed its S-400 advanced air defense system in Syria, covering both Lebanese and Syrian skies. These are not being removed, at least for the time being, by Russia, which has just begun pulling out troops and forces from Syria.
Thirdly, though the ceasefire is fragile and unpredictable, it relieves Hezbollah from the burden of fighting in Syria – giving it more time to challenge Israel in the north and build up its terrorism arsenals.
Both Iran and Jordan boasted this week that they knew in advance of the Russian pullout. Iranian official Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, said that in any event, “The [Iranian-backed] Syrian Army’s advances in areas where terrorist groups are still threatening the security of people will continue, with the advisory aid of Iran and Russia."
Jordan, too, which has monitored the hostilities in its northern neighbor with great concern, said that the Russian pullout was set up back in January. It happened in a Moscow meeting of the Jordanian chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his Syrian counterpart, and Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.