GZERO Media logo

A Tense Engagement Over The Golan

A Tense Engagement Over The Golan

On Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces used two surface-to-air missiles to shoot down a Syrian fighter jet that strayed two kilometers into Israeli airspace over the Golan Heights. It is the first time Israel has shot down a manned Syrian aircraft in four years, and comes at a time of heightened tensions in the region, as Syrian strongman Bashar al-Assad moves to mop up remaining resistance to his regime, and a host of foreign countries with a stake in the conflict push to shore up their interests. Here's Willis Sparks with the rundown on what it all means.


Why did this happen?

Israeli defenses are on high alert at the moment, because Assad’s forces are attacking Syrian rebels in areas near the Israeli border. Assad is close to reestablishing control of territory long held by rebel groups. The Israeli action appears to have been an automatic response to a Syrian jet that got too close.

What might happen next? 

Tensions are high. Syria reacted angrily on Monday after Israel evacuated Syrian volunteers providing humanitarian assistance in rebel-held areas in the face of a Syrian military advance – the so-called White Helmets. Also on Monday, Israel reportedly used its “David's Sling” missile defense system for the first time, in this case in response to two Syrian surface-to-surface missiles fired near Israeli territory.

That said, a major escalation in response to this particular incident is unlikely. Israel understands that Assad has survived Syria’s civil war and will remain in power, but it wants to signal to his victorious forces that they must respect Israeli airspace and defenses now and in the future. The Syrian government will continue to issue complaints and threats, but Syria is fighting rebels, not Israel.

How does this piece fit in the broader puzzle?

This otherwise isolated incident is interesting because it highlights the complex overlapping relationships playing out in a very tight space. A few key facts:

  • The primary threat to Israel comes not from Syrian forces but from Iranian fighters that Assad has invited to set up operations near the Israeli border.

  • Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu continues to court the Russian government in hopes of winning an agreement that would sideline Iranian involvement in Syria.

  • Russian forces would like to elbow Iranian forces from Syria to expand its own influence there, but Russia also cares about it relationship with Iran.

  • Tuesday’s incident involved the use of US-made Patriot missiles to shoot down a Russian-made Syrian jet, a reminder that outside powers still have intense interest in this arena of conflict.

Throw in Turkish forces, various Kurdish groups, surviving Syrian rebels, the remnants of ISIS, ambitious Russians, internal Trump administration tensions over relations with Moscow, an increasingly isolated and frustrated Iranian leadership, and some keenly interested Saudis and there is plenty of suspicion, hostility, and weaponry to keep the region on simmer for the foreseeable future.

Khant Thaw Htoo is a young engineer who works in Eni's Sakura Tower office in the heart of Yangon. As an HSE engineer, he monitors the safety and environmental impact of onshore and offshore operations. He also looks out for his parents' well-being, in keeping with Myanmar's traditions.

Learn more about Khant in the final episode of the Faces of Eni series, which focuses on Eni's employees around the world.

On his first day as president, Joe Biden signed a remarkable series of executive orders. Boom! The US rejoins the Paris Climate Accord. Bang! The United States rejoins the World Health Organization. Pow! No more ban on immigration from many Muslim-majority countries. Biden's press secretary reminded reporters later in the day that all these orders merely begin complex processes that take time, but the impact is still dramatic.

If you lead a country allied with the US, or you're simply hoping for some specific commitment or clear and credible statement of purpose from the US government, you might feel a little dizzy today. The sight of an American president (Barack Obama) signing his name, of the next president (Donald Trump) erasing that name from the same legislation/bill, and then the following president (Biden) signing it back into law again will raise deep concerns over the long-term reliability of the world's still-most-powerful nation.

More Show less

You've watched Indian Matchmaking... We bring you the Hindu Nationalist Matchmaker where we help find love for the 70 year old virgin - Narendra Modi!

"There needs to be a dramatic and deep reduction in the amount of debt on the poorest countries. That's clear." As the world's poorest nations struggle to recover from a devastating pandemic, World Bank President David Malpass argues that freeing them of much of their debt will be key. His conversation with Ian Bremmer is part of the latest episode of GZERO World.

Listen: Renowned tech journalist Kara Swisher has no qualms about saying that social media companies bear responsibility for the January 6th pro-Trump riots at the Capitol and will likely be complicit in the civil unrest that may continue well into Biden's presidency. It's no surprise, she argues, that the online rage that platforms like Facebook and Twitter intentionally foment translated into real-life violence. But if Silicon Valley's current role in our national discourse is untenable, how can the US government rein it in? That, it turns out, is a bit more complicated. Swisher joins Ian Bremmer on our podcast.

The GZERO World Podcast with Ian Bremmer. Listen now.

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's Newsletter: Signal