View Full Version : The Golan Heights: a flashpoint coming?

Bill Moore
09-01-2014, 02:05 PM

Filipino troops pull `greatest escape' from Syria

At one point, Syrian government forces fired artillery rounds from a distance to prevent the Filipino peacekeepers from being overwhelmed, said Col. Roberto Ancan, a Philippine military official who helped monitor the tense standoff from the Philippine capital, Manila, and mobilize support for the besieged troops.

During the siege, the Philippine secretaries of defense and foreign affairs, along with the country's top military brass, gathered in a crisis room at the military headquarters in the capital to communicate with the Filipino forces and help guide them out of danger. The Syrian and Israeli governments, along with the United States and Qatar, provided support, the Philippine military said without elaborating.

The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, whose mission is to monitor a 1974 disengagement in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria,

Looking beyond the local dynamics of these actions, I think this scenario is illustrative of the importance of state governments in maintaining the international order. It was state governments that agreed to a peace, and an international organization that agreed to monitor it, while states agreed to provide forces to implement the agreement.

When state governments are removed by other states and the territories left ungoverned by a recognized state, or a state falls due to rebellion, this results in a dangerous loss of control and limits the ability of other states to reach a negotiated peace agreement, or any agreement, until a recognized state power is established, resulting in protracted conflicts that are seldom in anyone's best interest, especially the people directly effected in the conflict zone. Established and recognized governments should mean more than we like those guys, and that they're considered legitimate with at least some of those governed. The state must have the means to enforce the law within and agreements between states. It sounds like victory to call the post conflict Libya a state with a recognized government, but it was a government in name only. It didn't have sufficient power to control its population and enforce the law. It didn't and still doesn't have the means to control it borders, and the list goes on. What do we imagine Syria will look like if the Assad government falls? A free for all for power, power that will only be able to be established through what the West would deem excessive force? This contributes to regional security, economic development, and human rights in what way?

It is interesting to note that apparently the governments of Syria and Israel cooperated in helping the Filipino peace keepers escape from the rebels. Both Syria and Israel (as states) valued the UN supported settlement enough to see it as a common interest worth protecting, so they cooperated. They're still enemies, but rational enemies. They both had a voice with the UN as state actors enabling an adult conversation that led to tangible action. Non-state actors can behave rationally also, but they like states first need to exert authority and control to the extent needed over their constituents to be able to enforce an agreement.

If stability is in our national interest, we may want to think twice about pushing our democracy crusade onto other states that are not ready for a transition for democracy. Instead, if we insist on crusading, an alternative approach would be to help states slowly prepare their societies for a new form of governance (democracy). Obviously such an approach would be seen as an act of war by what we call rogue states, so creative approaches emphasizing information power in the DIME would have to be the main effort. I really don't think the majority of the world's population desire to live in a stateless world if they actually think through the repercussions not just to their personal interests, but to the interest of humanity writ large.

09-12-2014, 06:52 PM
If stability is in our national interest, we may want to think twice about pushing our democracy crusade onto other states that are not ready for a transition for democracy.

I agree with this to an extent, but aren't there a range of policies short of "pushing our democracy crusade onto other states"? Yes - states are frequently a source of stability. But they're also frequently a source of instability, and it's not always due to lack of governance or weak institutions. Sometimes it's due to the internal construction and dynamics of the state in question - how it makes policy, who makes policy, and so on. For example, there's a relationship between the method of U.S. elections and the frequency of government shutdowns due to lack of funds. That simply does not happen in some other legislative systems. Regime type and design are relevant to policy preferences and outcomes. Now I think it's a major leap to go from acknowledging that states need reform to pre-empt instability to the U.S. should actively promote it's version of democracy through force of arms.

So - yes - I think the U.S. needs to be pro-active in encouraging and facilitating reform. And yes, I also think the U.S. needs to be careful and deliberate in that process. No more "Operation [Axis of Evil State Name] Liberation" - well, unless there's a good case to be made for it.

09-15-2014, 09:42 PM
Today the UN announced that UNDOF would withdraw to the Israeli side of the disengagement zone, due to the activities of the Syrian regime forces and the rebels (mainly the Al-Nusra Front). Short UN report:http://untribune.com/al-nusra-placed-explosives-undof-site-stole-vehicles-uniforms/

A far longer UN Secretary-General fifteen page report:https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B4XISuoPj6voaUgwRzhpY1RGTkk/edit?pli=1

Keeping the peace through deploying an observation mission, with a seperation zone and more between Israel and for a long time its only 'hardline' nation state enemy Syria was seen as essential. UNDOF have been in position since 1974, although stability meant boredom became a problem - even if forty-four soldiers died in forty years (accidents etc -v- hostile action?). More details:http://www.un.org/en/peacekeeping/missions/undof/

What is curious is that the three main players, Israel, Syrian state and Syrain rebels appear to prefer the UN's role is reduced. One reason is that the UN notice and report the dialogue between the IDF and the rebels, with casualities being treated in Israel and then returned.

The IDF and Syrian regime forces have occassionally exchanged gunfire. There is little sign of a dialogue there.

Watch and wait now.

09-16-2014, 07:06 PM
This article finds that Israel knows there is a danger one day:http://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/new-reality-for-israelis-on-golan-heights-islamists-now-control-the-other-side-1.303305#.VBhhiq_sND4.twitter

09-19-2014, 01:51 PM
Actually, Israel has the opportunity to win the hearts of all Syrians (http://www.timesofisrael.com/west-refusing-free-syrian-army-plea-for-anti-aircraft-weapons/#ixzz3DZDBjCq3)...

...Israel stands to lose the popular support it gained among the Syrian population of the Golan Heights because it has been allowing Assad regime aircraft to bomb opposition-held villages near the border in recent days, a Free Syrian Army commander told The Times of Israel on Tuesday, voicing dismay at the West’s reluctance to provide the moderate opposition with basic means of self-defense.

In recent days President Bashar Assad’s Syrian Army has intensified its airstrikes against villages along the Israeli border, captured by the opposition over the past few weeks. According to the London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, on Tuesday regime aircraft bombarded Syrian villages in the northern and central Golan Heights, including Ovania, Jubata al-Khashab, Turnejeh, Bir Ajam, Masharah and al-Breiqa.

Some of those villages are located within the buffer zone along the border with Israel, where no Syrian military presence is allowed under the Agreement on Disengagement between Israel and Syria of May 1974, signed following the Yom Kippur War. Syrian oppositionists in the area have said that Israel’s reluctance to enforce the agreement against the regime’s army is tantamount to collaborating with Assad against the opposition.

... and is doing its best to miss that opportunity.

But then, why make peace, when wars are so much more profitable (for Israel)?

11-28-2014, 11:12 AM
A senior IDF officer serving on the Golan Heights told correspondents that the with the exception of Mt. Hermon, 95% of the border between Israel and Syria was controlled by various rebel groups. The dominant group is the Al-Nusra Front, which conquered the region of Quneitra two months ago (Haaretz.co.il, September 22, 2014).

Footnote 4 in a wider ICT paper on ISIS:http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/Data/articles/Art_20733/E_101_14_163836165.pdf

12-17-2014, 11:12 PM
The first episode in a Vice News film report on the strange relationship underway on the Golan Heights, between the IDF and armed factions in Syria:https://news.vice.com/video/the-war-next-door-part-1

I missed the numbers involved, the casualties are 90% male; awhile ago I recall pregnant women were sometimes crossing the border to give birth.

There is a written article too; within there is this statistic on the UN presence:
As of early November, only 929 troops from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, and the Netherlands remain.

12-24-2014, 06:25 PM
A longer segment of VICE film, which starts around 8 minutes and of value for the rare footage of the Israeli occupied Golan Heights which starts around 29 minutes. Short exercise shown of the IDF's Bedouin trackers.


06-21-2015, 05:00 PM
As the civil war and multiple factions near Druze villages on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights, there is the possibility of a new aspect:
For its part, the Israeli government is stressing that it does not want to get involved (http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/middle_east/israel-worries-as-al-qaeda-affiliates-gain-control-of-syrian-side-of-golan-frontier/2014/09/21/8803714c-ee24-47fd-85b7-f88145eff86a_story.html) in the Syrian civil war; at the same time Israel is warning combatants on the Syria side it will not permit a massacre of Druze on the border and will aid refugees if necessary.

Note the "kith & kin" aspect:
The 170,000 Druze living in Israel, most of them citizens and including many active Israeli soldiers and veterans, warn that any day now besieged Druze towns on the Syrian side will be stormed by rebels battling to topple Bashar al-Assad.

07-21-2015, 09:50 AM
the IDF Central Command have changed their stance and refused to treat Jabhat Al-Nusra’s fighters in order to ease tensions with the Druze communities in the Golan Heights:
The change took place a month after Israeli Druze ambushed wounded Syrian rebels being transported in IDF ambulances, killing one of the men. Five members of the Druze community were later arrested on suspicion of murder.

also: http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/1.666961?

08-03-2016, 08:10 PM
Is Israel setting up a kind of quasi-safe zone inside of Syria? '
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/08/02/how-israel-plays-syria-s-civil-war.html?via=desktop&source=twitter …

SWJ Blog
01-07-2018, 01:20 PM
Meet the Neighbours: ISIS on Israel’s Doorstep (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/meet-the-neighbours-isis-on-israel%E2%80%99s-doorstep)

Entry Excerpt:

Read the full post (http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/meet-the-neighbours-isis-on-israel%E2%80%99s-doorstep) and make any comments at the SWJ Blog (http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog).
This forum is a feed only and is closed to user comments.

01-07-2018, 01:57 PM
I do recall some reporting on the ISIS presence on the Golan Heights and over Xmas some local reports, with a dose of speculation, that a direct clash was coming.

So have a peek at this Journal article:http://smallwarsjournal.com/jrnl/art/meet-the-neighbours-isis-on-israel%E2%80%99s-doorstep

01-16-2018, 04:39 PM
Let's raise the ante on this game.

BEIRUT – A military bases race is underway between Russia and the U.S. as each nation seeks to expand its presence in Syria and counter asymmetric threats.
The U.S. has a military presence in several key locations, but there are two areas with heavy U.S. troop presence that are being transformed to military bases, according to a military source: The first is located in Al Tabaqah near Al Raqqa north Syria, where the U.S. special forces troops are training Kurdish groups; the other is constructed in Al-Tanf where the U.S. troops prevent Syrian and Russian armed forces from crossing.
Al Tabaqah was a Syrian military air base before revolts ended the hold. U.S. also has special operations forces along the Jordan- Iraq- Syria borders in Al Tanf, a crossing where Syrian revolt groups are trained. The U.S. military presence in Deir Ezzour and in Al Tanf have “sandwiched” this area, impairing Iran’s efforts to build the bridge connecting Iran with the Mediterranean.

By comparison, Russia has two permanent military bases in Syria – an air base in Hmeimim and a naval base in Tartous.

05-22-2018, 11:19 AM
As good a thread as any for this -


Hamas Political Bureau Member Salah Al-Bardawil said that of the 62 people killed in clashes along the Gaza border on May 14, 50 were from Hamas. Al-Bardawil, speaking on May 16 on Baladna TV, which broadcasts from Gaza, stressed that this was the official figure.

Interviewer: "Many people are saying that the children... I'm telling you what people are saying. It's not that I believe this. People are saying that children are dying and that Hamas is reaping the fruits."

Salah Al-Bardawil: "In the last round, there were 62 martyrs."

Interviewer: "Right."

Salah Al-Bardawil: "50 of the martyrs were from Hamas, and the other 12 were regular people. So how can anyone claim that Hamas is reaping the fruits, when it paid such a steep price? What did Hamas gain? 50 martyrs..."