Sputnik – The downing of an Israeli jet which conducted missions in Syria has become a game-changer in the Syrian-Israeli standoff, RIA Novosti contributor Gevorg Mirzayan writes. According to the scholar, Tel Aviv needs to reconsider its Syria-policy and choose diplomatic means instead of the use of force to reach its objectives.
The downing of an Israeli F-16 in Syria on February 10 left Tel Aviv facing a new dilemma on whether to change its foreign policy toward Damascus, Gevorg Mirzayan, an associate professor at the Department of Political Science at the Finance University of the Russian Government, writes in his op-ed for RIA Novosti.
The academic underscored that Tel Aviv is seeking to diminish Iran’s influence in Syria; however, it appears that the use of force is not the most effective option to accomplish this goal.
On February 10 the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) reported that they downed an Iranian drone over the disputed area of the Golan Heights. After that the Israeli aircraft attacked the command post on the territory of Syria which was used to operate the supposed Iranian unmanned aerial vehicle. In response, Syria’s air defenses struck back at Israeli aircraft and downed an F-16 jet. It was reported that the two pilots managed to bail out of the plane.
“In fact, Israel contained Iran in Syria only by regularly striking at Iranian and pro-Iranian forces (for instance, Hezbollah) in areas close to the Golan Heights, as well as at facilities where high-tech weapons are located. The strategy was ineffective, because the Iranians continued to strengthen their presence in Syria, including in the Golan, where the Syrian [Arab] Army liberates the territories controlled by the militants with the assistance of Iran,” Mirzayan wrote.
However, after February 10 there are virtually no guarantees that Israel’s aircraft will be able to violate Syrian airspace with impunity, the scholar remarked.
According to the Jerusalem Post, the IDF have deployed anti-missile systems on the Israeli-Syrian border following the downing of the F-16 fighter.
Earlier, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that Tel Aviv would continue to retaliate in case of Syrian-Iranian attacks.
“Yesterday, we conducted powerful blows on Iranian and Syrian forces. We have clearly demonstrated that our policies have not changed even a bit. We will continue striking in response to every effort to hit us. This has been our policy, and it will be like that [in the future],” Netanyahu said.
According to Mirzayan, actually Israel has neither military nor legal instruments to effectively thwart Iran’s influence in Syria.
On the other hand, during the recent incident it was Israel who had violated Syrian airspace, as the occupied Golan Heights formally belong to Syria, the scholar noted.
“As for the Israeli plane, it violated airspace with aggressive objectives, after which it was completely legally struck by local [Syrian] air defense systems,” he wrote.
At the same time, the EU is seemingly displeased with Washington, Tel Aviv and Riyadh’s efforts to exert further pressure on Tehran, including the Trump administration’s attempts to undermine the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal, Mirzayan remarked.
According to the academic, under these circumstances Tel Aviv has a few options to deal with the reality on the ground. One of them is to reconcile itself with the Iranian presence in Syria.
“All that Israel can do is to ensure that Tehran is not the dominant, but just one of forces present in Syria,” Mirzayan emphasized, suggesting that to achieve this goal Israel has to negotiate with Moscow.
The scholar stressed that Moscow and Tel Aviv maintain good working relations which allow the two countries to effectively solve both political and military issues in the region.
“Given this [mutual] trust, the Israelis can negotiate certain conditions and restrictions for the Iranian military facilities in the future post-war Syria through Moscow and under Russian guarantees,” Mirzayan suggested. “Moreover, Netanyahu can influence Trump to stop the Americans from sabotaging the Syrian peace process.”
Additionally, the US and other Western countries could reach common ground with Damascus on protection of their interests in Syria, including those concerning Iran, the academic opined, adding that the question remains open as to whether the parties concerned are ready to join each other at the negotiating table.
The views and opinions expressed by Gevorg Mirzayan are those of the analyst and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.