Israel and the Syrian Civil War

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Iakovos Alhadeff


Many people believe that the current civil war in Syria benefits Israel since it weakens a traditional enemy of the Jewish state. That would only be correct only if the Syrian civil war as an independent event, an independent war so to speak. However this is not an independent war, but instead it is only one episode between Sunni and Shiite Muslims that take place in various places in the Middle East.

 The main but not the only reason for this Sunni-Shiite slaughter is the routes that the Persian Gulf natural gas and oil will follow in order to reach Europe and other markets. Even though I discuss this issue on my essay “The Energy War Between U.S.A. and Russia and the Threat for Israel’s Survival”, I will say a few words in order to make this essay autonomous.

 The fight for the Sunni-Shiite Pipeline Networks

 Sunnis and Shiites are different branches of Islam. I do not know the differences, and I do not want to know them. I believe that behind every religious war there is an economic war. Today the war might be for oil while yesterday maybe it was for water or a fertile piece of land. But behind every religious war there ought to be an economic war. People are not that stupid to kill themselves for religion. At the following map you can see the Middle East region.

Best Qatar Map


Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon are controlled by Shiite Muslims, or at least they were controlled by Shiites before the war with ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and Levant). Shiites constitute the majority of the population in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, and they are a minority in Syria, but Assad, the Syrian dictator, is an Alewite i.e. a branch of Shiite Islam, and therefore Syria is controlled by Shiites too. You can read at the first lines of the following Wikipedia link that Alewites are a branch of Shiite Islam. 

Saudi Arabia, Qatar, United Arab Emirates and Jordan are controlled by Sunni Muslims. Between the Shiite Iran and Sunni Qatar there is the largest natural gas field in the world, namely South Pars. But Sunni and Shiite countries have many other energy sources too, since the Persian Gulf holds most of the global energy resources. As you can see at the following Wikipedia link, the Persian Gulf holds 2/3 of the world’s oil and 35% of the world’s natural gas reserves. 

Both the Shiites and the Sunnis want to build their own pipeline networks in order to market their energy. The Shiites want to use the route Iran-Iraq-Syria-Lebanon-Europe, and the Sunnis the route Qatar-Saudi Arabia-Iraq-Syria-Turkey-Europe.

As you can see on the map, these two routes are incompatible, because if the Shiites control Iraq and Syria, the Qatar Turkey pipeline cannot reach Turkey since Syria and Iraq is blocking the pipeline. If on the other hand the Sunnis control Syria and Iraq, the Iran-Lebanon Shiite pipeline cannot reach Lebanon, since the Sunni controlled Iraq, Syria and Turkey will block it.

 You can therefore see that the geopolitics of the region is a bit complicated, and the energy sources of the region are very valuable. The Americans are on the Sunnis’ side and the Russians on the Shiites’ side. The Americans are hoping that if the Sunni natural gas pipeline reaches Europe, Russia’s geopolitical influence in Europe will be decreased. At the moment Russia provides about 30% of Europe’s oil and natural gas. 

The Russians on the other hand are on the Shiites’ side, since the Shiite pipeline will block the Sunni pipeline, and the Shiite pipeline will not be very competitive to Russia’s current networks. After all it will not reach Europe directly but only through the Mediterranean Sea, and it will also end up at Russia’s backyard, because Syria is Russia’s backyard. Russia has a naval base in Syria, at Tartus, and moreover Assad has signed an agreement with Russia in order for Russia to exploit the large Syrian natural gas fields in the Mediterranean Sea. Therefore to examine what is the best outcome for Israel in terms of the Syrian conflict one must examine it in the context of the whole Sunni-Shiite conflict. 

For the Iran-Syria pipeline see the following Wikipedia link. 

For the Qatar – Turkey pipeline see the following Wikipedia link.

Syria and Israel

Let’s examine first the case of Sunni dominance in Syria and Iraq. As it can be seen on the map, a dominant Sunni block is a very scary picture for Israel.  It involves Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. Isn’t that very scary? Please note that Turkey is no longer the Israel ally it used to be. Turkey has taken the role played in the past by the Egyptian President Nasser, which is to be the coordinator of Muslim aggression towards Israel. I say more about the Turkish-Israeli conflict in my essay “The Causes Behind the Conflict Between Turkey and Israel”.

Best Qatar Map


Therefore all those who believe that the Syrian civil war is good for Israel should reconsider it. The only benefit of a Sunni Syria, under a regime of the Muslim Brotherhood or a similar organization for Israel, would be that Iran would find it harder to support the Lebanese Shiite terrorist organization Hezbollah, since Assad is normally the intermediary. But is this a significant benefit? Making it a bit harder for Iranians Shiites to supply Hezbollah with ammunition, while taking the risk of seeing Turkey and Syria, two traditional enemies, building a Sunni coalition against Israel? It does not seem to be very tempting. 

What is indeed good for Israel in the Sunni side is the disagreement among Sunni members on the subject of the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas, which is its subsidiary in Gaza. Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates are against the Brotherhood and Hamas, since they believe they pose existential threats to them, while Qatar and Turkey are strongly pro-Brotherhood. That’s the reason Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and United Arab Emirates blamed Hamas for the Gaza crisis of the summer of 2014. Not because they are pro Israel, but because they are anti-Hamas and it would be convenient for them if Israel was to execute Hamas. If this disagreement was bridged things would become much tougher for the Israelis. That’s all I can say for the Sunni block. It does not seem very promising for Israel to say the least. 

If the Shiites were to hold their positions against the Sunnis, it would be harder for a unified block to be formed against Israel. Even though this difficulty was bypassed in the case of Hamas, since Hamas was supported both by Sunni Qatar and Shiite Iran. Therefore even though I do not really know what is better for the Israelis, it seems naïve to assume that a regime change in Syria that would bring the Brotherhood in power would be a good thing for Israel. I do not think that the Israelis would exchange Assad, their old foe, for some extremist Sunnis. What is of vital importance for the Israelis is that Egypt does not fall in the hands of the Brotherhood, and that it continues to oppose them together with the Saudis, in order to be at the opposite side of the Qatar-Turkey camp. 

And one should not be confused by potential Israeli attacks on Assad. Assad is the intermediary between Iran and Hezbollah in Lebanon, he is a traditional enemy for Israel, and Israel has every motive to destroy weapons that can be used against it, either from Assad or from a potential new enemy that can follow him.

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