The Golan Heights: Are They Gone From Syria for Good?

The Golan Heights: Are They Gone From Syria For Good?
Trump’s recognition of Israel’s Golan Heights annexation reminded the world about the so-called “facts on the ground” and made many wonder whether the territory is gone from Syria for good.

This strategic region was seized from the Arab Republic during the 1967 war and was unilaterally annexed by Israel in 1981, though Trump's move marks the first time that any nation has endorsed that action and was a reversal from the US' own long-standing position on the issue. The Trump Administration defended its decision as belatedly recognizing the incontrovertible "facts on the ground" there, though observers warn that it risks encouraging an uncontrollable chain reaction of other international legal violations whereby rival states might try to once again resolve their territorial disputes by force in order to establish the same "facts on the ground" that might earn them American recognition for their conquests.

The timing of this decision is also thought to provide a boost to embattled Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ahead of heated early elections next month, therefore possibly making it an attempt to "hack the vote" by shaping the international environment in such a way as to support the incumbent. Other observers speculate that this is part of Trump's so-called "Deal of the Century" that he plans to unveil after the upcoming Israeli polls in an attempt to geopolitically reshape the Mideast to America's favor, and still others wonder whether the US will make Syrian recognition of this fait accompli a prerequisite for unlocking American reconstruction aid after the war pending a political solution to the conflict. Whatever the true motivations may be, this action isn't going unchallenged by the international community, which sharply condemned the move in unison because of how flagrantly it violates the UNSC's own ruling on the matter.

Syria, as could be expected, is the country most vocally opposed to this move and vowed to liberate its legitimate territory from Israeli occupation. Even so, it has yet to do this after over half a century and doesn't appear to be in any shape to do it anytime soon after the destruction that the ongoing war wrought to its armed forces. Furthermore, Russian forces currently control the border between Syria and Israel and Ministry of Defense spokesman Igor Konashenkov publicly acknowledged in September of last year that his country secured the withdrawal of Iranian forces 140 kilometers from the frontier at the request of Tel Aviv, therefore making it even more unlikely that Syria will do good on its promise to militarily liberate the territory anytime soon. As such, Russia might possibly offer to mediate a solution to this long-running dispute between its Syrian and Israeli partners in order to put an end to it once and for all. 

Andrew Korybko is joined by Steven Sahiounie, Syrian-American journalist and Casey Washer, who has a bachelor in Russian from OSU, and teaches Israeli history and Hebrew at a Jewish private school in Ohio.

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