The escalation in the conflict between Israel and Iran in the skies over Syria in the past 24 hours has brought their secret war of the last two years well and truly into the open.
On Sunday, Israel carried out a rare daylight series of airstrikes in the Damascus area, followed by an Iranian attempt to fire a mid-range missile toward northern Israel. Overnight Monday, at 1 A.M., Israel not only launched a second, much wider series of attacks against Iranian targets in Syria, but for the first time announced in real time that they were taking place.
Israel and Iran are now engaged in direct and open conflict in Syria – which is perhaps not so surprising, considering how the events of the last eight years since Syria was plunged into civil war have led to this moment.
What is remarkable is how this latest development is happening without either of the world powers – the United States and Russia – trying to exert any significant influence on the outcome.
In recent years, geopolitical analysts have talked about the world and the Middle East transitioning from an international system where the United States was the only superpower to a more “multipolar” balance. What is happening in Syria now is a nonpolar situation. Neither side, Israel or Iran, seems to want to go all the way to all-out war, but without any restraining hand that could well happen.
Russia pretends to have plans for Syria’s future, but doesn’t seem to be doing much to implement them. The United States, meanwhile, doesn’t even pretend. It is now well into its second White House administration that quite clearly does not consider Syria and the surrounding region important enough for any meaningful U.S. intervention. [Continue reading…]