The Daily Star Lebanon – 21 Jan 2015 – In the wake of this weekend’s Israeli strike in the Golan Heights, which killed Hezbollah operatives and an Iranian general, Sunday’s comments by Syria’s information minister are particularly illuminating. Omran Zoubi said the “cost of maintaining regional security is much lower than that of a huge deterioration that develops in a negative way,” which can be read as an appeal for the Israelis to avoid taking things further. In contrast, officials from Hezbollah and Iran have spoken openly about retaliation, something that Syria used to threaten after Israeli strikes in the past.This demonstrates that the Syrian regime exists on paper, but when it comes to matters of national sovereignty, allows Iran and Hezbollah to call the shots. The Syrian government continues to function, but spends much of its time pursuing its bizarre line of rhetoric – such as, the country is in the grips of an international conspiracy, while efforts are being made to promote tourism.
The jihadi ISIS and the Nusra Front, and rebel groups of all stripes control most of the country, while a U.S.-led coalition launches airstrikes at will, with the grudging support of Syria’s closest allies. Meanwhile, Syrian authorities allow Iran and Hezbollah to take the lead on virtually all battlefronts – in and around Damascus, in Aleppo, and elsewhere, including the Golan Heights, long a symbol for the regime’s rhetoric of “defying” Israel.All of the talk about Syrian national institutions has been shown to be a lot of hot air, as many regime supporters complain at length about real control being wielded by corrupt politicians and black marketeers, non-Syrian armed groups and foreign powers. The Syrian authorities, meanwhile, have only one function: to let the entire country be destroyed, as long as the regime of President Bashar Assad is allowed to survive. A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 22, 2015, on page 7.