U.S. Golan move jeopardizes Syria’s integration

U.S. Golan move jeopardizes Syria’s integration

United States President Donald Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seem to have a very unique and close relationship which work for both men in a win-win understanding. Trump wants to secure the support of entire Jewish lobby and its influence on the media as well as business circles in the U.S. while Netanyahu seeks to win another term in power in the looming early elections thanks to great blessings by the U.S. President.

Both men, however, don’t pay even a tiniest care to the peace and security of the region.  Trump’s reckless and irresponsible decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in late 2017 had caused the lives of dozens of innocent Palestinians and had planted new seeds of hatred and enmity between the two communities.

This trend of Trump continued with the recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, a piece of land under the occupation of the Israeli army since 1967. Almost the whole world and international organizations have condemned Trump’s decision and announced that they will stick to relevant UN resolutions on Golan Heights.

There are so many dimensions of this decision one can look into: the impact of the constant violations of the international law by the world’s superpower; the reflection on other major territorial disputes –Nagorno-Karabakh, Crimea, Abkhazia and South Ossetia etc-; the danger of a new armed conflict between Syria and Israel on the Golan; the negative impact on efforts to keep the territorial integrity of Syria. 

All these items are important and very sensitive but this column will focus on the last one, the territorial integrity of war-torn Syria.

One of the top pillars of all the actors that have been engaged in Syria has always been their adherence to the territorial integrity and the political unity of this country. This principle was cemented by the resolution 2254 of the UN Security Council which was adopted unanimously in late 2015 that reaffirmed “strong commitment to the sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity of the Syrian Arab Republic.”

Trump administration’s move, therefore, is not just a violation of laws but also a major inconsistency in regards to U.S. policies towards the future of Syria. After this decision, it will be quite difficult for Washington to convince its partners and the international community about the real motives of its continued military presence in the eastern part of this country.

Turkey will sure take the lead in further questioning the U.S. Army’s partnership with the PYD/YPG in the eastern Euphrates with concerns that this allied relationship will further consolidate the power and the influence of these groups.

Current U.S. policy is to seek a balanced formula between protecting the PYD/YPG and its control in a vast eastern Syria region and addressing Turkey’s security needs by establishing a YPG-free zone along its border. But many in Ankara remain to be concerned that U.S. protectorate will further encourage the YPG for its ambitions in the said part of Syria. Plus, this new situation will further complicate the future of Iranian military presence in Syria as there will be no much convincing factors to ask the withdrawal of Iran-backed paramilitary.

Some argue that the U.S. decision to recognize Israeli control on Golan Heights will have no direct effect on what’s happening in other parts of Syria. Even it were true, it does not change the fact that the U.S. was the first to abandon the principle of territorial integrity of Syria. If that happens today on Golan Heights who can guarantee that it won’t happen in other parts of Syria in the future?​​

Serkan Demirtaş,