Hurricane Syria continues to expand

And is threatening not just Lebanon, but Turkey and now Israel as well:

Syria pulled both Turkey and Israel closer to military entanglements in its civil war on Monday, bombing a rebel-held Syrian village a few yards from the Turkish border in a deadly aerial assault and provoking Israeli tank commanders in the disputed Golan Heights into blasting mobile Syrian artillery units across their own armistice line.

he escalations, which threatened once again to draw in two of Syria’s most powerful neighbors, came hours after the fractious Syrian opposition announced a broad new unity pact that elicited praise from the big foreign powers backing their effort to topple President Bashar al-Assad.

“It is a big day for the Syrian opposition,” wrote Joshua Landis, an expert on Syrian political history and the author of the widely followed Syria Comment blog. Mr. Landis, director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma, wrote that the “Assad regime must be worried, as it has survived for 42 years thanks to Syria’s fragmentation.”

There has been speculation that Mr. Assad, feeling increasingly threatened, may deliberately seek to widen the conflict that has consumed much of his own country for the past 20 months and left roughly 40,000 people dead. Although there is no indication that Mr. Assad has decided to try to lure Israel into the fight, any Israeli involvement could rally his failing support and frustrate the efforts of his Arab adversaries.

The attack on the Turkish border, by what Syrian witnesses identified as a Syrian MIG-25 warplane, demolished at least 15 buildings and killed at least 20 people in the town of Ras al-Ain, the scene of heavy fighting for days and an impromptu crossing point for thousands of Syrian refugees clambering for safety into Turkey.

At this point, I’d be most worried about Israel and Lebanon. Turkey may be upset but is unlikely to do something disproportionately aggressive without some semblance of international acquiescence (or, at least, ambivalence). Bibi Netanyahu’s Israel, on the other hand, is in a hostile and unpredictable mood (as it has been since he took office in 2009), especially now that the extremely hawkish Yisrael Beiteinu-Likud connection has been solidified into an actual coalition. And Lebanon continues to fulfill its role as a propane gas tank just waiting to burst into flames.

The ingredients for massive chaos to boil over are all there. Now all it might take is a little something extra to turn up the heat.


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