The US has recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, causing a broad reaction in the world. The UN confirmed that these territories are still considered Syrian, and their status is determined by the relevant Security Council resolutions. Russia, the Arab and European countries condemned Washington for this move. Inforos discussed the situation with lecturer in political science and international relations at the University of Damascus Ashwaq Abbas.
Inforos: What do you think are the reasons why it is now that the US recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights?
Ashwaq Abbas: The main reason lies in Israel's upcoming parliamentary elections. Donald Trump obviously wants Benjamin Netanyahu to remain at post. After all, Washington is preparing the so-called "deal of the century" (on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict settlement - Inforos). And apparently, the Americans believe that the current Israeli Prime Minister should endorse the relevant documents. Thus, the American President's decision is aimed at helping Benjamin Netanyahu's standing. This is sort of moral support, because it will turn out that the current Cabinet head has proven able to achieve what none of his predecessors could. For Donald Trump himself, this is also an attempt to attract voters, since the next presidential election in the US is just a little ways down the road. Another goal is an attempt to put pressure on Syria and its main ally, Russia. By recognizing the Golan Heights, Washington is trying to drag Damascus into a new crisis, put pressure on the Syrian people and place Moscow in a predicament at the same time.
Inforos: Syria called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council. What other options does Damascus have to address the Golan Heights issue?
Ashwaq Abbas: Syria did this to discuss the US administration's totally unreasonable decision. After all, it is known that all UN Security Council resolutions directly indicate that the Golan Heights are the Israeli-occupied Syrian territory. And therefore, Donald Trump's decision gives Tel Aviv something that it is not empowered to possess. Damascus, in turn, uses the principles of international law and insists on observing the UN Security Council resolutions. And Donald Trump's administration seems to have not figured out in advance that it may face such a response from the international community which we can see now. And Syria and the Syrian people have the right to get all their territories back and exercise this right to the full extent.
Inforos: Truly speaking, under international law, the American decision does not change anything at all. The United Nations, Russia, the European and Arab states consider the Golan Heights Syrian territory occupied by Israel. But what challenges can Syria and the entire region face following an American move like this? How will the decision affect the course of the Syrian crisis?
Ashwaq Abbas: Indeed, Donald Trump's decision does not change anything in legal terms. Fundamentally, it has been a statement by the silly President doling out foreign lands. The Golan Heights is an occupied Syrian territory, and the Syrian people has every right to resist until it liberates from the Israeli occupation. At the same time, this decision is putting serious pressure on Syria, aside from increased sanctions pressure coming from the United States. Thus, along with economic measures, the Americans also take psychological ones. This can be regarded as a real siege in a sense. The truth, however, is that none of this is likely to affect the people of Syria. They are showing resilience instead, including the fair settlement to the Golan Heights issue. And as I noted before, Syria has the right to resist in order to put an end to the presence of the occupying forces in its territory.
Inforos: After the US recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, there was a massive public outcry across the world, in the media. But time had passed, and this issue began to gradually subside. Is it possible that the Golan Heights have a similar fate?
Ashwaq Abbas: To be honest, I do not see any problem in whether the Golan Heights matter does or does not cause a media hype. There are regional and international players who condemn Donald Trump's actions. Others – including some Arab countries – fully indulge the United States. But we care neither about the media nor whether the Arabs support Washington's decision or not. We are certainly grateful to those expressing solidarity with us. But in any case, we rely upon our own people, not the foreign players. We Syrians primarily turn ourselves in. And it is up to us, not anyone else, to win, to find solutions to crises and to solve our own problems.