For Israel, the Iranian Threat in Syria is Untenable

Tuesday, 20 Feb, 2018

War on the Rocks reports that the Afghan fighters expressed a willingness to "destroy" Syria's neighbor Israel soon after Tehran declared victory over ISIS's Syrian wing in November 2017. According to media reports, an Israeli air strike hit a research and/or production facility close to Messyaf in Hama on 7 September. On the other hand, Israel's continuing air strikes against strategic targets will result in inevitable escalation.

Iran is also a major sponsor of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Israel was telling Russian Federation that it would not stand handtied as Moscow ignored efforts by Syria and Hizbullah to expand their military might. And, since 2012, the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF), the peacekeeping mission responsible for monitoring the 1974 ceasefire line between Israeli and Syrian forces in the Golan Heights, has documented dozens of interactions between the Israeli army and Syrian insurgents.

The armed groups supported by the USA and its allies since 2011 were assembled under the banner of the Free Syrian Army. "We support its right to defend itself from the Iranian-backed Syrian and militia forces in southern Syria".

Mogherini said the European Union has been supporting the Syrian opposition to help it become more united and prepared for U.N. talks. In fact, it was the first time that an Israeli jet had been shot down in decades despite its continual combat operations.

Israel responded by striking what it called Iranian bases and claiming to have wiped out most of Syria's air defenses. As part of America's continued war-making, the Pentagon announced in December that U.S. forces would remain indefinitely in Syria, ostensibly to support anti-Assad rebel forces in areas captured from ISIS, and, of course, without the assent of the Syrian government. The Syrian state has been able to take back territory due in large part to assistance provided by its allies, particularly Russian Federation. World opinion turned against Israel for the civilians killed while bombing Hezbollah units hiding in suburban Beirut. In the 2006 war, Hezbollah gave Israel a bloody nose but Lebanon was devastated in the process.

If Israel had gone farther, the message would have become an insult, which in turn would have become a rallying point for a direct clash with Israel.

Tel Aviv will impose a new set of red lines regarding Iran's position in Syria and its efforts to increase the strategic abilities of its allies. Israel's primary interest in managing the current mind game with Iran in Syria is to minimize the threat to security interests while preventing all-out war with Hezbollah (let alone with Iran).

"It is far from clear if Iran will disband the brigade entirely, however; it may perhaps opt to preserve it in some form", notes War on the Rocks. After all, it was the Syrian army that downed the plane using Russian anti-aircraft S-200s. But Israel did demonstrate that it retains the capability to hit Syria at will.

Whereas America's goal in seeking to topple Assad was mainly to undercut Iranian and Russian influence, Turkey's motive was to expand its influence in former Ottoman lands and, more recently, to counter Kurdish ambitions for territorial autonomy, if not statehood, in Syria and Iraq.

Russia has more leverage to assure Israeli interests in Syria, and Netanyahu has held multiple discussions with Putin to ensure Israeli jets can attack when necessary in Syria without clashing with Russian forces. Turkey, a member of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, has troops occupying areas of northern Syria and is fighting the Kurds in Afrin. First, Assad's regime had backing among not only Alawites but also Syrian Christians and other minorities who feared a repressive Sunni Islamist regime.

That is too much for Israel, which sees a creeping Iranian military presence on its border. Trump tweeted a complaint about his predecessors "stupidly spending $7 trillion in the Middle East", which couldn't be reassuring for the Israelis since he said the day before that he didn't think Israel is really interested in peace with the Palestinians.

Galant, who spoke at an event in the town of Yokneam, near Haifa, vowed that Israel would "dismantle the triangle of evil - Iran, Syria and Hezbollah". There are also domestic Israeli considerations that may influence their actions.

A "furious" phone call from Putin "was enough to make Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel cancel the plans", Bergman writes. Of course, war can serve as an excellent distraction under such circumstances. The number of casualties suffered by Syria or Iranian Quds forces remains unknown.

Israel's defense minister has appeared to hint that Israel considered attacking Iran's own territory during last week's dramatic confrontation between the two regional powers along Israel's northern border.