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A diversionary war between Iran and Israel

An increasingly harsh confrontation between two Middle East powers is going on in Syria right now.

Syrian state television has informed about a “new aggression”. On the night of April 29, there was an air raid carried out by the unidentified planes. Fire lit up the night. The military facilities near Hama and Aleppo were the targets. Until now, it has not been determined who was responsible for the attack. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights in London, 26 people were killed, mostly Iranian citizens.

 

In recent months, Syrian military assets have been the target of numerous attacks, some attempts have been foiled. The most famous attack was carried out on April 14, when the United States, Great Britain and France launched a missile attack on military bases in Syria.

Almost two weeks ago, the Syrian anti-aircraft defence was put on full alert. Unidentified airplanes were to carry out attacks near Homs and near the capital city of Damascus. Eventually the alarm turned out to be false. On February 10, an Israeli F-16 was shot down during an air raid on the Syrian government’s positions. On April 8, the T4 airbase near Homs was bombed. Seven Iranian soldiers were killed. It has been the first attack directly aimed at Iranian forces since the start of the Syrian war. Iran, Syria and Russia accused Israel of the attack.

The power of Iran

After the attack on the T4 base Iranian Brigadier general Hossein Salami, currently the second in command of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, stated that Israel is within the range of Iranian missiles, it is surrounded, and it cannot hide anywhere.

Iran has strengthened its position in the region during the crisis in Iraq caused by the US invasion in 2003, and during the war in Syria that has been going on for seven years. It has been consistently building the Shia Crescent, stretching from the Iraqi-Iranian border through Syria to the Mediterranean Sea. Such project gives Iran political, economic and military benefits. Since 2003, the Shia majority living in Iraq have gained more and more power there. The pivotal moment was the beginning of the ISIS war in 2014. At that time, the Popular Mobilization Forces were created, which to a lesser extent were also involved in the Syrian war.

The conflict in Syria gave the Lebanese Hezbollah an opportunity to do some training in real military conditions. The number of its members, together with the Popular Mobilization Forces and other non-Syrian organizations, is estimated at 20.000 – 25.000 people. In 2012, just after the outburst of war, the regime formed the National Defence Forces. They were to be trained under the supervision of the Iranian special units – Quds Force. The National Defence Forces have about 50.000 to 100.000 members. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has gained a lot of experience in Syria and Iraq.

Israel’s concerns

Further strengthening and the consolidation of these military forces is a threat to Israel, especially that soon it may be left alone. Although President Donald Trump postponed the time when American troops would leave Syria, it will probably happen sooner than later. It is a poor consolation for Israel that Trump’s administration suggests breaking the agreement with Iran.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned about Iran’s growing influence in the region during his visit to London last year. He underlined, that Iran replaced ISIS. – “They want to move air bases so that their warplanes will be within seconds of flight from Israel. They want to place Shia divisions even closer.

On April 27, the Israeli Minister of Defence, Avigdor Lieberman, was more explicit during a meeting with the United States Secretary of Defence James Mattis. Lieberman said that “there are three key problems: Iran, Iran and Iran.”

A new war?

Israeli authorities were to inform Russia and the United States that if an Iranian army attacks Israel, the Israeli army will hit back all Iranian bases in Syria.

The growing number of incidents and the uncertainty of the formed alliances make the military confrontation more probable or even unavoidable in the future both for the Israeli and Iranian authorities.

Former head of the IDF Military Intelligence Directorate, Amos Yadlin, currently director of Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, claims that May 2018 is the most dangerous month since May 1967. In June 1967 a Six-Day War started. The main threat is a potential war with Iran and its allies. As analyst Ben Caspit writes in Al-Monitor, “For the first time in ages, both sides are uncertain whether they want to avoid confrontation at any price.”

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