Israel's War between the Wars

(Jewish Review of Books) Amos Yadlin and Ari Heistein - On Sep. 7, 2017, Israeli jets hit a "scientific research center" (in reality, an Iranian weapons facility) in Masyaf in northwest Syria. And so began the next phase of Israel's "campaign between the wars." Since then, Israel has continued to quietly but decisively counter Iran's entrenchment in Syria. Under the leadership of Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani, commander of its Quds Force, Iran's aim has been to equip proxies based on Israel's northern border in Syria and Lebanon, and perhaps in Gaza as well, with advanced missiles. These missiles could serve to deter attacks on Iranian nuclear sites, while a nuclear weapon would eventually give its conventional forces on Israel's borders the ability to act with impunity. Iran has sought to establish airfields and naval bases in Syria, built several precision missile plants, and imported Shia militias from other countries into Syria so that it can continue operations even after withdrawing most of its own troops. It also continues to establish a Syrian Hizbullah. With Syrian rebel forces all but vanquished, the Iran-led axis will likely have a greater appetite for escalation against Israel. It is feasible that Iranian and Hizbullah forces will seek to strike Israel from Syrian territory, eliciting a powerful Israeli response that could lead to a spiraling series of reprisals on both sides. Jerusalem clearly cannot depend on Moscow to achieve or guarantee its goal of security on the northern border. A Feb. 2019 strike at Quneitra - just 500 feet from the 1974 ceasefire line between Syria and Israel, killing both Iranian and Hizbullah operatives - shows that Russia's promise to distance hostile forces from Israel's border remains unfulfilled. Of the many threats facing Israel, Iran's effort to build major military capabilities in Syria and Lebanon ranks highest in both immediacy and magnitude. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei has made it abundantly clear that his ultimate goal is not to deter Israel but to destroy it, and his proxy forces and advanced missiles in Syria are on the front lines of those efforts. Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin was chief of Israeli military intelligence from 2006 to 2010 and is now the director of the Institute for National Security Studies in Israel. Ari Heistein is an independent security and policy consultant based in Tel Aviv.

2019-04-05 00:00:00

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