As I wrote last week, Israel opened high level communications with Russia once they became aware of Iran’s growing military presence in Syria. Iran was establishing a staging point from which to attack Israel. The Israelis wanted Russia’s help to stem Iran’s ambition. Meanwhile, Russia had positioned itself as an arbiter between the Western Allies and Syria’s Assad, promising to not only curb the use of his chemical weapons; but have them destroyed.
So, how did that all turn out?
In short, both Israel and the Western Allies were played by Putin. He began to partner with Iran to further his own ambitions and those of Assad. The Russians and Iranians shared intelligence, patrolled together and fought those who were warring against the Assad regime.
With neither our country nor Russia willing to stem Iran’s ever growing military presence in Syria on the Israeli border; Israel found itself to be quite alone. An estimated 150,000 rockets are being prepared by the Iranians to be used against Israel. What will the western world do if war breaks out? The very real possibility of a multi-national war in the Middle East, stemming from the conflict in Syria, has been raised.
Thomas Friedman wrote, “Ever since the Iranian Islamic Revolution in 1979, Iran and Israel have been fighting each other in the shadows — through proxies, assassination squads and cyber-virus attacks, but never as rival armies meeting on the field of battle. That may be about to change, and if it does, it will have vast implications for Syria, Lebanon and the whole Middle East.”
I contend that the implications will be more far-reaching than that.
What has happened so far: On February 10th an Iranian drone was launched from the T4 air base in Syria. It breached Israeli airspace. Israeli Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis, said, “The flight path and Israel’s analysis of the drone indicated that the aircraft was carrying explosives and that its mission was an act of sabotage in Israeli territory.” Israel shot it down.
On April 9, Israeli jets launched a retaliatory missile strike on that drone’s home base as well as a number of anti-aircraft batteries. For the first time, Israel directly targeted an Iranian facility. Seven Iranian soldiers were killed including the man who led the drone unit responsible for the breach of Israeli airspace.
Iran has vowed to take revenge. Israeli officials replied that “if the Iranians strike, Israel may use the opportunity to mount a massive counterstrike on Iran’s entire military infrastructure in Syria.”
Israel is not fooling around. To emphasis their intent, maps of five Iranian controlled bases in Syria were distributed to the media for publication. The message from Israel to Iran was crystal clear. “We know where you are and we will come for you if you provoke us further.”
Just this week Bebe Netanyahu put on quite a show offering what he said was “proof that the Iran nuclear deal has already been breached” and urged President Trump to pull out of it. Some are saying Bebe was speaking to an audience of one, Donald Trump. I think his message was also intended for Iran.
The sheer volume of Iranian secret materials, 100,000 original Iranian documents on display collected covertly by Israeli operatives, was mind boggling. Could Iran miss the message Bebe was sending? “If we can get all of this without your knowledge, best not to mess with us!”
Israelis are nervous. The Iranian people are nervous. Should Iran and Israel come to significant blows, all of the power players that have troops in Syria: Russia, Iran, Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom, France — all could be drawn into war.
Could any of us have known the far-reaching dangers hidden within a civil war in Syria? Sadly, the suffering of the Syrian people has become a mere pawn in the power plays of the mighty.