No more a shadow war: Confrontation between Israel and Iran intensifies

In the coming days, preparedness in the north of Israel is likely to be particularly high, given the possibility of retaliatory action from Syria and the chance of a US strike on Syria.

By TAL LEV RAM/MAARIV
April 10, 2018 09:30
3 minute read.

Syria claims U.S. launched missile strike on air base; Pentagon denies it, April 9, 2018 (Reuters)

Syria claims U.S. launched missile strike on air base; Pentagon denies it, April 9, 2018 (Reuters)

Israel does not acknowledge or confirm the attack in Syria at the T4 base near the city of Homs. At the same time, it seems that the US and Russia have completely shattered Israel's ability to deny the action. While the public debate and the struggle for national interests and prestige are increasingly heated between Trump and Putin, they may also have implications for Israel's security.

Russian dominance in the Middle East during the presidencies of Obama and Trump, and especially Moscow's involvement and control in Syria, radically influences Israel's security interests. Between the close alliance with the United States and the joint coordination mechanism with the Russians, Israel needs to find a very delicate balance with the superpowers, who yesterday, as it seems, chose to use Israel as a pawn to convey messages to one another. In the end, it came down to the Americans being happy to let the Russians know through the media that they, in fact, were informed by the Israelis ahead of the attack.

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As for the target of the attack, it appears that it was an Iranian drone base. This is supported by reports from Syria and information from the previous Israeli attack on the exact same base against an Iranian command center after the interception of a drone that penetrated Israel. If Israel is indeed behind the attack, it can be assumed that the possibility that the Russians would be angry at the attack and the finger would be pointed at Israel were taken into account right from the beginning, out of fear of a response from the Syrian side. Despite the timing, right after the chemical weapon attack by the Assad regime in the city of Douma, this is not an act of reprisal, and it can be assumed that the strike had a different operational objective.

But it can not be ignored that, at least in terms of legitimizing it internationally, an attack on Syria the day after the chemical attack is not perceived as an aggression. It is quite possible that the timing of the strike was influenced by the circumstances and perhaps the decision-making process to carry out the attack was accelerated by it.

Beyond the confrontation between Russia and the United States, the main story in the northern arena is the direct confrontation between Israel and Iran on Syrian soil. There is no more shadow war or contest through agents. The confrontation between Israel and Iran, it seems, is turning into a limited direct military confrontation. It is impossible to ignore the fact that within two months, in at least two known incidents, Iranian fighters and officers were killed by an action attributed to the Israeli Air Force. It seems that in light of the continued Iranian consolidation in Syria, Israel has decided to remove the gloves.
Trump condemns Syria chemical attack, vows quick action, April 9, 2018 (Reuters) 

After the day of battle two months ago, when the Iranian UAV was intercepted and an Israeli fighter plane was shot down, quite a few things happened underneath the surface, despite the apparent media silence.

First, a large amount of effort was invested into national news and foreign publications dealing with the essence of Iranian activity in Syria. The Israeli fingerprint on these publications was clear. When it became apparent that despite Israeli messages the Iranians were determined to continue their program as if nothing had happened, and they continued to cross red lines defined by Israel, reports that the air force had resumed its attack on targets in Syria resurfaced. Despite this, the media remained silent and events continued to develop in absolute quiet - until yesterday.

In the coming days, preparedness in the north of Israel is likely to be particularly high, given the possibility of retaliatory action from the Syrian side, and the chance of an American strike on Syria following their use of chemical weapons.

At the same time, it has to be remembered that in less than a month, the US may withdraw from the nuclear agreement with Iran, making it irrelevant. Therefore, the time period until May 12 could have a restraining effect on the Iranians, which will somewhat delay what appears to be an increasingly likely collision course on the northern front.

Additionally, the events in the northern arena further illustrate the extent to which the Gaza Strip is a secondary front for Israel. Accordingly, the IDF is operating in the south in order to contain events there, and not to enter into a broader confrontation in the Gaza Strip.


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