The formation of a new Iraqi Hezbollah brigade which aims to liberate the Golan Heights from Israel increases the threat posed by Iran on the northern border, Minister of Intelligence and member of Security Cabinet Israel Katz told The Jerusalem Post on Monday.
“The so called ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’ sharpens the threat posed by the presence of Iran and Hezbollah in Syria in general and on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights in particular,” he said.
“I have been saying for a long time that if Iran is allowed to base itself in Syria it will be a threat to Israel's national security and a constant source of regional instability and tension and friction with the Sunni majority in Syria and with the Sunni countries in the region as well,” Katz added.
The latest Iranian proxy to be formed in Syria is a brigade that was announced last week by the spokesman for the Iranian-controlled Iraqi militia known as Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, Seyed Hashem Moussavi at a press conference in Iran.
“After the latest victories [in Syria and Iraq], we established the ‘Golan Liberation Brigade’. This is a trained army with specific plans. If the government of Syria requests, we and our allies are ready to take action to liberate Golan,” Moussavi was quoted by Iran’s Tasnim news agency as saying.
“We will not permit Arab and Islamic countries in the region to remain in the grasps of the occupiers,” he added.
According to Moussavi, the brigade members are well trained special forces and well-armed, ready to assist the Syrian regime in retaking the Golan Heights, territory won by Israel in the 1967 Six Day War.
The group also released a 45-second video promoting the newly formed Golan liberation brigade, with dozens of balaclava-wearing fighters marching with a banner reading “Israel will be destroyed.”
An offshoot of the Iranian-backed Hezbollah and the Shiite militia Asaib al-Haq, Harakat al Nujaba, or Movement of the Noble, was formed in 2013 to fight for the Syrian regime.The leader of the group, Akram al-Kaabi has sworn allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, recently meeting with his representative to Iraq, Sayyed Mojtaba Hosseini and the group takes direct orders from Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the IRGC’s Quds Force.
Iran is known to operate in Syrian Golan, deploying senior Iranian military commanders there and even publicizing an inspection of the city of Quneitra near the Israel border by the then-commander of the IRGC Basij paramilitary Brigadier General Mohammad-Reza Naghdi in July of last year.
The strategic importance of the Golan and the Iranian presence there has Israel concerned, and Jerusalem has reportedly carried out dozens of strikes inside Syria against senior Iranian commanders as well as Hezbollah convoys to prevent the group from obtaining advanced weaponry.
Hezbollah is increasingly gaining access to the Golan and now has a non-Lebanese front from which to target Israel. But, according to Lt. Col. (res.) Mordechai Kedar, Israel should not look at the northern border as two separate entities, but as one continuous front.
“Today there is no difference between the Lebanese front and the Syrian front because Hezbollah is in control of both. It is one continuous front controlled by Hezbollah from the Mediterranean Sea to Quientra to the Hermon valley. And that is how Israel should see it,” he told The Jerusalem Post
According to Keder, even if Hezbollah were to attack Israel from Syria, the IDF will attack Lebanon. “Israel has sent a very clear message to Hassan Nasrallah that in the next war Israel will destroy Lebanon in order to get Hezbollah on their knees.”
Phillip Smyth, an analyst at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, told The Post that numerous pro-Assad/Iranian-backed organizations have pledged to “liberate the Golan” in the past.
“However, right now, these groups are focused on fighting Syrian rebels and Sunni jihadists operating in Syria. That does not mean that these groups don't have the loftier strategic goal of eventually fighting the State of Israel. Though, their actual current capabilities would not currently permit them to pull off those hopes.”
Nevertheless, Hezbollah is one of the most prominent terror organizations in the world, and while the group has become bogged down fighting in Syria for President Bashar Assad, they have gained immeasurable fighting experience, as well as new advanced weaponry, including Soviet-made T-72 tanks, Russian Kornet anti-tank missiles armored personnel carriers, rapid response motorcycles and KS-12A anti-aircraft weapons.
But while the terror group may currently be using 40 year old tanks, a senior officer in the IDF’s armored corps said that as Hezbollah is becoming much stronger, Israel is concerned that the terror group might get its hands on more advanced tanks in the future.
The senior IDF officer said that the next war with Hezbollah “will be a real war,” no longer against a militant group, but a full fledged and powerful army. The terror group now has varying levels of fighting capabilities that include both guerrilla and conventional tactics and more effective military capabilities then when Israel last fought a war with the group in 2006.