Iraqi Shi'ite Muslim men from the Iranian-backed group Kataib Hezbollah wave the party's flags as they walk along a street painted in the colours of the Israeli flag during a parade marking the annual Quds Day.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Assad regime's military has seized Palmyra in recent days, and the Iranian-backed Shi'ite axis in Syria, of which Hezbollah is a core member, appears to be gaining in strength.
Ultimately, Hezbollah's goal is to turn Syria into an extended springboard for attacks against Israel, but it is still far off from being able to realize this vision, Maj.-Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror, a former national security adviser to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.
Asked to comment on recent developments in Syria, and the gains made by the Allawite regime in Damascus, Amidror, a senior research fellow at the Begin Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, said it appeared as if Russia's assistance to Assad altered the balance of power in Syria to a greater extent than was visible a few months ago.
The Assad regime's military has "succeeded in seizing territory from its enemies on a number of fronts," he said.
"It is too soon to know if the rebels and ISIS have been defeated, or if they will stop fighting and cease forming a challenge to Assad and his supporters from Hezbollah," Amidror cautioned.
"So long as the fighting continues, and Hezbollah is busy with saving its strategic home front in Syria, the situation will not change significantly. If the success of Assad and his allies continues to grow in strength, and the various rebels and ISIS itself lose their ability to threaten the regime, then Hezbollah will turn to realizing its dream; turning Syria into another springboard against Israel. This is a possible danger, but not an immediate one, and it is one Israel should prepare for," he stated.
Yoram Schweitzer, who heads the Program on Terrorism and Low Intensity Conflict at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv, also said he believed it was far too soon to know where the overall course of events in Syria is headed.
Schweitzer, who was the former head of the counter-international terror section in the IDF, said that while ISIS is growing visibly weaker in Syria, many commentators had noted that it was getting weaker in 2015, right before it seized Palmyra in Syria and Ramadi in Iraq.
"I suggested then that we should not rush to declare an Assad victory. There is no doubt that ISIS has carried out more retreats recently. But I do not see this as a victory for the Assad regime, which is far from taking most of Syria," he said.
Schweitzer added that he does not believe Hezbollah, or Iran's Revolutionary Guards Corps, will act aggressively against Israel from Syria any time soon, although their presence in Syria is obviously a potential threat from Israel's perspective.
Although the Shi'ite axis could try to rebuild bases of terrorism in southern Syria, that does not mean they would activate them in the near future and seek conflict with Israel, Schweitzer added.
"There's a difference between building up an infrastructure, and activating it for combat. If Hezbollah and the IRGC return to the border, this will result in Israel being on high alert, and closely monitoring them. If they come close to us, we will see them as a threat. This is something Israel has to prepare for," he added.
Separately, Schweitzer said he rejected evaluations that said that recent ISIS attacks in Europe are the result of ISIS retreats in Syria and Iraq.
Mass casualty terrorism in the West is part of ISIS's core strategy, he said, adding that they did not intend to limit suicide terrorism to only Syria and Iraq. "Attacks in the West are not happening because ISIS is in distress," he said.