Smoke rises following an explosion on the Syrian side near the Quneitra border crossing between the Golan Heights and Syria, August 29, 2014..
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Last week, two “projectiles” landed in the Golan Heights. Alarms went off and nerves were rattled, but in the end officials called them “errant mortars.”
Errant or not, mortars or not, the reality behind headline news is that Israel is bracing for conflict. Skirmishes and sorties at the border and across it too, into Syria, hint at a growing tension that many here believe could quickly turn into war.
Hezbollah, literally “the party of Allah,” is currently estimated have 130,000 missiles in its arsenal, maybe more. Most of these are not mortars. Israeli military experts have issued warnings that these missiles, manufactured with Iranian technology, are sophisticated, longrange and deadly. It is estimated that when the next conflict starts, Hezbollah will launch as many as 1,500 missiles into Israel every day. Many of these missiles, these same experts warn, will be able to reach targets anywhere in the Jewish state.
This conflict, when it comes, will not be so easily contained as last year’s war with Hamas in Gaza. Fewer missiles will be intercepted and casualties will be greater.See the latest opinion pieces on our Opinion & Blogs Facebook page
All of Israel’s citizens will be in range, all will have to seek shelter when sirens sound. All cars will stop, all businesses will be interrupted. There will be no place in the country to which beleaguered civilians can escape from Hezbollah’s assault. And all the more so if, from Gaza, missiles once again are launched throughout Israel’s south.
Iran’s not-so-hidden hand inside the “glove” called Hezbollah was exposed on Facebook two days ago. The Tower, a news division of The Israel Project, reported that “an analyst with close ties to the Iranian defense ministry...posted that Iranian, Syrian, and Hezbollah officials will meet shortly to discuss their combined response to recent attacks in Syria that have been attributed to Israel.”
The analyst, Amir Mousavi, is “director of the Center for Strategic and International Relations in Tehran and a former advisor to the Iranian Ministry of Defense.”
Last week, several Hezbollah weapons depots in Syria were destroyed. Their destruction has been attributed to unconfirmed Israeli operations.
Mousavi called the operations “the beginning of the straw that broke the camel’s back.”
Attributing Israel’s alleged activity to support of “its stepdaughters, [anti-Assad] terrorist groups in Syria,” Mousavi pledged that “leadership in Iran will not remain silent.”
What might Iran do? According to Mousavi, Tehran may step out from behind its Hezbollah curtain and openly place its own troops, the Islamic Resistance Brigades, throughout southern Syria.
Assad’s government, for its part, said Mousavi, would transfer its forces to northern Syria. Once divided, Assad to the north and Iranian troops to the south, Mousavi said that Tehran’s troops would “deter the Zionist enemy” from further depot destruction and do so with “major surprises” that “this criminal entity” cannot anticipate.
Conventional wisdom among analysts in Israel is that the only reason Hezbollah has not yet attacked is because Iran has not authorized it. Hezbollah, acting for Iran, has been fighting groups that desire to overthrow Syria’s President Bashar Assad. One of those groups is Islamic State (IS). Iran, it is thought, does not want Hezbollah fighting on two fronts. It also has not wanted to hurt chances of successful negotiations to lift international sanctions. Hence it has held off an assault against Israel.
Iran’s apparent willingness to place its own troops in southern Syria may indicate a change in Tehran’s Hezbollah policy. If Hezbollah is released from involvement in Syria, it will be free to focus all of its destructive ambitions – and firepower – on Israel. And it will be empowered to do so by Iranian troops at its side, just across Lebanon’s border in southern Syria.
Mousavi’s scenario may also signal Iran’s laissez faire attitude toward negotiations regarding its nuclear program. Already able to produce a nuclear weapon in as little as one month, Iran’s primary goal for negotiations has been removal of international economic sanctions.
In recent weeks, those sanctions have begun to crumble without a negotiated agreement.
Russia has agreed to sell a sophisticated missile system to Iran, China has quietly restarted business, and Europe too is ready to once again allow trade.
In short, Iran may believe it has achieved everything it wants without US President Barack Obama and his fellow P5+1 international negotiators.
If both of these things are so, war from Israel’s north may come sooner than later. Much sooner.
The author is bureau chief for USA Radio Network and Bridge For Peace News. This essay was originally published at www.bridgesforpeace.com.
Follow Brian on Twitter @Brian- Schrauger.