Israel taking credit for attacking Iran in Syria provoked retaliation

Former IDF Brig.-Gen. Zvika Haimovich said Israel has to prepare for a multi-directional attack from Iran and its proxies.

 Maj. Mary Thorton of the U.S. Army and Brig.-Gen. Zvika Haimovitch on March 8, 2018. (photo credit: U.S. AIR FORCE TECH SERGEANT MATTHEW PLEW)
Maj. Mary Thorton of the U.S. Army and Brig.-Gen. Zvika Haimovitch on March 8, 2018.
Israel’s decision to take credit for strikes against Iranian targets in Syria over the last year provoked the Islamic Republic to retaliate against Israel, a top former IDF general told The Jerusalem Post.
“The prime minister and [Foreign Minister] Israel Katz started talking about the strikes,” Brig.-Gen. (res.) Zvika Haimovich, former commander of the IDF’s Aerial Defense Division, told the Post this week. “I prefer the previous silence. Once we opened the gates, they react.”
In February of last year, Iran launched a drone armed with explosives from the T-4 airbase in the Syrian province of Homs to carry out a sabotage attack in Israel. The drone was detected by Israel and was shot down by an Apache attack helicopter near Beit She’an.
It was the first time that Iran has directly tried to attack Israel.
“As a military man, you prefer activities over words,” Haimovich said. “You cannot fight or win fights with words – you can win with operations and missiles, and keeping it silent and under the radar, and away from the public and media. You will have many more advantages when you are silent than when it’s all over the press.”
Haimovich warned that Iran was planning a “multi-directional” attack against the State of Israel together with its proxies, and that the Jewish state needed to prepare for it now.
“If Iran attacks Israel, it may not be a high-profile target,” he said. “But it doesn’t matter if they attack the chemical facilities in Haifa or a small factory in Kfar Saba. It doesn’t matter. An attack by Iran, a massive attack against the State of Israel, even if it’s from Iraq – it’s a declaration of war.”
A war with Iran will not see only Hezbollah opening up a front against Israel from Lebanon and Syria – as well as possible participation by Shi’ite militia forces in Iraq – but also all the various players in Gaza.
Such an attack is something that Israel needs to “prepare and be ready for. And when this happens, thousands of missiles and rockets will hit the State of Israel. We can’t protect the entire state, even with the many defense systems that we have.”
Israel’s defense establishment is concerned that Iran might try to carry out an attack using cruise missiles or suicide drones, similar to the October attack against Saudi Arabia’s Aramco gas facilities.
And unlike the attack in October, which did not see any overt military responses by Saudi Arabia or the United States against Tehran, “we will not behave like the Saudis, and the Iranians know that,” he said.
Haimovich, who retired from the military last year, spoke with the Post shortly after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US Central Command chief Gen. Kenneth McKenzie warned that Iran is planning additional attacks, and that Israel is working to prevent Iran from “turning Iraq and Yemen into bases for launching rockets and missiles at Israel.”
Despite crippling sanctions, Iran has the largest missile force in the Middle East, with a substantial inventory of close-range ballistic missiles (CRBMs), short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) and medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) that can strike targets throughout the region as far as 2,000 km. from Iran’s borders.
According to Haimovich, “they are very ambitious and didn’t stop their missile program for a day,” stressing that Iran’s missile capabilities “are that of a superpower.”
A recent report by the US Defense Department said that Iran is also developing land-attack cruise missiles (LACMs), “which present a unique threat profile from ballistic missiles because they can fly at low altitude and attack a target from multiple directions.”
“During a conflict, Iran probably would attempt to attack regional military bases and possibly energy infrastructure and other critical economic targets using its missile arsenal,” the report continued. “Even with many of its missile systems having poor accuracy, Iran could use large salvos of missiles to complicate an adversary’s military operations.”
Israel has a comprehensive protective umbrella able to counter the growing missile threats from its enemies and continuously improves the technology behind the country’s anti-missile systems: Iron Dome, Arrow (Arrow-2 and Arrow-3) system and David’s Sling missile defense system.
But even with all the missile defense systems, nothing is fully hermetic, and a large missile barrage with several precision missiles embedded is a real concern for the Jewish state.
“With a multi-directional threat, your forces have to be flexible enough to deal with simultaneous threats,” Haimovich said. “All of our systems are responsible for different tiers, types, distances, and more.”
While Israel prefers to use the Iron Dome to intercept most threats as the military has more interceptor missiles and batteries, “there are many cases where we have used the Iron Dome along with another system to maximize our success in intercepted a target,” he continued.
Over the past few years, Israel has been managing a campaign known in Hebrew as “MABAM” (or “war-between-wars”) against Iranian entrenchment and weapons smuggling to Hezbollah, striking thousands of targets and killing dozens of Iranians and Shi’ite militia forces.
During the first few years of Israel’s campaign against Iran, the state denied having struck targets in war-torn Syria, preferring instead plausible deniability in an attempt to prevent any retaliatory attacks by Iran or their proxies like Hezbollah. But the government’s boldly admitting to attacking Iran might have been the cause of increased escalation between the two foes.
While Israel’s campaign has been mainly focused on Syria, according to foreign reports, Israel has also struck various targets in neighboring Iraq.
“The reason why Iran has been building a front-line base in Iraq is because they realized that doing so in Syria was harder” due to the ongoing airstrikes, Haimovich said. “They need this front-line base in Iraq which is some 600-700 km. from Israel to put their boots on the ground there.”
But with the various Iranian proxies spread around the region, distance doesn’t matter.
“Geographical limitations, which were very relevant many years ago, are almost irrelevant now – Iran uses proxies around the world, so they are immediately canceling any distance or geographical limitations,” Haimovich said, adding that in addition to the proxy groups, the technologies such as cyber cancel the limitations posed by distances of thousands of miles. “Geographical limitations belong to the old world of war.”