Israel turns the screws on Iran

Israel’s military activity against the Iranian presence in Syria is ongoing and much of it remains unreported.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in Dimona for the naming of the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center after the late president, on August 29 (photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at a ceremony in Dimona for the naming of the Shimon Peres Negev Nuclear Research Center after the late president, on August 29
(photo credit: KOBI GIDEON/GPO)
We will keep up the pressure on the radical regime, Netanyahu declares FOLLOWING THE recent Iranian pledge to rebuild the Syrian army, severely depleted during the country’s seven-year civil war, Israel has vowed to step up its military, diplomatic and economic struggle against the Ayatollah regime.
Iran’s military attaché to Damascus said his country’s military advisers would remain in Syria under the defense agreement signed between the two countries.
Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan described the pact between Iran and Syria as an “excuse and a façade” meant to grant legitimacy to the Iranian forces remaining in the area.
“As far as we are concerned, no machinations keeping the Iranians in the area will be acceptable,” he said.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made a thinly-veiled allusion to Iran at a ceremony in late August, renaming the Negev Nuclear Research Center near Dimona after the late Shimon Peres.
“Anyone who threatens us with annihilation will find themselves in a similar situation,” said Netanyahu at the ceremony. “We will keep up the pressure on the dangerous and radical regime in Iran. Just yesterday we saw the fruits of this pressure in the remarks of the Iranian president, who said that many of the Iranian people had lost faith in Iran’s future and power because of the renewed economic sanctions.”
His remarks prompted the following tweet from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif: “Iran, a country without nuclear weapons, is threatened with atomic annihilation by a warmonger standing next to an actual nuclear weapons factory. Beyond shameless in the gall.”
Soon after Netanyahu’s warnings, Iran announced plans to boost its ballistic and cruise missile capacity and acquire modern fighter planes and submarines.
Israel’s military activity against the Iranian presence in Syria is ongoing and much of it remains unreported. Syrian opposition sources said Israel was behind a series of large explosions at the Mezzeh military airport outside Damascus in early September.
According to foreign sources, Israeli attacks in Syria during 2017 were almost threefold compared to 2016.
The aerial blow inflicted by Israel on dozens of Iranian targets in Syria in May took Tehran by surprise and destroyed about one-third of the Iranian infrastructure in that country, according to Israeli estimates, but the Islamic regime has no intention of withdrawing from the Syrian arena.
New satellite images of an area in northwestern Syria show the establishment of what appears to be a new Iranian surface- to-surface missile factory, which may house weapons capable of striking Israel.
The Syrian facility bears a striking resemblance to Iran’s Parchin military complex, southeast of Tehran.
According to Israel’s Channel 10 News, Israel has so far refrained from bombing the site due to its proximity to a Russian-made S-400 missile defense battery.
Despite the reports, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman claimed that Iranian activity in Syria has actually decreased in recent months.
“They did not build a port in Syria and they have no air field, but they have not dropped the idea. They continue to hold negotiations with the Assad regime on establishing outposts in Syria,” he told the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper ahead of the Rosh Hashanah holiday.
Liberman said that Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Al Quds Force is now focusing on the Iraqi arena and in fighting the Houthis in Yemen.
Reuters, quoting Iranian, Iraqi and Western sources, reported at the end of August that Iran has transferred ballistic missiles that can reach Tel Aviv to Shi’ite proxies in Iraq and is developing the capacity to build more there to deter attacks on its interests in the Middle East, and to give it the means to hit regional foes.
“The logic was to have a backup plan if Iran was attacked,” a senior Iranian official was quoted as saying. “The number of missiles is not high, just a couple of dozen, but it can be increased, if necessary.”
A senior Israeli diplomatic source said that Israel will not relent in its effort to push Iran away from its borders and Prime Minister Netanyahu has “made the struggle against the Iranian military’s entrenchments in Syria a top priority.”
Defense Minister Liberman noted that Israel was not obligated by any agreements other countries may sign regarding Syria’s future.
“With all due respect to any deals and understandings – we are not bound by them.
The only thing that we are obligated to is maintaining Israel’s security interests,” he said.
“We will spare no effort to uphold existing agreements,” he added, in a reference to the 1974 ceasefire agreement between Israel and Syria.
Israel is also closely coordinating efforts with Washington to tighten the economic pressure on the Islamic regime. Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon met last month with US Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin in Washington and agreed to set up a joint task force focused on ratcheting up the economic sanctions on Iran.
“The sanctions on Iran have contributed to lifting the threat to the security of Israel and the entire free world,” Kahlon said.
“The joint task force that we set up will be very important in terms of tightening the sanctions on Iran. This is great news for the State of Israel.”
Defense Minister Liberman believes that the biting sanctions, which are expected to increase significantly in November, when Washington introduces a new round of restrictions, are already having an impact.
Less Iranian money has been earmarked for Syria and Hezbollah, which relies on Iran for about 80 percent of its funding.
Two Syrian army brigades are deployed on the Golan Heights facing Israel following the recapture of the area by Assad’s forces in the summer and Israel believes that some Hezbollah forces are embedded within the Syrian units. The IDF is bracing itself for the possibility of Hezbollah attacks on the Golan front but so far the border has been quiet, partly due to the stationing of Russian military police at key locations.
Moscow has made it clear that it opposes an Iranian presence in the southern Golan and has promised Israel that Iranian forces and pro-Iranian militias will be kept 100 kilometers from Israel’s border.
Despite the considerable Israeli successes to thwart Iranian entrenchment in Syria, thousands of Iranians remain in the country along with thousands of Hezbollah operatives.
The struggle continues and Washington backs the Israeli position that all Iranian forces must leave the country. Russia is also wary of Iran’s influence in the area and has no intention of sharing the spoils of the Assad regime’s impending civil war victory with Tehran. However, Moscow believes that removing all the Iranian forces from Syria is unrealistic at this juncture.
When Washington imposes new sanctions on Iran in November, Israel hopes that with an economy in dire straits, Tehran will have no choice but to further scale back its ambitions for regional hegemony and, first and foremost, its military presence in Syria.