ANALYSIS: Israel Heavily Involved in Widening Syrian War

Thursday, September 06, 2018 |  Yochanan Visser

The Syrian civil war is slowly turning into a regional conflict which has the potential to become a world war and Israel is heavily involved in it.

As we reported on August 23th Israel and the United States are now working together to contain the growing Iranian threat and to prevent further Iranian entrenchment in Syria.

This was the result of consultations between Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and President Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton who paid a three-day-visit to Israel late August.

The Iranians increasingly have become the dominant actor in Syria and controls a large stretch of the Syrian Iraqi border as well as the Syrian Lebanon border.

At the same time, Iran has turned the Syrian army into another proxy force, is building new bases and missile facilities in the country, and now also provides ballistic missiles to its Iraqi proxy force the Hash al-Shaabi umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias.

In addition, Iran is supplying large quantities of weapons to its Lebanese ally Hezbollah and has been caught using civilian airplanes to do so.  

The missiles delivered to Hashd al-Shaabi, if deployed in western Iraq, are able to hit Tel Aviv and this was the reason Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman as well as the IDF Northern Front commander  issued  stark warnings to Iran on Monday.

"We are certainly monitoring everything that is happening in Syria and, regarding Iranian threats, we are not limiting ourselves just to Syrian territory. This also needs to be clear," Liberman said during a national security conference in Israel.

Asked if this includes possible military action against Iran’s proxies in Iraq, Liberman answered: "I am saying that we will contend with any Iranian threat, and it doesn't matter from where it comes ... Israel's freedom is total. We retain this freedom of action."

A spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq later confirmed that Israel has already carried out airstrikes against the Iraqi militia Kata’ib Hezbollah which is also operating in Syria.

The Iraqi militia was struck twice in Syria over the past few months by IAF warplanes and one of the Israeli bombardments took place on the Iraqi Syrian border in the vicinity of the town al-Bukamal killing 52 people among them Iranians.

The Iraqi missile program, which includes the local production of rockets by Hashd al-Shaabi, is overseen by Qassem Soleimani, the shrewd commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps.

During the same Israeli national security conference the commander of the IDF Northern Command, Maj. Gen. Yoel Strick, issued a clear threat to Iran and its Lebanese proxy Hezbollah.

“(Hezbollah) will feel the force of our arm. I hope there won’t be another war, but if there is, it won’t be another Second Lebanon War, but the final northern war,” Strick told the conference.

The IDF commander stressed that the fighting capabilities of the Israeli army vis a vis Hezbollah have “dramatically improved” since the 2006 Second Lebanon War.

 “If they (Hezbollah and Iran) knew what we know about them, they wouldn’t be speaking so confidently,” Strick said.

Israel is constantly carrying out reconnaissance missions in Lebanese airspace, Iranian and Lebanese media reported on Tuesday.

IRNA the state-controlled Iranian news agency reported that the “Zionist regime” carried out 134 of those missions in August alone.

Referring to the massive IAF bombardment of Iranian targets in Syria on May 10

th the Northern Command chief said that the Iranians, and Qassem Soleimani in particular, had learned a lesson about threatening Israel.

“Qassem Soleimani understood the gap between threats and capabilities. I’m glad that we are keeping him from those capabilities,” Strick claimed.

On Tuesday the IDF released a confidential report about Israel’s overall security situation which revealed that the Israeli army and air force had carried out 200 strikes against Iran-related targets in Syria over the past 18 months.

The revelation about the Israeli involvement in Syria was followed by media reports about new IAF strikes against Iranian targets in Syria.

The Israeli air force bombed an Iranian base near Damascus and on Tuesday evening attacked a missile facility near Masyaf in northwest Syria which resembled the Parchin military base in Iran.

At the same time, Russia and the United States are gearing up for a confrontation over an imminent offensive by the pro-Assad coalition against a 100,000 men-strong force of the Turkey-backed Sunni Islamist rebels in the Idlib Province in northern Syria.

US President Donald Trump warned the Iranians and Russians not to make a “grave mistake” by “recklessly attacking” the last large Islamist rebel hub in Syria and has already ordered his military to prepare for a massive response whenever the pro-Assad coalition launches the long anticipated offensive in Idlib.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights spotted a 150-vehicle strong American convoy which crossed into northeast Syria from Iraq on its way to the Kurdish controlled autonomous region on the east bank of the Euphrates River. 

The U.S. is also building up a naval force in the Persian Gulf which could repeat last year’s massive missile attacks on Syrian targets. 

The Russians, however, seem not to be overly impressed by Trump’s threats and war preparations.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has ordered the deployment of a small armada in the Mediterranean Sea opposite the Syrian coastline which started a massive drill on Tuesday.

At the same time, Russian warplanes started to bomb rebel positions in Idlib while Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov dismissed Trump’s threats and warned U.S. military action. against Assad’s forces would have “very dangerous, negative potential for the whole situation in Syria.”

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