Iran is reportedly seeking to rewrite the “rules of the game” over Israel’s involvement in Syria, now that the Syrian Regime is largely taking over the country again and Syrian rebels are largely defeated, Iran Focus reports.
You can see this from the Israeli fighter jet that was shot down in Syria last weekend, in relation to the downing of an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace and Israeli bombs dropped on terrorist targets in Syria. Before the attack on the fighter jet, Israel had the expectation that its attacks on Iranian-Hezbollah weapons convoys and production facilities would not be met with a military response as either Syria or Hezbollah could afford a war with Israel.
Iran wasn’t happy with that and instead sent the drone into Israeli airspace to set off a chain reaction and make Syria fire on Israeli jets over Israeli territory.
This is the first time in more than thirty years that an Israeli jet was brought down by enemy fire and some are speculating that this is a new strategic phase and that worse is yet to come. This is a slight exaggeration. The Syrians and the Iranian proxies have lost far more in their attempts to keep Assad standing and after further attacks on the terrorists in Syria, the regimes have not retaliated. Perhaps, they know that they are doomed to fail if they do.
Israel made clear to Iran and Syria that attacks on Israel will not be ignored by starting a retaliatory raid on a dozen Syrian and Iranian targets. If the regimes retaliate, they will be challenged. During this retaliation, Israel launched the first-ever direct strikes on manned Iranian fixtures in Syria, which is thought to be a key component of Israel’s plan to deter Iran from meddling in Syria.
The Iranian forces are stationed in Damascus, far from Iran but very close to Israel. Israel has previously noted that it does not want an Iranian presence so close to its borders, given Iran’s enmity towards Israel, but this does leave the Iranian forces vulnerable to Israeli aerial attacks and means that Israel can attack Iran without entering Iranian territory.
Russia has also indicated that it does not support Iran’s provocations in a statement asking all sides to “exercise restraint”, but that is possible because they don’t want their support of Assad to turn into a war with Israel.
“We urge all sides to exercise restraint and to avoid any actions that could lead to an even greater complication of the situation. It is necessary to unconditionally respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Syria and other countries in the region,” the ministry said in a statement.
Even Iran’s key proxy Hezbollah does not want this fight, fearing it will spread to Lebanon. Hezbollah may be arming itself with advanced weaponry, but it is not interested in fighting another devastating conflict with Israel that could spread to Lebanon.
On the other hand, Hezbollah says it has 10,000 fighters ready to attack Israel and to create a single front across all of Israel’s north and northeast. In Lebanon, Hezbollah has transformed hundreds of villages into “military strongholds,” effectively “drafting” the human shields who will become civilian casualties blamed on Israel, according to the New York Times. Their 150,000 rockets and missiles, will allow them to bomb Israeli population centers with 1,500 rockets and missiles per day for over three months, and Hezbollah chief Nasrallah said they will use those projectiles against Israel’s civilian nuclear installations and chemical facilities, causing tens of thousands of casualties.
Yet the Israeli response was a limited one meant to send a message. It confined itself to striking targets under the control of Iran and the Assad regime. The Base the IAF hit was not only the home of the Drone sent over the border but is run by members of Iran’s al Quids force, a branch of their revolutionary guard.
Not wanting the conflict to expand, the IAF didn’t go after the Russian air defense assets that now dominate the air power picture over Syria. The message was to Iran and Syria to lay off, but it was also a message to the Russians, “reign these guys in.”
What’s next? Per the Times of Israel, Saturday’s conflict was not the start of a war, but it most probably is the start of an extended period of tension and border conflicts.
“I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see such an event, but for the time being both sides will restrain their responses,” Sima Shine, a career defense official and current senior researcher at Tel Aviv’s Institute for National Security Studies think tank, told reporters on Sunday.
It sounds as if Israel is heading toward another war of attrition. Overall, Iran should be wary of a war in Syria, especially given the Iranian people’s ongoing protests against these wars.