Sources in the intelligence community state that “Israel wants Syria to return to the pre-2011 era, when its leaders were less powerful and experienced than today after seven years of war, the delivery of advanced Russian equipment mainly for the country’s air defence, the delivery and manufacture of advanced Iranian missiles in Syria and the formative presence of Iranian and Hezbollah advisors.
Sources revealed that “Israeli officials told their American counterparts that it would be inappropriate to withdraw their forces from northeastern Syria by leaving Iran and its allies behind. The withdrawal – which seems partial – of American forces should take place not before, but at least at the same time as the departure of all foreign forces active on Syrian soil, in order to create a balance of power on the ground. In addition, it is important to point out that President Bashar al-Assad must refrain from using his medium-range precision missiles against Israel at any time under any agreement related to the departure of the United States from Syria. Israel claims that the US leaves the Levant in the hands of Russia and the “Axis of Resistance” without any concessions in return,” according to sources.
The American administration does not seem willing to respond to Israel’s exaggerated anxieties. US officials visiting Tel Aviv told local officials that “the Israeli army is powerful enough to defend itself and that since 1974, Israel has no longer been on the defensive in the region. On the contrary, Israel went on the offensive, having taken the initiative to attack targets in Syria during the seven years of war.
According to Western officials, the US has told Israel that thousands of US soldiers are stationed in the country, in the Mediterranean and at various military bases in the Middle East. These forces can intervene quickly in favour of Israel whenever it is deemed appropriate. Therefore, Israel should stop screaming for no reason to be rescued, when it is Israel that is inflicting damage on its opponents.
Israel has repeatedly bombed targets in Syria belonging to the Syrian army and the “Axis of Resistance”. He pushed the red line further back by bombing Iranian officials at Air Force Base T4 in 2018, killing several Iranian officers. In 2019, Israel had already bombed a warehouse at Damascus airport, just hours after unloading an Iranian military cargo. Although the majority of Israeli missiles have been shot down, a few have succeeded in reaching their target. Nevertheless, these bombings have little strategic significance, because while demonstrating the long range of its missiles, Israel has failed miserably in its objective of paralyzing the capacity of Syrian and Hezbollah missiles in Lebanon and Syria. During his recent visit to Cairo, the US Secretary of State said that Hezbollah now has “more than 130,000 missiles”.
If, as the Israeli Chief of Staff, General Gadi Eisenkot, claims, Israel has “complete intelligence superiority in this area” (Lebanon and Syria), how can he explain Hezbollah’s possession and deployment of 130,000 missiles – according to Pompeo -? Eisenkot misled the Israelis when he said that “Hezbollah does not have the capabilities to possess high-precision missiles, except in negligible quantities”. In fact, when Hizbullah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah warned Israel that he would “respond to any attack in Lebanon”, Israel took note of the warning and refrained from targeting any targets in Lebanon.
Throughout the war in Syria, Israeli aircraft violated Lebanese airspace and flew over Lebanon to bomb Syria, but never dared to attack any Hezbollah-related targets in Lebanon, limiting themselves to targeting Hezbollah military trucks and Syrian and Lebanese targets in the Levant.
According to well-informed sources, Israeli aircraft fired missiles as a warning in front of the targeted trucks – before destroying the target later – in order to avoid loss of life for fear of a Hezbollah response. If Hezbollah’s supposedly limited military power is founded, as the Israeli intelligence service claims, it would make no sense for Eisenkot to boast of his military omnipotence in the face of a “negligible enemy”, as he describes the military capacity of the Lebanese “Party of God”.
Active sources in Syria and Lebanon confirm Israeli statements that Israel has dropped thousands of bombs on various targets in Syria, as Prime Minister Netanyahu has announced. However, they claim that only 5% of the stock of weapons delivered was intercepted and destroyed.
“Israel’s bombing of targets in Syria is neither strategic nor tactical. These are only political attacks to enhance Netanyahu’s image. These strikes did not weaken the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps or Hezbollah. Israel contradicts itself all the time. For example, the Israelis say that Hezbollah is the fifth most powerful force in the world, but that it is very weak and its power is limited; that Hezbollah has dug four tunnels that pose a serious threat to Israel’s national security, etc. “, noted the source.
In fact, Israel has not provoked or attacked Hezbollah since the 2006 war. The only serious attack dates back to 2015 by a drone in Quneitra that killed Jihad Mughnnieh and Iranian General Mohammad Ali AllahDade. The attack was not planned, but rather timely against a convoy of three four-wheel-drive vehicles from Iran and Hezbollah that had spent several hours playing in the snow in an area within sight of an Israeli observation post. Israel had no specific target and certainly was not aware of the presence of a General of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. In response, Hizbullah attacked an Israeli patrol in the Cheeba farms, killing several soldiers and an officer. Israel then closed its eyes and things stopped there.
President Assad and his allies believe that Israel is seeking to provoke Syria to respond to its violations of Syrian sovereignty, in order to delay or prevent US withdrawal from Syria. For this reason, they prefer not to respond directly to Israeli provocations until the US leaves. President Trump’s recent comments about the “20 mile buffer zone”, however, indicate that he intends to maintain forces in Syria and only partially, and not completely, withdraw American troops.
Syria and its allies will have to reassess their strategy in response to Israeli aggression and the US occupying forces when dust settles in northeastern Syria. For the time being, it is impossible to predict what Trump will decide in light of his contradictory statements regarding the US occupation of Syria.
But regardless of Trump’s intentions towards Syria and his fickle withdrawal plans, all of Israel’s objectives have failed in Syria: the Syrian government is still in place, its army has been reconstituted and Hezbollah and Iran have trained local fighters who are determined to fight with Israel in due course.
Today, in 2019, Hezbollah has received all the required missiles and weapons – as Pompeo has admitted – and Iran remains a major source of concern for Israel and the United States, being present on the Syrian front whereas previously it was only present on the border with Lebanon. Therefore, despite its razor-sharp media statements and the thousands of targets it has hit in Syria in recent years, Israel feels much more vulnerable today than it did in 2011.
The Iraqi front cannot be ruled out either. The Hachd al-Chaabi (Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces) were created in 2014 to fight Daech. Today, they have tens of thousands of well-trained and equipped men, whose strong ideology is comparable to that of Hezbollah and Iran. Iranian influence has spread from Lebanon to Syria and Iraq. This is another cause for concern for Israel.
But that’s not all. Iran is present in Yemen, where Saudi Arabia’s destructive war against the Houthis offers it a unique opportunity to support the oppressed against the oppressor. Iran has also succeeded in gaining a foothold in Afghanistan. He also invited Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour to travel to Tehran with a high-ranking Taliban delegation. Iran has licked its wounds since the Taliban killed ten Iranian diplomats in Mazar-e Sharif and finally overcame its differences with the Taliban in order to defend a greater cause: resistance to US hegemony in Afghanistan.
Iran and Syria are patient and wait until the time comes, gaining in power. After the 1979 revolution, the Iranian government had little international experience. He started supporting Hezbollah in 1982. Thirty-five years later, Hezbollah has become an irregular organized army present on many fronts in the Middle East. Israel may have fun provoking Syria with its tactical attacks and thousands of bombs dropped on various targets, but it cannot escape the new strategic reality.