Early Saturday morning, it appears that Israeli jets destroyed an Iranian base located in Syria. Jerusalem, as a rule, does not take credit for such strikes, but to Ron Ben-Yishai there is little reason to doubt its responsibility. He explains the logic behind the attack:
Israel will not allow an Iranian military presence of any kind in Syria. The fact the Russians and the Iranians ignored that message in talks that Vladimir Putin held with the leaders of Iran and Turkey was likely what prompted Israel to reinforce its message [with action]. . . .
[The Iranian] base, which is near the town of al-Kiswah, fifteen kilometers southwest of Damascus, was supposed to house some 500 militia fighters operating in Syria on Iranian orders. The base is some 50 kilometers from the Golan Heights, and while it’s not close enough to pose a direct threat to Israel, it certainly constitutes an important and clear component in Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. . . . [W]hile the al-Kiswah base has yet to be populated, it is safe to assume there was already Iranian “representation” there at the time of the strike—a few Iranian military and Revolutionary Guards personnel, no more. It was apparently enough for Israel.
The Russian foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, recently said that Iranian (and Russian) military presence in Syria was “legitimate,” because the Assad regime, which is the legal government, invited them. But Jerusalem is not bound by Moscow’s declarations. For Israel, as recent events and declarations make clear, a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria is a red line that will not be accepted, even in its initial stages. The obvious conclusion is that it’s better to handle a problem when it is still small than to bomb this facility when it is fully manned, causing many casualties.
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