The Old Syria Is Back, This Time Accompanied by Hizballah, Iran, and Russia

In the final week of 2017, Hizballah, supported by Assad-regime forces and an Iranian unit, seized most of the Syrian portion of the Golan Heights from the rebel forces that had controlled it for some time. Eyal Zisser believes that the rest of southern Syria will soon follow, and that Israel will have to adjust once again to sharing a border with an Assad-ruled Syria:

The Syrian regime and its allies’ campaign to retake the [Syrian] Golan Heights is a violation of the understandings reached by the United States and Russia just a month ago. This agreement, which focuses on establishing a buffer zone (or safe zone) in southern Syria, promised relative protection and immunity for the rebel groups. Agreements and reality, however, are nothing alike, certainly in this part of the world.

Russia, as we know, honors agreements only when they align with its interests. Moscow has no compunction signing a deal and the next day violating or simply ignoring it. The Assad regime and its allies are unconcerned with such agreements, which are merely another aspect of their deceitful ploy of speaking yearningly about peace while continuing the fighting on the ground, using [such] tactics to . . . restore full control [of all of Syria].

Israel was right to refrain from establishing a military presence on Syrian soil. But the collapse of the security zone [free of pro-Assad forces] in southern Syria is not the only issue: crumbling along with it is the assumption that the war in Syria would go on for years, and that Syria would never resemble its old self. It appears, [instead], that the old Syria has returned to Israel’s border more quickly than expected—more dangerous and more imposing than before. This is due to the presence of Hizballah and Iran, which the world, and certainly Russia, views as a stabilizing and positive factor that should remain for the foreseeable future.

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Read more at Israel Hayom

More about: Bashar al-Assad, Golan Heights, Hiballah, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war

The Struggle for Iraq, and What It Means for Israel

Oct. 17 2018

Almost immediately after the 2003 invasion, Iraq became a battleground between the U.S. and Iran, as the latter sent troops, money, and arms to foment and support an insurgency. The war on Islamic State, along with the Obama administration’s effort to align itself with the Islamic Republic, led to a temporary truce, but also gave Tehran-backed militias a great deal of power. Iran has also established a major conduit of supplies through Iraq to support its efforts in Syria. Meanwhile, it is hard to say if the recent elections have brought a government to Baghdad that will be pro-American or pro-Iranian. Eldad Shavit and Raz Zimmt comment how these developments might affect Israel:

Although statements by the U.S. administration have addressed Iran’s overall activity in the region, they appear to emphasize the potential for confrontation in Iraq. First and foremost, this [emphasis] stems from the U.S. perception of this arena as posing the greatest danger, in light of the extensive presence of U.S. military and civilian personnel operating throughout the country, and in light of past experience, which saw many American soldiers attacked by Shiite militias under Iranian supervision. The American media have reported that U.S. intelligence possesses information indicating that the Shiite militias and other elements under Iranian auspices intend to carry out attacks against American targets and interests. . . .

In light of Iran’s intensifying confrontation with the United States and its mounting economic crisis, Tehran finds it essential to maintain its influence in Iraq, particularly in the event of a future clash with the United States. The Iranian leadership has striven to send a message of deterrence to the United States regarding the implications of a military clash. . . .

A recently published report also indicates that Iran transferred ballistic missiles to the Shiite militias it supports in Iraq. Although Iran has denied this report, it might indeed attempt to transfer advanced military equipment to the Shiite militias in order to improve their capabilities in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States and/or Israel, or a confrontation between [the militias] and the central government in Baghdad.

From Israel’s perspective, after years when the Iraqi arena received little attention from Israeli decision makers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman have mentioned the possibility of Israel’s taking action against Iranian targets in Iraq. In this context, and particularly in light of the possibility that Iraq could become an arena of greater conflict between the United States and Iran, it is critical that there be full coordination between Israel and the United States. This is of particular importance due to [the American estimation of] stability in Iraq as a major element of the the campaign against Islamic State, which, though declared a success, is not yet complete.

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Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Barack Obama, Iran, Iraq, ISIS, Israel & Zionism, U.S. Foreign policy