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While the U.S. Mulls a Response to Syria, Iran Mulls a Response to Israel

April 13 2018

On April 7, the Syrian government unleashed a massive chemical-weapons attack on a rebel enclave. Two days later, there was a strike on its T4 airbase—used primarily by Iran—that destroyed several unmanned aircraft and left fourteen dead, including some Iranian soldiers. Israel is thought to have carried out this strike, although Jerusalem, in keeping with its usual policy, remained mum. Thus, write Assaf Orion and Amos Yadlin, America’s expressed desire to keep Bashar al-Assad from using chemical weapons has converged with Israel’s determination to restrict Tehran’s presence in Syria:

In operational terms, the region is now anticipating two developments that ostensibly run separately along parallel axes: Iran’s response to the attack on its forces at the T4 airbase, attributed to Israel, and the American response to the Assad regime’s chemical attack in Duma. Iran’s expected response will be an attack, not necessarily immediate, either with a clear Iranian signature or by proxy, the latter being Iran’s preferred modus operandi. The action will likely not be launched from Iranian territory but rather from Syria or from other operational theaters such as Yemen (which is adjacent to the navigation lanes in the Red Sea), or from Lebanon, although an attack from Lebanon would pose a risk of wide-scale escalation. There is also the possibility of attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets worldwide, as has occurred in the past. . . .

The attack on the T4 airbase falls within the context of the last red line that Israel drew, whereby it cannot accept Iran’s military entrenchment in Syria. . . . The very timing of the events has triggered a convergence between critical trends: the Israel-Iran confrontation in the Syrian context; the unfinished chapter of the Assad regime’s recurring use of chemical weapons; and the United States’ enforcement of non-proliferation. . . . Thus, Israel’s enforcement of its red line and the United States’ enforcement of its red line have met, while Russia finds itself exerting efforts to deter both countries from taking further action that could undermine its own achievements in Syria and its attempt to position itself as the dominant world power in the theater.

This [situation] has created an operational and perhaps even a strategic convergence in Israel’s and the United States’ efforts in the Syrian theater, first, through a sharpening dialogue with Russia, in which Israel would do better not to stand alone; second, by resumed U.S. engagement in Syria beyond the . . . containment of the Islamic State; and third, through the possibility of combining the issues of chemical weapons and the future of the Assad regime with the issue of Iran’s entrenchment in Syria.

Read more at Institute for National Security Studies

More about: Chemical weapons, Iran, Israel & Zionism, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy

What U.S. Success in Syria Should Look Like

April 26 2018

Surveying the history of the Syrian civil war, Jack Keane and Danielle Pletka explain that Bashar al-Assad’s brutal rule and vicious tactics have led to the presence in his country of both Shiite terrorists, led by Hizballah and backed by Iran and Russia, and Sunni jihadist groups like Islamic State (IS) and al-Qaeda. Any American strategy, they argue, must bear this in mind:

The best option is a Syria without Assad, committed to a future without Iranian or Russian influence. This is not a Pollyanna-like prescription; there are substantial obstacles in the way, not least those we have encountered in Iraq. . . . [But] only such a Syria can guarantee an end to Iranian interference, to the transshipment of weapons for Hizballah, and to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction of the kind we saw used at Douma. (Iran has been instrumental in Syria’s chemical-weapons program for many years.) And, most importantly, only such a Syria can disenfranchise the al-Qaeda and IS affiliates that have found a foothold by exploiting the Syrian people’s desperation.

How do we get there? The United States must first consolidate and strengthen its position in eastern Syria from the Euphrates river to the eastern Syrian border. This involves clearing out the remnants of Islamic State, some several thousand, and ultimately eliminating pockets controlled by the Assad regime and Iranian forces in northeastern Syria. This would enable the creation of a control zone in the eastern part of the country as a base from which to build a credible and capable partner that is not subordinate to the Kurdish chain of command, while effectively shutting down Iran’s strategic land bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean. A regional Arab force, reportedly suggested by President Trump’s new national-security adviser, would be a welcome addition. But we should seriously doubt [the Arabs] will participate without American ground leadership and air support.

In western Syria, the United States should rebuild a Syrian opposition force with advisers, weapons, and air power while upping the pressure on Assad and his cronies to select a pathway to a negotiated peace. Pursuing a settlement in Geneva without such leverage over the Assad regime is pure fantasy. Finally, the United States and other Western powers must impede Iran’s and Russia’s ability to be resupplied. Syria’s airfields must be destroyed, and Syria’s airspace must remain clear.

Read more at National Interest

More about: Hizballah, Iran, ISIS, Politics & Current Affairs, Russia, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy