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.
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