To safeguard its interests, protect its allies, and prevent a resurgence of Islamic State, the United States must contain the Islamic Republic’s expansionism, and to do so, argues Reuel Marc Gerecht, Washington must focus its attention on Syria. In the words of the former commander of Iranian forces in Syria, the country as “the key region” to Iranian strategy, where Tehran’s “interests can most be hurt.” But if the U.S. refuses to take action, it will leave Israel alone to stand up to the ayatollahs:
[T]o ensure that the clerical regime cannot exploit Iraq’s highway system to move soldiers and materiel, including medium-range missiles, easily into the Levant, Syria is the choke point; . . . if Tehran can develop medium-range missile bases and permanently deploy a significant ground force in Syria, all protected by advanced Russian air-defense systems, then it may be able to check Israel’s capacity to play a Middle Eastern cop, which is the role the Obama and Trump administrations have defaulted onto the Jewish state as Washington has thinned its objectives and responsibilities in the region.
With Trump’s decision not to respond militarily to Iranian attacks against shipping in the Persian Gulf and a critical Saudi oil facility, the president has seriously undermined the fear that others have had of American power. If Washington is unwilling to risk war to thwart the clerical regime’s ambitions, then the only real hard-power check on Tehran is Jerusalem.
And surrounded by ever-better missiles in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran, Israel naturally would hesitate to strike the Islamic Republic. Even with the Iron Dome anti-missile shield, civilian casualties might be staggering, . . . And the possibility of an Israeli military check against the ongoing Iranian nuclear-weapons quest will diminish appreciably. The Israelis might still make an effort to take out the clerical regime’s primary nuclear facilities, given Jerusalem’s existential fear of an Iranian nuke, but the Islamic Republic would have an increasing advantage: the more ballistic and cruise missiles Tehran can deploy, the more tempting it becomes for any Israeli cabinet to just live with a doctrine of mutually assured destruction.