Over the weekend, an aerial attack destroyed a shipment of weapons intended for Hizballah fighters in Syria as it made its way overland from Lebanon. Although Jerusalem took no credit, the attack resembles hundreds of similar IDF strikes on arms and positions belonging to Iran and its proxies. Alex Fishman notes that, just a week beforehand, Naftali Bennett had his first meeting since taking office with Vladimir Putin, who has allied with Iran in backing up the dictatorship of Bashar al-Assad. In Fishman’s view, the timing isn’t coincidental:
Over the past months, according to Syrian opposition forces, Israel has intensified its military operations in Syria. While 2020 saw some 400 missiles allegedly fired by Israel at its neighbor to the northwest, the past year saw a 25-percent increase—and we’re only in November.
The Iranian activity in Syria has also very much changed. The overall presence of Iran’s advisers in Syria had already started to decrease in 2020, with the number of Iranian fighters dropping by some 50 percent. However, the quantity and quality of the weapons and supplies Tehran is shipping into Syria have increased.
Israel’s strategy, meanwhile, has remained the same: thwart Iran’s efforts to entrench itself more deeply in Syria. But when the rate and ferocity of attacks increases, Israel runs the risk of having this cold war turn hot. So why does Israel continue with this strategy and has even intensified its activity? The real change over the past months has not been with Israel or Iran, but with Russian policy towards Syria.
Moscow has realized that in order to bolster the regime of the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad—and ensure his, and its own, continued hold on the region—it needs to begin bringing Syria out of its diplomatic isolation and to ramp up the rehabilitation efforts. . . . [Therefore], Moscow is pressuring Damascus to change its behavior in order to open itself to the rest of the world, with the weakening of Iran’s presence in Syria being a key part of achieving that goal.
More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Russia, Syrian civil war