The Latest Attack Suggests Israel Is Changing Its Syria Strategy

June 14, 2022 | Yoav Limor
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On Thursday, airstrikes at the Damascus airport, thought to have been carried out by the IDF, reportedly destroyed three arms depots used by Iranian proxy militias. While such attacks have become almost commonplace in what Jerusalem calls “the campaign between the wars,” this particular one stood out, in that serious damage was also done to the runways and even an observation tower, leading to a temporary suspension of flights. Yoav Limor believes this to be not mere collateral damage, but evidence of a shift in strategy:

The central goal of the Israeli Air Force’s alleged strike on Thursday night was not Iran, but Syria. . . . Israel may have sought to pressure the Syrian president Bashar al-Assad into adopting a more active and assertive position against Iran’s use of his territory and infrastructure to continue to smuggle arms to Hizballah and various other powerful elements inside Syria.

In the seven years since it began, the campaign between the wars has recorded quite a few achievements. The intelligence infiltration that allowed for hundreds of attacks did serious harm to Iran’s intentions of establishing permanent bases and armed militias inside Syria and significantly disrupted the weapons convoys to Hizballah. On the other hand, it failed to dissuade the Iranians from continuing their efforts.

The aim now, therefore, is to exert further pressure on them not from Israel, but from Syria. To lead Assad to draw the conclusion that the direct price he will pay for Iran’s continued activity in his country will be higher than the price he will pay for confronting them.

It is doubtful, [however], that Assad truly wants to restrict the Iranians. He owes them his life after they came to his defense with the funds and means necessary in his most difficult hour in the Syrian civil war. Even if Assad were interested in ousting Iran, . . . it’s unlikely he would succeed. Syria is weak, broken, and rotten from the inside, and Iran is now deeply entrenched in the country.

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