Is Israel Winning Its “War between Wars”?

March 21, 2023 | Eden Kaduri
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For over a decade, the IDF has carried out hundreds of airstrikes in Syria, in a campaign to prevent the buildup of Iranian and Iran-backed forces that could be used to attack the Jewish state. These strikes, many of them on weapons shipments and armaments factories, appear to have peaked in 2020 and 2021 and declined slightly in 2022. The “war between the wars,” as it has been dubbed, has also included cyberwarfare and other covert actions. Surveying the campaign as a whole, Eden Kaduri draws some conclusions about its success:

[R]ecent years have seen a number of strategic processes that increase Iran’s influence in Syria in a way that is not addressed by the war between wars. Iran is working to reinforce its civilian entrenchment, infiltrating many aspects of Syrian life—the economy, education, culture, and tourism. In 2022 Iran worked tirelessly to extend economic cooperation, including increasing trade between the countries, launching joint economic projects, and removing regulatory restrictions. According to the Tehran regime, Iranian exports to Syria doubled last year, and Iran is exploiting the economic crisis in Syria to increase Syrian dependence. It has reinforced cooperation in the field of energy and electricity, implemented joint construction projects, and promoted the involvement of Iranian companies in the rebuilding of Syria.

Moreover 2022 saw the revival of the “axis of resistance” to Israel, which includes Iran, Hizballah, Syria, Islamic Jihad, and Hamas. Renewed relations between the Assad regime and Hamas strengthen Syria’s status as an important element in the radical axis. Iran regards all these activities as strategic processes designed to exploit the civilian and political situation in Syria, while hardly being affected by the air attacks, . . . which are focused on preventing Iran’s military empowerment in Syria.

Israel should extend the range of tools at its disposal against the Iranian presence and influence to include diplomatic, economic, and cognitive efforts, possibly in collaboration with relevant countries, above all the United States, Jordan, Turkey, and the Gulf states, as well as sectors in Syria, such as the Druze and the Kurds.

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