With airstrikes inside Syria now posing a greater challenge to Tehran’s attempts to establish itself in the country than in the past, Iran has have begun taking various steps to contend with Israeli activity.
November has seen more airstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces on Syria than the same period last year when hundreds of armaments were dropped on the country.
The Israeli activity is being carried out within the framework of the Campaign Between the Wars – an ongoing Israeli military and intelligence effort to disrupt the force build-up of the Iranian-Shiite axis throughout the Middle East.
Given the uptick in Israeli activity inside Syria over the last year and the fact that both the Russians and Syrian President Bashar Assad are interested in a diminished Iranian presence in Russia, Israel believes Tehran has suffered a serious blow to its efforts to establish itself in the country. Israeli officials have gone so far as to say they believe Iran is no longer on the rise in Syria. The fact that Assad is no longer interested in Iran maintaining a broad presence in Syria stems, among other things, from his desire for a return to the days prior to the Syrian civil war, in which his sovereignty was not in question.
Assad already controls a majority of the territory he ruled over prior to the breakout of the war, and the Iranian presence in his country is not as welcome as it was in the past. As evidence, see Saudi media reports the Syrian leader expelled a senior Iranian commander who, according to a source inside Damascus, had admitted to stationing Iranian operatives and weapons in explicitly forbidden areas.
In light of all this, the Iranians are recalculating their activity in Syria and taking a plethora of tactical steps to make airstrikes more difficult for Israel to carry out. Given Israel’s efforts to avoid harming Russian soldiers and assets, one step they have taken is to try to situate their assets near Russian military bases.
Israel has taken extra care to avoid harming Russian forces in Syria in years, in particular after Syrian forces shot down a Russian airplane carrying all 15 military personnel they mistook for an Israeli aircraft that had just carried out airstrikes in the country in 2018. Although the IAF jets had already returned to Israeli territory when the plane was downed, Moscow held Jerusalem responsible and a crisis emerged.
Senior Israeli officials, including the IAF commander, visited Moscow in an attempt to present the findings of an Israeli investigation into the incident. Despite the Russians apparently understanding the Syrians were to blame, it took some time before bilateral ties were repaired.
Prime Minister Naftali Bennett met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Sochi last month to ensure stable ties are maintained.
To date, it appears that as long as Israel refrains from harming Russian assets and interests in Syria, Israeli operations against Iranian targets in Syria can continue unhindered. As we saw with airstrikes attributed to Israel in Syria in recent weeks, Israel has succeeded in maintaining its freedom of aerial operations in Syria while strictly ensuring Russian security.
It may be that the spike in Israeli strikes on Syria stem also from increased Iranian activity in the region of late. We can also assume this is connected to Israeli frustrations with Iran’s advancement of its nuclear program as it buys time on a return to the nuclear deal it signed with world powers in 2015. It may also be that, as winter draws near, the uptick is quite simply due to more favorable weather conditions for IAF activity.
Source » israelhayom