The latest changes taking place in Syria are nothing short of dramatic. With the civil war raging for more than a decade, President Bashar Assad’s grip has been all but fully restored and now he wants to assert his control over those who have helped him along the way, including Iran.
Given the fact that he is indebted to Iran and Hezbollah for coming to his rescue at the beginning of the conflict and saving him from defeat, his move is very interesting.
Tehran and the terror group began intervening in the war as early in 2012 by providing Damascus with tactical advice, weapons, funds, and troops. Soon after, Russia realized it had an opportunity to impact the region and also began providing Syria with military aid. Essentially, it was the outside help – especially from Russia – that saved Assad’s regime and helped him regain control of the country.
Since 2018, his regime has toiled to re-establish control of Syria and rehabilitate the military. Assad hasn’t regained all the territories that used to be under his control before the war, but he is doing everything possible to do so.
Meanwhile, the Iranians have gotten used to acting in Syria as they please, and have in recent years to lay the groundwork for future action, including vis-à-vis Israel. Iran is also taking advantage of Syria to transfer weapons into Lebanon.
Nevertheless, despite extensive support from Tehran during the war, Assad is far from thrilled about the Iranian presence in his country. This was made clear by his recent expulsion of the local Quds Force commander Jawad Ghafari from Syria due to “excessive activism and undermining Syrian sovereignty.”
This development shows that Syria and Russia’s interests overlap to some extent with Israel’s. The Israel Defense Forces has recently stepped up its attacks in Syria to push Iran out of the country and disrupt the transfer of advanced weapons to the local Shiite militia and Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Nevertheless, Assad’s dislike of the Iranian presence in Syria does not hold him back from countering Israeli attacks in his territory.
Due to the difficulties Iran is experiencing in Syria, its efforts to establish a foothold in the country have stopped bearing fruit. Iran is unlikely to disappear from Syria, and in practice, Tehran is trying to find tactical solutions to minimize the attacks and make it harder for the IDF Air Force to act against it, for example, by situating its assets around Russian military bases.
While in past Russia seemed to have been dissatisfied with Israeli activity in Syria, recently it seems to have given Israel the green light, and IDF attacks in Syria continue – despite Iranian efforts to get closer to Russian bases.
This indicates close coordination between Jerusalem and Moscow as well as great sophistication and precision by the Israeli Air Force in planning the attacks.
Meanwhile, the United States is still in Syria, mainly in the Al-Tanf area, but is less active. At the end of October, Shiite militia was given a command by Tehran to attack the US base, which it did using drones. Thanks to a timely alert, the US managed to evacuate its men from the scene.
In a similar attack, attributed to Iran, the home of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was targeted by a drone bomb. Although Israel expected a harsher rebuke on behalf of the Biden administration, it only condemned Iran, probably because the Islamist republic is not their number one priority at the moment.
One way or another, Israeli attacks in Syria are likely to continue both due to operational needs and the overlap with Syrian and Russian interests in the region. It is also a way for Israel to vent over Iran’s nuclear program.
Source » israelhayom