Israel worried about becoming neighbors with Iran amid ongoing Syrian war

YUSUF SELMAN İNANÇ @yusufsinanc
ISTANBUL
Published

Since the fall of Aleppo last month, the Syrian regime has prevented itself from clashing with the opposition groups, despite the fact that it and its allies have violated the truce several times, killing at least 300 people. Yet, a major blow to the regime's military facilities came from Israel on Thursday night. Israeli rockets, which used to target Hezbollah and regime forces near the Golan Heights, pounded a military air base near Damascus. Although Israel has not claimed the attack yet, the Syrian side has said they are positive Israel hit the air base. In view of the regional actors, Israel is the only one that is capable of carrying out such an attack. It is known that Israel has previously targeted advanced weapons systems, including Russian-made anti-aircraft missiles and Iranian-made missiles, as well as Hezbollah positions.

Israel targeted the air base a few times in the last two years. The air base reported hosts a headquarters of the Syrian air forces and a prison. In Dec. 2016, Israel attacked the air base two times. "During the first attack, a truck convoy on the Beirut-Damascus Highway that, according to news reports, was transporting weaponry or even rockets from Syria to Lebanon, and a Syrian army arms cache were hit. A week later, an apparent arms cache was targeted at Mazzeh Military Airport, and the ammunition caused secondary explosions that were heard and seen for many hours throughout the region," The Jerusalem Post reported.

U.S. inaction in Syria apparently disturbs Israel as Iran has gained a very strong position in Syria. Since the war broke out, Israel has supported Bashar Assad's removal and made warnings about the advancement of Iran and its proxies. Outgoing U.S. President Barack Obama has been very reluctant to make any step to change the war's fate but started supporting the PKK's Syrian branch under the pretext of waging war against Daesh. When Turkey launched a military operation against Daesh, there was no U.S. support. In addition, while Iran has been strengthening its position in Syria, U.S.-Israeli relations have run aground over the disputes between Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

President-elect Donald Trump has expressed his support for Israel and has shown a very negative stance towards Iran. However, it does not mean Trump will become a game-changer in Syria. His support for Israel will make him encounter Iran. At this point, Turkey and Russia can act as mediators between Iran and Israel. While Russia and Israel share similar concerns in the region, Russia's close cooperation with Iran is likely disturbing Israel. Yet, Turkey and Israel are in a very similar position when it comes to the war in Syria. Both of the countries want Assad to leave the post and Iran to stop supporting Shiite militants. Iran has helped the Assad regime throughout the war, dispatching thousands of soldiers, mobilizing the Hezbollah group and delivering millions of dollars, despite its troubled economy due to international sanctions.

In sum, Israel is worried about an Iranian presence in its neighbor. As long as Iran has the power to dominate Damascus and mobilize Shiite groups, there will be more conflict with Israel and the U.S. will not be able to play a mediating role since it has chosen to take its hands off the conflict. In this situation, Turkey and Russia may become the mediators to resolve the conflict.

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