War on the Golan Heights

Active hostilities have started on the Golan Heights between the forces of Iran in Syria, and the IDF, the Israel Defense Force.

From the beginning of the Iranian Islamic Republic in 1979 the intention of Ayatollah Khomenei was to destroy Israel.  Posters were plastered all over Tehran reading “The road to Jerusalem goes through Baghdad.”  Thus the Iran-Iraq war that began in 1980, lasted until 1988 and resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands on both sides.  It exhausted both countries and ended in a stalemate.  Israel was ready in case Iran conquered Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, but it never did and Iraq stood between Iran and its plan to attack Jerusalem.

Now 30 years later, after the Iraq wars, the demise of Saddam Hussein, and the rise and fall of the Islamic State, Iran took its opportunity to get close to Israel by playing a major role in fighting with the pro-Shia regime of Pres. Assad in Syria.   So the slogan turned out to be that “the road to Jerusalem goes through Damascus.”  Now that Assad  has reversed the tide and has regained control of most of Syria, with Russian and Iranian support, the Iranians are now entering the second phase of their presence in Syria by focusing on Israel.  They have for several years been trying to build a major military presence on the Golan Heights close to the Israel border.

It is important to note that both Syria and Iran have never recognised Israel and both consider themselves at war with the Jewish State.  It would be suicidal for Israel to ignore the consistent dire threats of destruction emanating from the Iranian regime, and Israel cannot allow Iran to continue to expand its forces in Syria and particularly in the Golan.  The current round of fighting started when Iran flew a drone over Israel that was shot down.  Then Israel attacked the Syrian T4 airfield, killing several Iranian personnel.  An IAF fighter plane was downed but fell into the Israel side of the Golan. Then last night Iran fired 20 missiles into the Israeli Golan region, although only 4 penetrated and they were destroyed by the Iron Dome system. This action must be seen as an Iranian reaction to the decision by Pres. Trump to reject the Iran nuclear deal (which incidentally is neither a treaty nor was it ever ratified by the US Congress).

PM Netanyahu went on air and proclaimed that the Iranians had crossed a red line.  Israel retaliated later with a series of major aerial and missile attacks against some 50 Iranian sites throughout Syria.   This is the first major escalation in the on-going war between the two sides.  The major Iranian force in Syria is the al Quds Brigade (al Quds is the Arabic name for Jerusalem) of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRG), which is the major arm of the regime operating outside Iran.  Its commander Maj Gen Soleimani operates independently in Syria and he acted without the knowledge and consent of Pres. Assad and the Syrian Govt.

Furthermore, an important facet of this situation is the Russians.  That is why Netanyahu flew to Moscow only a few days ago to meet with Pres. Putin and to assure him that Israel’s actions are not aimed against Russia or Syria, but only against Iran.  It is clear that Russia is providing defense systems to Syria, but is not actively supporting Iran.  In fact, it may be in Russia’s interest to see Iran dealt a severe blow so that they cannot challenge Russian dominance in Syria.

What happens next, whether Iran can or will attempt a further escalation against Israel, whether the Saudis and other Sunni States will play any role and whether or not, after his triumphant meeting with Kim Jong-un in Singapore in two weeks, Pres. Trump will flex US military might against Iran, remains to be seen.