Globe: The Israel-Iran Conflict Has Become More Dangerous

 Gokhan Sahin

Gokhan Sahin

Tensions in the Syrian Civil War are reaching a new high. The war being fought between Israel and Iran are becoming increasingly confrontational: what was once a conflict that was defined by espionage and proxy forces is evolving into direct confrontations between Israeli and Iranian military forces. This became apparent last month when Israel carried out attacks against Iranian military instillations in Syria.

Normally, Israeli incursions into Syria were executed in order to attack Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed terrorist group fighting on behalf of the Assad regime. The threat of Hezbollah shipping weapons to their base-state in Lebanon to deploy against Israel has resulted in numerous air raids against the terrorist group. Not only do the raids curtail the threat from Hezbollah, they also send a message to their overlords in Iran.

 Iran has been a player in the Syrian war for years, and has fought on the Assad regime’s behalf using proxy forces like Hezbollah in addition to Iran’s own Revolutionary Guards – an elite paramilitary group that advances the Islamic Republic’s interests across the globe. However, in recent days, Israel has taken a more direct approach to countering the Iranian presence in Syria.

Last April, Israel purportedly attacked an Iranian base in April the left 16 dead. The attack comes after the U.S. bombed Assad regime facilities after the regime conducted another chemical attack. Other attacks against Iran in Syria have been reported, though no faction has claimed responsibility.

The latest attack came shortly after President Trump announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or Iran Deal, when Israel purportedly struck a military outpost near Damascus.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K. based group that monitors the Syrian Civil War, reported that nine people were killed in the attack. Located in Kisweh, the facilities attacked are believed to be depots and rocket launchers belonging to the Revolutionary Guards. The Syrian Observatory could not determine whether those killed were members of the Revolutionary Guards or pro-Iran militiamen.  

Iran has vowed retaliation for the recent attacks, and Israel is preparing for the worst.

Israel has gone on high alert after detected irregular Iranian activity its border with Syria. Residents of the Golan Heights were told to prepare bomb shelters in response to what has been dubbed an “imminent” threat of attack by Israeli defense officials.

Reservists and defense systems have been deployed in the area and Israel has warned that any aggression would be met with a “sever response.” It is unknown how this attack will manifest itself, if it occurs at all. It is speculated that the attack would executed using missiles.

Iran has been aggressively extending its influence in the Levant. Aside from the increasing support for the Assad regime, Iran continues to make inroads into neighboring territories such as Lebanon. Last Sunday Hezbollah won power in Lebanon after that nation’s first election in years, and the first time the political arm of the terrorist group has been a partner in power since 2009. In response to the election results, an Israeli official warned that Israel would not distinguish Lebanon from Hezbollah.

Hezbollah has induced Israel into Lebanon before. In 2006, Israel and Lebanon fought a war that lasted for 34 days and is considered a first major step of the Israel-Iran proxy war do to the latter’s unprecedented support for Hezbollah. Hezbollah has been responsible for attacks and suicide bombings against Israel since the Lebanese Civil War that raged from 1975-1990. Hezbollah is also responsible for carrying out attacks on American and European targets, including the bombing of an American embassy annex that killed 24. The Islamic Jihad Organization, an ally of Hezbollah, is responsible for the 1983 Beuirt barracks bombings that killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers.

The tensions between Israel and Iran will only escalate in the future. As anti-government rebels are pushed back and the Assad regime reconsolidates power, Iran will have a new permanent foothold in Syria. Iran’s proxies in Lebanon and Palestine only pressure Israel further, and Iran is in a power struggle for influence over the Iraqi government. Israel has repeatedly stated that Iran’s ambitions are unacceptable. Israel’s neighbors in Saudi Arabia and Jordan agree and are too getting involved into the proxy conflict.

The similarities between the current strategic climate of the Middle East and that of the pre-World War Balkans is daunting. Before the World War broke out in 1914, the Balkans was drowning in an almost perpetual state of ethnic conflict.

Often, great powers such as the weakening Ottoman Empire or Russia would get involved in somehow, either directly or through indirect support. Eventually the fighting between smaller factions became the stage in which powerful states expressed their grievances with each other. This would cumulate in the outbreak of a greater war bringing in the surrounding powers.

The world is not there yet.  But with threats of imminent attacks on Israel and the Sunni Gulf States increasing fear, the specter of a cold war turning hot looms over the Middle East.