With President Bashar Assad seemingly poised to survive the Syrian civil war, Israeli leaders are growing nervous about the intentions of his Iranian patrons and their emerging corridor of influence across the region.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is agitating against Iran in global forums like this week’s U.N. General Assembly. The Israeli military is holding war games targeting the Iran-backed Lebanese Hezbollah, and generals are issuing tough threats in hopes of avoiding what could be another ruinous Israeli entanglement in Lebanon, this time with Iranian advisers and troops on Israel’s doorstep.
Israel has long identified Iran as its biggest threat, citing its suspect nuclear program, development of long-range missiles and hostile rhetoric. But gains by Syrian troops and their Iranian-backed allies have given those concerns new urgency.
Israel fears the establishment of a Shiite “corridor,” with land links from Iran to Lebanon, allowing the movement of fighters and weapons across the region. At the heart of those fears is Hezbollah, the Lebanese militia that battled Israel to a stalemate in a monthlong war in 2006. The group has greatly beefed up its arsenal of rockets and missiles since then, and after years of fighting in Syria, is more battle-tested than ever.
In his U.N. address Tuesday, Netanyahu warned that Iran was spreading a “curtain of tyranny and terror” across the region, and said Israel would defend itself.
“We will act to prevent Iran from establishing permanent military bases in Syria for its air, sea and ground forces. We will act to prevent Iran from producing deadly weapons in Syria or in Lebanon for use against us. And we will act to prevent Iran from opening new terror fronts against Israel along our northern border,” he said.
In an exclusive interview with The Associated Press, the commander of the exercise, Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman, said that despite Hezbollah’s gains, the balance of power has greatly shifted in favor of Israel since 2006.
“If Hezbollah’s capabilities have grown linearly, ours have grown exponentially, in intelligence, in targets and in the ability to attack,” he said. If fighting resumes, “the damage to Hezbollah will be severe, mortal and comprehensive.”
He said he was pleased with the performance of his troops, and said the two-week drill should send a powerful message of deterrence.
Russia, which is waging an air campaign on behalf of Assad, and Iran and Hezbollah, which have fighters on the ground, have provided crucial support and are expected to play a major role in postwar Syria.
“The vector is quite clear right now, with the Syrian army, Hezbollah and the Shiite militias gradually regaining control of large swaths of the country,” said Chagai Tzuriel, the director general of the Israeli Intelligence Ministry.
Israel has said any permanent presence of Iranian or Hezbollah troops along the Syrian border with Israel would be crossing a “red line,” hinting that it would be willing to take military action if needed. Tzuriel warned of a “regional conflagration.”
Former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, a man who dares not travel in many parts of the globe due to fears of arrest, has made one of the most stunning admissions of his career to date.
In an article for CapX, a British online news website founded by the Centre for Policy Studies, Kissinger warned against defeating ISIS because doing so could lead to an “Iranian radical empire.” He warned:
“In these circumstances, the traditional adage that the enemy of your enemy can be regarded as your friend no longer applies. In the contemporary Middle East, the enemy of your enemy may also be your enemy. The Middle East affects the world by the volatility of its ideologies as much as by its specific actions.”
Unsurprisingly, Kissinger, a documented war criminal, displayed a complete disregard for international law while expressing his major concerns. Kissinger said:
“The outside world’s war with Isis can serve as an illustration. Most non-Isis powers — including Shia Iran and the leading Sunni states — agree on the need to destroy it. But which entity is supposed to inherit its territory? A coalition of Sunnis? Or a sphere of influence dominated by Iran?”
Considering the majority of the territory belongs to Syria (and/or Iraq), perhaps it should not even be a question of who should inherit the land after ISIS’ downfall. If there are concerns that Syria will become an Iranian client state, perhaps the U.S. should have considered that before they targeted Syria for regime change in a short-sighted attempt to undermine Iran in the first place. It is only because the U.S. carried out this strategy – and continues to carry out this strategy – that Iran has emerged as a significant benefactor in the Syrian conflict. Nevertheless, Kissinger cautioned:
“The answer is elusive because Russia and the NATO countries support opposing factions. If the Isis territory is occupied by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards or Shia forces trained and directed by it, the result could be a territorial belt reaching from Tehran to Beirut, which could mark the emergence of an Iranian radical empire.”
To the 94-year-old, there is nothing more threatening than a dominant Iran, even when compared to the violent global jihad phenomenon that is ISIS. Contrary to popular neoconservative-propagated belief, Iran is widely regarded as one of the most stable countries in the region. It is also one of the most heavily engaged entities fighting ISIS, a terror group the Trump and Obama administrations had previously made the number one enemy.
Objectively speaking, despite its abundant flaws, Iran is a natural ally in the fight against ISIS and radical jihad. However, as the truth comes to light from official statements of the ruling elite, in the eyes of the powers-that-be, ISIS has become a natural ally of the United States in its bid to undermine the Iranian government.