Wednesday, April 18, 2018

War Brewing: Israel Says Iranian Air Force Assembling In Syria - Hints It Could Hit Iran's Air Force In Syria

  • Israel is letting on that it sees an Iranian "air force" forming in Syria and that it may destroy it if it seeks to harm Israel.
  • Russia, Syria, and Iran have accused Israel of killing Iranian troops in an airstrike on a Syrian air base earlier this month.
  • Iran has announced plans to retaliate.
  • But experts say Iran's forces in Syria are exposed to Israel's air force and are being warned that they could get knocked out if they cross a line.

Israel's military on Tuesday apparently let leak a series of news reports indicating that it sees an Iranian air force forming in Syria and hinting that it may be willing to deal it a knockout blow. 
Iran and Israel have clashed in the air recently, with Israel downing an Iranian drone it said flew over its territory with explosives in February and amid suspected Israeli airstrikes designed to punish Iranian forces in Syria. 
Earlier this month, Russia, Syria, and Iran accused Israel of carrying out a strike on an air base in Syria known as T-4 that left at least 14 dead, including Iranian troops, and Israel made no effort to deny it. 
The New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman quoted a senior Israeli official as saying Iran had opened up a new front in the long-simmering conflict by trying a direct drone attack on Israel. 

Iran's growing forces in Syria

Though Israel doesn't comment on its air incursions into Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has made clear that it is willing to do whatever necessary to prevent Iranian forces there from creeping closer to its borders or seeking to arm aligned anti-Israel groups like Hezbollah in Lebanon. 
"The Iranians have been exploiting the chaos of the Syrian civil war to build up military assets there that target Israel, all the while sending advanced weaponry to Lebanon by way of Damascus, also under the fog of war," Tony Badran and Jonathan Schanzer of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies wrote in The Wall Street Journal in February.

According to Reuters, Roni Daniel, the military editor for the Israeli TV station Mako, said Israel was signaling to Iran that its forces in Syria were "totally exposed to us, and if you take action against us to avenge [the T-4 strike], these targets will be very severely harmed." 
Badran previously described Iran's military presence in Syria as "vulnerable." 
"It's exposed to direct US fire, just like it's exposed to direct Israeli fire," he told Business Insider.

If Israel were to enter Iranian airspace to strike its military, it could cause a massive international incident and meet backlash from the UN and Arab countries alike.

"Israel is headed for escalation," Yaakov Amidror, Netanyahu's former national security adviser, told a Tel Aviv radio station, according to Reuters. "There could be a very big belligerent incident with Iran and Hezbollah."

In an indication of the possible extent of fighting between Israel and Iran, Israel chose to keep its F-15 air superiority fighters home and on alert instead of sending them to the coming Red Flag military exercises, one of the world's best jet-fighter-training programs, as planned. 
With Syria's air defenses apparently a pushover target for Israel, and exposed Iranian forces openly posturing against the Jewish state, it seems a small retaliation from Iran could launch a much bigger conflict.

Israel hints it could hit Iran's 'air force' in Syria

Israel released details on Tuesday about what it described as an Iranian "air force" deployed in neighboring Syria, including civilian planes suspected of transferring arms, a signal that these could be attacked should tensions with Tehran escalate.
Iran, along with Damascus and its big-power backer Russia, blamed Israel for an April 9 air strike on a Syrian air base, T-4, that killed seven Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) members. Iranian officials have promised unspecified reprisals.
Israeli media ran satellite images and a map of five Syrian air bases allegedly used to field Iranian drones or cargo aircraft, as well as the names of three senior IRGC officers suspected of commanding related projects, such as missile units.
The information came from the Israeli military, according to a wide range of television and radio stations and news websites. Israel's military spokesman declined to comment.
However, an Israeli security official seemed to acknowledge the leak was sanctioned, telling Reuters that it provided details about "the IRGC air force (which) the Israeli defense establishment sees as the entity that will try to attack Israel, based on Iranian threats to respond to the strike on T-4."
The official, who requested anonymity, would not elaborate.
Israel’s Army Radio reported that, given tensions with Iran over Syria, the Israeli air force canceled plans to send F-15 fighter jets to take part in the U.S.-hosted exercise Red Flag, which begins on April 30.
Roni Daniel, military editor for Israeli TV station Mako, said the disclosure was a signal to Iran that its deployments in Syria "are totally exposed to us, and if you take action against us to avenge (the T-4 strike) these targets will be very severely harmed".
According to Daniel, Israel was bracing for a possible Iranian missile salvo or armed drone assault from Syria.

The Iranian death toll in T-4 was unusually high. "It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets - both facilities and people," the New York Times on Sunday quoted an Israeli military source as saying.

An Israeli-Iranian showdown over Syria has loomed since Feb. 10, when Israel said an armed drone launched from T-4 penetrated its air space. Israel blew up the drone and carried out a raid on Syrian air defenses in which one of its F-16 jets was downed.
"Israel is headed for escalation," Yaacov Amidror, former national security adviser to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, told Tel Aviv radio station 103 FM. "There could be a very big belligerent incident with Iran and Hezbollah."

While not claiming responsibility for the T-4 strike, Israel has restated a policy of preventing Iran setting up a Syrian garrison. Scores of previous such raids went unanswered but Israel worries that changing conditions may now embolden Iran.

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