Sunday, January 20, 2019

New IDF Chief Kochavi: Daytime Strikes May Show New Era As Window Of Opportunity To Act Against Iranian Entrenchment Closing

If IDF hit Syria, are daytime strikes army chief Kochavi's new strategy?

IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Aviv Kochavi may be a vegetarian, but if reports are correct his first act against Iranian targets in Syria show he’s just as hungry as his predecessor Gadi Eisenkot who first interrupted Tehran’s dream to build a large military power in Syria. 

As reported, the strikes on Sunday morning struck familiar targets, sites at Damascus International Airport and a Hezbollah/Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) base in the Al-Kiswah area.

IAF jets are believed to have carried out dozens of attacks in al-Kiswah and Damascus International Airport as part of its effort to prevent Iranian entrenchment in the war-torn country.

But the Jewish State, which recently come out in the open about its activity against Iran in the war-torn country, rarely strikes during the day, preferring to wait until the late hours of the night to attack Iranian targets.

While it could be that the Israeli jets were ordered to strike targets which posed an immediate threat to Israel, Kochavi - who took the reins as top officer just last week - is known for changing the rules of the game to the IDF’s advantage. 

In an interview given to the New York Times before his retirement, Eisenkot was crowned “as the man who humbled” the IRGC’s Qassem Soleimani. But Solemani is still alive and kicking, sending planes full of men and arms to Syria, the latest one having had to turn around mid-flight back to Tehran after the missiles left their pods.

Could it be that Kochavi, who was reported by Saudi Arabi’s Elaph newspaper as once advocating for removing Syrian President Bashar al-Assad over his support for Hezbollah even by assassinating him, sending a message to Soleimani?

When he took over from Eisenkot on Wednesday he vowed to make the IDF “deadly and efficient” while Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Iran to leave Syria “quickly.”

“I advise them to leave [Syria] quickly, because we will continue with our assertive policy, as promised, without fear and without a break,” Netanyahu said, adding that while Israel was not looking for embarking on a full-blown military campaign against Iran “if it is necessary – the Israeli army will rise to the challenge.”

Netanyahu was out of the country on Sunday when the jets reportedly struck their targets, but Kochavi knows the northern arena very well, serving as the Head of the Northern Command until 2017 during which he instituted a series of reforms throughout the command - responsible for both the Lebanese and Syrian fronts - to make it more lethal and responsive to intelligence gathered in the military.

But nothing stays static in the Middle East for very long.

And while Eisenkot had to contend with a Syria which was devouring itself during his term, Assad has conquered his country with the help of Iran, Hezbollah and the Russians. Eisenkot was able to greatly expand the IDF’s “war between wars” campaign, carrying out thousands of strikes against enemy targets across the region.

Kochavi came in at a time where the IDF knew it’s window of opportunities to act against Iranian entrenchment was closing. He knew he would have to bring a different attitude to the table, and Sunday’s strikes may just be the beginning to that new IDF strategy.

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