Israeli strikes in Syria are message to Assad and Tehran

Analysis: The Iranian regime thought they outfoxed the Israelis by scattering its munitions piecemeal across Syria, but Israel is determined to show that however small the hiding place, it can still reach every Iranian stronghold

Ron Ben-YishaiPublished:

The Syrian regime and its military know full well who carried out the strikes on their territory for two nights this week.
They have sophisticated radar systems and state-of-the-art air defense capabilities so, it is safe to say they know exactly whose fighter jets attacked them.


 Iranian Chief of Staff, General Mohammad Bagheri in Syria  Iranian Chief of Staff, General Mohammad Bagheri in Syria

Iranian Chief of Staff, General Mohammad Bagheri in Syria
(Photo: AP, Syrian Central Military Media)
Therefore, one can assume the official reports coming out of Syria about the attacks on Sunday and Tuesday nights, are reliable.
The Syrians say that Israeli planes attacked four different locations, and cellphone footage from those areas indicate the attacks were very successful. The footage shows large explosions, typical of something like a weapons storage facility being hit.
The footage, along with Syrian reports, make it very clear what the Israeli objective were in the two strikes, if they indeed had been carried out by the IDF.
It seems that recently the Iranians have decided to keep a low profile when it comes to confronting Israel directly along the Syrian border in the Golan Heighs.


רגע התקיפהרגע התקיפה

The attack as caught on the phone of a Syrian civilian
(Photo: Courtesy)
This is apparently due to the killing of Qasem Soleimani – commander of the Quds Force and a general in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – and the coronavirus epidemic that has taken a heavy toll on Iran.
Meanwhile, it seems that Soleimani’s replacement, İsmail Kaani, does not have the same budget that were available to his predecessor.
Kaani’s mission at the moment is based on assisting Syrian President Bashar al- Assad’s army in its war against Sunni rebels, and widescale manufacturing and deployment of precision missiles across Syria and Lebanon.
It is also evident the Iranians are bringing the technology for the missile development to Syria in order to assemble the projectiles there. Their inventory is scattered across many storage facilities, located across northern and eastern Syria, as well as in some southern areas, closer to Israel.


תמונת לוויין של סוריה אחרי ולפני התקיפהתמונת לוויין של סוריה אחרי ולפני התקיפה

Images of targets hit by IAF jets back in May
(Photo: ImageSat International )
The targets of the attack on Tuesday were located in north, east and southeast Syria.
It seems the point of placing dozens of small storage facilities was to hide it from Israeli intelligence and to make it difficult for the Israeli Air Force to attack them.
Based on Syrian reports, it appears these sites were often guarded by Shi’ite soldiers, run and funded by Iran.
It is also possible the reports about soldiers killed in the attack were intended to disguise the fact that these soldiers were in fact Iranians, more specifically, Revolutionary Guards.


בשאר אסד ביקור ב אידליב סוריהבשאר אסד ביקור ב אידליב סוריה

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Idlib, Syria
(Photo: Reuters)
The Syrians have an interest in hiding the Iranian military presence on its soil, which the Islamic Republic uses for purposes that are not necessarily meant to aid the Assad regime.
Syria also knows perfectly well that reports about Iranian casualties on their territory adversely affect public opinion in Iran, where the public doesn’t like to see their boys coming home in coffins.
It serves to remind the Iranian people that the Ayatollah regime is throwing away young lives and money on goals that are not essential to protecting the population.
The alleged Israeli attacks this week were conducted not only to destroy physical property but to also convey a message to the Syrian regime: As long as you protect the Iranians, you will continue to pay a high price even though Israel has no interest to directly confront the Syrian regime at the moment.


קאסם סולימאניקאסם סולימאני

Commander of the Quds Force, and Islamic Revolutionary Guard General, Qasem Soleimani
(Photo: AP)
As part of its understandings with Russia, Israel refrains from directly attacking targets belonging to the Assad regime and the Syrian army, unless they interfere with Israel’s campaign against the Iranian entrenchment in Syria the precision missile project.
The Russians appear to make sure the Iranians never build their missile storage sites near facilities belonging to Russian military personnel, although the Iranians have tried to do so on several occasions.
Israel’s message to the Syrian regime is similar to Israel’s message to the Iranian regime: We will not allow you to entrench in Syria, you will pay with money and blood, and we will disrupt your missile precision project as much as we can. The attacks are also significant enough for the Iranians to also get that message all the way in Tehran.
Israel, however, is walking on thin ice. The attacks carried out so far were conducted in a way that allowed the Syrian regime to absorb them without retaliating, or as the IDF says “contain” them. But, that might change if, for instance, one day Israel receives wrong intelligence.
Nevertheless, all signs show that Solimani’s death and the aftermath of the coronavirus epidemic as well as U.S. sanctions on Iran’s economy – are already causing the Iranians to rethink their course of action.
They have begun curtailing their operations in Syria and are trying to keep themselves out of harm during Israeli attacks.

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