Israel: Preparing for war with Iran
Iran and Israel are on the verge of all-out war, said Richard Spencer in The Times (U.K.). Both sides “are adamant their own ‘red lines’ have already been crossed.” Israel says it won’t accept the establishment of a permanent Iranian military presence on its doorstep in Syria—yet that is already happening. Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard, which has helped prop up Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad during his country’s seven-year civil war, is bedded down in the country and has trained some 80,000 paramilitary fighters there, including Shiite Muslim militants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan. Iran, meanwhile, wants revenge for several recent airstrikes on Iranian bases in Syria, which have destroyed some 200 advanced missiles and killed more than a dozen Guard members.
U.S. President Donald Trump’s pullout from the Iran nuclear deal this week will only exacerbate the threat to Israel, said Michael Koplow in Ha’aretz (Israel). Until now, the only thing preventing Iran from attacking Israel from Syria has been the knowledge that such a strike would cost Tehran the support of Britain, France, and Germany—the three Western European countries that signed the 2015 agreement. If that deal is dead anyway, such concerns are irrelevant. The scuttling of the nuclear agreement removes “a key restraint on Iran’s conventional forces.”
Any war will inevitably be “very destructive and very disruptive, not only for Israel and Iran but for neighboring states,” said Hillel Frisch in The Jerusalem Post (Israel). Since Iran has no real air force and its ground troops are far away, a conflict will likely begin with Iranian forces in Syria and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia in Lebanon firing thousands of missiles at Israel. In retaliation, the Israeli air force will aim to cripple the Iranian ports of Kharg—through which 90 percent of Iran’s oil and gas exports flow—and Bandar Abbas, which handles most imports. And Israel might “feel compelled to attack airports in Lebanon, Syria, and even Iraq to prevent the movement of Iranian troops and equipment.”
Retaliating against an Iranian offensive is one thing, said Nahum Barnea in Yedioth Ahronoth (Israel), but purposely provoking such an attack is another entirely. Yet that is what Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be doing. He has deliberately moved his red line so he can tell the world Iran is breaching it—first it was no arming of Hezbollah in Lebanon, then no Shiite militias near the Syrian-Israel border, and now no Iranian presence in Syria at all. Israeli strikes on Iranian sites in Syria are extremely provocative, yet last week the Knesset gave him the power to make attack decisions in consultation only with the defense minister, not the whole cabinet as was previously required. As Netanyahu goads Iran, he has an obligation to “make the risks, the intentions, the goal, and the price clear” to the Israelis who will bear the sufferings of war.