Israel: Striking at Iran in Syria
We have just witnessed “the first public day of fighting between Israel and Iran,” said Yossi Yehoshua in Yedioth Ahronoth. The two countries have been enemies for decades, but until now they’ve waged war through armed proxies, such as the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia Hezbollah. That changed last week when Iran launched an advanced drone from a base in Syria into Israel, “either to take pictures or to attack.” Israel intercepted the drone and retaliated by pounding Syrian and Iranian targets in Syria, destroying nearly half of Syria’s air defenses. An Israeli F-16 jet was shot down by an anti-aircraft missile during the mission, forcing its two pilots to eject to safety over northern Israel. That psychologically damaging loss—the first downing of an Israeli jet in conflict since 1982—raises the possibility that the drone was part of “a well-planned ambush by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.” While Israel successfully attacked “12 significant Iranian targets in Syria,” it’s the footage of the parachuting pilots that “will be engraved in our collective memory.”
“Iran is clearly striving to change the balance of power on the Syrian-Israeli border,” said Ofir Haivry in Israel Hayom. Over seven years of involvement in Syria’s civil war, Tehran has notched numerous successes: It has saved the regime of President Bashar al-Assad from what once seemed to be an unstoppable rebellion, and has established a “significant presence of Iranian forces and proxy militias on Syrian soil.” Now Iran wants to make its Syrian bases permanent, so it can bombard Israel with missiles if Tehran and Jerusalem ever go to war. Israel’s tit-for-tat strikes in Syria were not nearly enough to deter Iran. “A disproportionate response is needed.” Israel should either take out the entire Syrian air force or enter the demilitarized zone of the Golan Heights on the Israeli-Syrian border.
Sorry, but President Vladimir Putin “is the one running the show in Syria,” said Anshel Pfeffer in Ha’aretz. Russian officers are embedded in Syrian units, and Russia controls Syrian skies. That means the Iranian drone was launched with Russian consent, as was Syria’s “unprecedented barrage of anti-aircraft missiles” against Israeli warplanes. Ultimately, even Israel had to bow to Russia’s will: It called off further strikes after a phone call from Putin to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Where is the U.S. in this mess? asked The Jerusalem Post in an editorial. It has watched passively as its NATO ally Turkey uses U.S.-supplied planes to bomb the Syrian Kurds, America’s staunchest allies in the fight against ISIS. If the U.S. won’t help the Kurds, “what does that say about U.S. declarations to support Israel’s right to defend itself?” Secretary of State Rex Tillerson claimed last month that the U.S. would expand its forces in Syria “to counter Iran’s pernicious influence.” But additional troops haven’t materialized, and diplomacy is entirely absent. America is “sorely missing from the geopolitical equation.” Its failure to act “emboldens Iran and increases the likelihood of war.”