Israel’s strategy for confronting the Iranian military buildup to its North
Aug 30, 2019 | AIJAC staff
Update from AIJAC
Last weekend saw four separate attacks on Iran-linked targets in Lebanon. Syria and Iraq which many sources have attributed to Israel. AIJAC has prepared a detailed factsheet explaining what is and is not known about what happened, and the context and history. This Update follows up by looking at the broader implications of recent events in terms of Israel’s general strategy for confronting the build-up of Iranian-affiliated forces, bases and military manufacturing capabilities in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
First up is Israeli strategic analyst Seth Frantzman, who says the recent Israeli strikes show an Israeli policy of driving Iran’s military build-up out of the shadows, making it clear to Teheran that it cannot hide what it is doing. Part of this involves Jerusalem being increasingly public about what its own forces are doing in striking Iranian military assets – such as in taking responsibility for a strike on an Iranian drone based at Aqrabe near Damascus last Sunday. He says Israel’s new strategy jibes well with the US strategy of maximum pressure on Teheran, and the only alternative appears to be allowing Teheran’s creeping annexation of neighbouring states. For the rest of his argument, CLICK HERE.
Next up is American foreign policy expert Ilan Berman, who puts the recent Israeli strikes in the context of a current IDF re-think of its strategic doctrine. The new strategy focuses on “victory of time over space”, meaning the goals of the country’s military action are now to: “reduce the duration and damage of war to a minimum, and [to] defer the next war for many years.” Berman especially focuses on how this doctrine relates to the alleged recent Israeli strikes in Iraq. For his discussion in full, CLICK HERE.
Finally, top Israeli scholar Dr. Jonathan Spyer argues that recent events highlight that Israel and Iran are already effectively at war. He says that only limited parts of the forces of both nations are involved, and the battleground is located in three states that are “fragmented, partly collapsed, and thoroughly penetrated by neighbouring powers” – Lebanon, Iraq and Syria. He then discusses the roles of both the US and Sunni states like Saudi Arabia in this limited war. For Spyer’s always insightful take on what is happening between Israel and Iran overall, CLICK HERE.
Readers may also be interested in…
- Much is being written about the how and why of likely Iranian/Hezbollah responses to the alleged Israeli attacks – particularly worth reading are Israeli strategic analysts Brig.-Gen. (ret.) Dr. Shimon Shapira and Lt. Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, and Washington Institute for Near East Policy Lebanon expert Hanin Ghaddar.
- Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think-tank in Washington comment on the reaction to Iranian efforts to list their think-tank as a terrorist organisation.
- FDD analyst Behnam Ben Taleblu on Iran’s growing dividends from backing Yemen’s Houthi rebels.
- Former senior IAEA official Olli Heinonen urges European states to take action to address new information on Iran’s breaches of the JCPOA nuclear accord.
- A piece by Seth Frantzman on the images and maps that demonstrate Iran’s attempt to create a “land bridge” that stretches across Iraq and Syria to Lebanon and is controlled by Iranian forces.
- Michael Rubin on the way pro-Iranian militias in Iraq are jeopardising the future of that country.
- An analysis by Tovah Lazaroff of the Jerusalem Post of the implications of the growing talk about a Trump-Rouhani summit in the near future.
- A look at the Iranian economic situation and state of political unrest one year after US sanctions were re-imposed, from Israeli experts Raz Zimmt and Tomer Fadlon.
- Some examples from the many stories and comments now appearing at AIJAC’s daily “Fresh AIR” blog:
- Ahron Shapiro’s article on the UNRWA problem in the Daily Telegraph.
- An announcement of an SBS apology and correction regarding claims made about Israeli PM Binyamin Netanyahu, following an AIJAC complaint.
- An AIJAC expression of condolence on the passing of former deputy PM Tim Fischer.
- AIJAC media statements on the Australian Government’s announcement that Australia will contribute forces to the US-led coalition protecting shipping in the Persian Gulf, and on the controversial Israeli decision to deny visas to two radical US Congresswomen, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar.
Israel’s Strategy against Tehran: Revealing the Iranian Threat
No longer will Iran and its allies be able to hide in the shadows.
On Thursday, August 22, members of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force took a drone to an area near the Golan Heights, seeking to attack Israel. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) monitored the men, took video of them walking through a field, and struck back two nights later. The air strikes targeted a villa in southern Syria that Jerusalem says was being used by the IRGC and Shiite militias. This includes Hezbollah, a Lebanese ally of Iran that has played a major role in Syria in recent years.
The air strike is part of an increasingly firm stand Israel is taking against Iran’s regional ambitions in the Middle East. This includes several recent air strikes in Iraq that Iranian-linked paramilitaries have blamed on Israel. It also includes near-daily reports in media from Lebanon to Kuwait asserting that Israel is targeting Iran’s network of proxies and their bases in Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria. Jerusalem is no longer secretive about this widespread campaign. In January former IDF chief of staff Gadi Eizenkot said Israel had carried out thousands of air strikes on Iranian targets.
Now IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani has warned Israel that these strikes will be Israel’s last. Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah has threatened retaliation. This is part of a rising Iranian-backed chorus against Jerusalem, which includes real threats such as continuing rocket fire from Hamas in Gaza. It also includes threats by Iranian proxies such as Iraqi-based Kata’ib Hezbollah against U.S. forces in Iraq.
What is Israel’s strategy in all this? The goal is to draw Iran and its allies out of the shadows. Over the past decade, inflamed by the 2015 Iran deal, Tehran has increased its weapons transfers to Hezbollah, sent thousands of advisers to support the Syrian regime, and helped mobilize a network of militias in Iraq. Some of this was used to fight ISIS, or enemies of Bashar al-Assad. But with the ISIS war and Syrian conflict winding down, these groups are turning their threats toward Iran’s adversaries. Tehran is obsessed with destroying Israel, as can be seen in its frequent statements and militaristic parades. It has launched drones from Syria into Israel in February 2018, rockets in May 2018, and a rocket in January 2019. Hezbollah threatens that its 150,000 rockets can strike all of Israel.
Air strikes on Iran’s network of proxies force the network out of the shadows. It can’t hide in villas in southern Syria, or launch drones at night, or stockpile ballistic missiles in Iraq if it is looking over its shoulder and increasingly making mistakes through its aggressive and open threats. Iran is used to playing a double game of moderates and hard-liners, sending its smiling foreign minister to the recent G7 while boasting of its allies’ drone technology striking Saudi Arabia.
More than anything, Iran wants to preserve its regional power, based in proxies and allies that are often Shiite coreligionists. Its long-term goal is to get Hezbollah and its Shiite paramilitary allies in Iraq into more government positions and build up their parallel-state structures of armed fighters and bases. A war with the U.S. or Israel, or a direct confrontation with Saudi Arabia, as opposed to using proxies such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, and Islamic Jihad in Gaza, is not in Tehran’s interest. This is the strategic calculation that underpins Israel’s actions, but it can go only so far. A game of whack-a-mole against Iran’s drones and missiles is just a setback for Tehran. If Tehran doesn’t gamble on a major conflict with Israel, it will continue its creeping annexation of neighboring states.