Overnight, Israel targeted a Syrian air base with a series of missile attacks in Homs province. Despite being a mild offensive, the operation drew immediate reprimands from Vladimir Putin and from Iran — several Iranians were reportedly among the 14 dead from the attack.
The attacks are nothing new. Israel admits to around 100 such attacks since 2012, and they typically target Hezbollah forces, which helps the Syrian army and its leader Bashar Assad by providing weapons to troops lurking along Syria and Israel's shared border. This time, however, as Amos Yadlin, the executive director for national security studies at Tel Aviv University pointed out on Twitter, the target wasn't Hezbollah — it was Iran.
Iran is determined, Yadlin explained, to get a foothold within striking distance of Israel's border.
1.The reported strike last night in T4, Syria is part of the two colliding vectors: Iranian determination to entrench itself in Syria and Israeli resolve to prevent it. This was a first reported airstrike since 10 February incidents.— Amos Yadlin (@YadlinAmos) April 9, 2018
2.The colliding vectors were recognized months ago in the INSS's Strategic Survey, and Syrian and Iranian responses cannot be ruled out.— Amos Yadlin (@YadlinAmos) April 9, 2018
That said, Yadlin points out, Israel was very careful about its timing. The attacks followed closely after Assad unleashed chemical weapons in a horrific attack, leading the Syrians to believe the U.S. was engaging in a military response. And, Yadlin says, it is true that chemical weapons were the target of the attack, but that Israel was likely conducting a multi-target endeavor.
3.The strike’s timing drove Syria to first attribute it to the US as a response to Assad's use of chemical weapons (CW) against civilians in Duma. However, the U.S. has denied responsibility, while the target hit is connected to Iran and not to CW...— Amos Yadlin (@YadlinAmos) April 9, 2018
5.preventing Iranian entrenchment in Syria with advanced weaponry and sending a moral message that using CW to commit mass murder is not https://t.co/1s2lNXZSYc that end, even if it does not take responsibility for the strike last night...— Amos Yadlin (@YadlinAmos) April 9, 2018
6. it is important that Israel make its voice heard denouncing the use of CW.Assad’s Chemical weapons and their use in Syria awaits a US and Western response, and one cannot rule out the possibility of a U.S. strike on regime targets.— Amos Yadlin (@YadlinAmos) April 9, 2018
7.Relevant targets in this context may include Syrian regime AF helicopters and airplanes, enabling CW delivery, as well as Syrian air defenses, whose destruction will remind Assad of his vulnerability.— Amos Yadlin (@YadlinAmos) April 9, 2018
Syria is a difficult conflict to manage, largely because a number of nation states have ulterior motives in controlling Syria's land. It's a strategically enviable location for Islamic radicals looking to attack Israel directly, it has significant resources, and actions within Syria cement some terrifying alliances.
Assad may be closer to crushing his rebellion, NBC News reports, because of help from Iran and Hezbollah, and now, also, from Russia — hence why Israel's attack Monday morning drew swift condemnation from the Kremlin, and not just from the Mullahs.