Israeli Army Targets Iranian Forces In Syria


Last week, the Israeli army took responsibility for an attack on Iranian targets in Syria. The New York Times wrote that Israel claimed the strike was a retaliation for an Iranian attack on an Israeli ski resort, in which no one was harmed – Israel successfully intercepted the missile. The Iranian strike on the ski resort closely followed a strike on a weapons store in Syria that Israel is believed to be responsible for. This series of strikes is part of a covert historical fight between Iran and Israel. Israel’s statements on the attacks and their rapid succession have made the conflict more conspicuous, an escalation that analysts predict will lead to increased tension and retaliation.

Prior to 1979, Israel and Iran were on relatively good terms politically. Iran was the second Muslim country to recognize Israel in 1950. In 1979, the Iranian regime was overthrown and replaced with a Shiite theocratic government. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was the Supreme Leader of the new regime who fuelled ill feelings towards the U.S. and Israel, calling them “Great Satan” and “Little Satan” respectively. Khomeini believed that Israel was illegally occupying Muslim land, while Israel believed that Iran was a threat to their nation. In 1982, Khomeini created the Hezbollah, an Islamist militia designed to fight the Israeli army. When war broke out in Syria in 2011, Iran began heavily supporting Bashar al-Assad, the president of Syria, ramping up their military presence in Syria, including on borders with Israel.

Iran’s new presence on the Israel-Syria border is disconcerting to Israel. Political scientist Ariane Tabatabai believes that Syria is “one of the most significant commitments Iran has made beyond its borders in recent decades.” Israel believes this commitment is a result of cynical motives aimed at destroying Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated in 2017 that “Iran is busy turning Syria into a base of military entrenchment … It wants to use Syria and Lebanon as war fronts against its declared goal to eradicate Israel.” Netanyahu added, “This is something Israel cannot accept.” This fear is not irrational. The Iranian Air Force commander, Aziz Nassirzadeh, commented to the Young Journalist’s Club that Iran’s “current and future generations are ready, impatiently, and with every fibre of their being, for battle with the Zionist regime and to wipe it off the face of the earth.” German Chancellor Angela Merkel commented on the overarching threat of Iran, stating that “Israel must secure its existence, and the situation in Syria is naturally also very threatening for Israel.” Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah gave a warning to Prime Minister Netanyahu, saying, “Be cautious. Don’t continue what you are doing in Syria. Don’t miscalculate and don’t drag the region into a war or a major confrontation.” These grim statements coming from all sides show the severity of this conflict and bring about unease about the future relations between the countries.

The actions carried out by both countries are done for reasons of fear and a desire for power in the region, motivated by their respective countries’ stability and security. Rather than helping the countries, though, these actions are hurting innocent civilians. Iran and Israel need to stop the retaliation against one another. These countries need to work towards a resolution that is in the best interest of their citizens. TIME magazine claimed that experts don’t believe that either country wants to escalate the situation, but the risk of accidental escalation in these continued attacks is serious. Neither Iran nor Israel wants a war, and outside countries don’t either. These outside influences need to step in and help Syrian forces come to a solution which will conclude their 8-year civil war. Gulf News reported the thoughts of Syrian opposition leader Nasr Hariri. He stated, “The absence of international will to push towards a political solution has hampered the UN and its envoys from doing anything.” While the war in Syria is not the only source of conflict between Israel and Iran, it is a point of great tension between the countries. Finding a solution in Syria would bring Iran and Israel one step closer to a resolution themselves.

Without a resolution, Iran and Israel will continue to act punitively towards each other. This could lead to numerous deaths and a potential war. If this were to happen, a domino effect could take place. World powers such as Russia and the U.S. would be dragged in as strategic allies. With the already increased tension between the countries, this would further provoke unrest in the world. Countries need to take a proactive stance in solving the conflict in Syria. Tension needs to be dissolved amongst all the countries currently involved and an environment created where peaceful relations could flourish.

Corrine Schmaedeke

An undergraduate at Occidental College studying Politics and History.