The Stakes in Syria Continue to Rise

The Stakes in Syria Continue to Rise, by Caroline Glick.

The threat that Iran will choose to initiate a devastating war in the Middle East, from its perch in Syria, continues to rise. …

Last Tuesday, Israel shot down a Syrian Air Force Sukhoi 22 that crossed into its territory. Last Wednesday, so-called Islamic State (ISIS) forces in southern Syria shot two missiles into Israel that fell into the Sea of Galilee just a few dozen yards from beachgoers. The Israeli navy located one of the missiles, but is still looking for the other one, which reportedly failed to detonate. …

While it is not easy to know what the future holds, it is clear enough that for now, the bad guys have won the war in Syria.

Syrian President Bashar Assad, who deliberately and brutally murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people and caused 6 million of his countrymen to flee their homes, has survived despite promises by the Obama administration and its partners that he would not survive the war in power.

Assad owes his survival to two outside powers: Iran and Russia. Iran has directed Assad’s war effort, including his mass killing from the outset of the war in 2011. Through its Revolutionary Guards Corps and its Hezbollah and Shiite militia proxies, Iran supplied the ground forces to secure Assad’s control of territory. Assad needed these forces because over the years, at least half of his armed forces deserted their posts. Today, Assad still lacks the manpower to hold the territories he is reclaiming. Iranian-controlled forces still comprise the bulwark of the “Syrian regime forces.”

As Iran supplied Assad with his army, Russia has served as his air force since 2015. Had Russian President Vladimir Putin not sent his bombers to Syria, Assad and his Iranian controllers would probably have lost the war. In exchange for saving him, Assad gave Putin the Khmeimim air base and the Tartus naval base.

This outcome is deeply problematic for the U.S. and for Israel. …

For Israel, Russia’s appearance in Syria ended the air superiority it has held since 1982. …

Israel’s primary interest in the war from the outset was to prevent Iran from transferring precision weapons to Hezbollah forces in Lebanon through Syria. …

Iran’s position in Syria poses a massive threat to Israel. Unlike the Syrian regime, which avoided direct conflict with Israel after Israel destroyed its air force in 1982, Iran is interested in a war with Israel.

Iran’s Hezbollah proxy army has exerted effective control over Lebanon since 2008. Hezbollah has 150,000 missiles pointing at Israel. Its forces have now gained massive combat experience through their participation in the war in Syria. …

President Donald Trump said Wednesday that the U.S. has no intention of removing its forces from Syria so long as Iran threatens the region through its deployment in Syria. But it is fairly clear that U.S. public opinion and Trump’s own disposition rule out any major deployment of additional U.S. forces in Syria. …

Iran is already in the grips of the worst economic crisis in decades. The return of U.S. sanctions against it will render the regime incapable of providing basic services, and significantly expand the prospect of a major effort by the Iranian people to overthrow the regime.

While this is the desired endstate for the U.S., Israel, the Sunni Arab states, and most of the nations of the world, the Iranian regime may decide to go to war with its back to the wall simply to try to bring down its enemies with it. And the implications of such a war for the world economy could be devasting. Just as Hezbollah has 150,000 missiles pointed at Israel, Iran has thousands of missiles pointed at Saudi Arabia’s oil platforms. …

Israeli military officials assess that Assad and Iran will not rush into a conflict with Israel. And Russia has made clear that it will not support their operations against the Jewish state. But the danger lurks and grows with each passing day.

hat-tip Stephen Neil