Even after the assassination of the commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, Qasem Suleimani, and having been hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic, Iran has continued its entrenchment efforts in Syria, hoping to turn it into a base of operations against Israel and especially Israeli civilians.
Though there was some reduction in activity in March when April came around efforts resumed in full force with the transfer of precise ballistic missiles, construction of logistical bases on the Syrian border with Iraq to serve pro-Iranian militias based in the Golan Heights region, support for Hezbollah's operations on the Syrian-Israeli border and improving Syrian air defenses to hamper Israel's ability to conduct Airforce raids.
Iran has also continued its nuclear program but that is not directly related to its activity in Syria.
Even before Suleimani was assassinated by the United States near the Bagdad airport along with the commander of the Shi'ite militias in Iraq last January, Israel had already been intensifying its battle against Iranian operations in the area, but following the killing, military leaders believed it was time to increase attacks in a methodical manner in the hopes of convincing the Islamic leadership in Tehran to re-think their Syrian policy.
Given Iran's economic difficulties resulting from prolonged sanctions, the coronavirus and the drop in oil prices along with the void left by Suleimani who personally oversaw the buildup of capabilities in the area, Israeli leaders hoped the Iranians would find it too costly to continue their efforts of entrenchment in the region.
An understandable position especially considering the conflicting financial interests with Russia, over the large scale planned rebuilding of Syria and the political tensions with the Assad regime.
Israel, therefore, made a decision to increase its pressure on the Islamic Republic in any way possible.
If, as foreign media reports claim, Israel is behind Monday's attack near Aleppo, the fifth raid on Syria in the past two-week period, this could be seen as part of the same strategy.
The target of the attack was a Syrian military base and research complex in al Safirah south-east of Syria's second-largest city. This is a facility called the Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) and is the largest of its kind in Syria, used by the military industry with R&D laboratories for advanced weapons systems and missile production.
It had been partially closed for two years When the Islamic State-controlled the area but with the help of Iran and North Korea, the Syrians have reopened the facility and are mainly producing precise long-range missiles able to carry a payload of hundreds of kilograms.
With Syria's consent, the Iranians have been developing and refurbishing precise missiles for the Lebanese based Hezbollah terror group. Syrian scientists and engineers are on hand to assist.
The missiles and refurbished equipment are transported from the facility to Hezbollah'
s storage locations, some on Syrian soil near the border with Lebanon so that they could be delivered quickly in time of war.
Scud D missiles with a 700-kilometer range are among the weapons produced in the facility. These missiles can target Beer Sheva in southern Israel carrying a war weighing half a ton.
Some Scud D missiles have already been transported to Hezbollah in Lebanon, but a stock of missiles of that range would enable the Lebanese militia to inflict massive damage to Israel's crowded home front and to vital military installations in the south of the country.
Monday's attack was meant, it appears, to damage the SSRC's production capability.
Syrian opposition sources claim that the plant also produces chemical weapons for the Syrian military, though the Damascus regime and the Russian government deny the report. Russia has pressured the Assad regime to halt the production of chemical weapons with the exception of small amounts of chlorine gas. The Syrians have refrained from using chemical weapons against the rebel forces in the area of Idlib where fighting still continues.
After the eight-year-long Iran-Iraq war that ended in 1988, Iran that had suffered greatly from Iraq's' leader Sadam Hussein's use of such weapons against them, has avoided the use of chemical weapons in their campaign in Syria.
The Islamic Republic's attention is focused now on precise missile capabilities for its proxies to use in their future war against Israel.
Jerusalem intends to foil such production efforts and is willing to risk an outbreak of fighting in the north, to that end.
The Israelis hope to relay to Damascus and Moscow that Tehran's operations on Syrian soil would be detrimental to them and their planned rehabilitation of the country after years of civil war.
First published: 16:38, 05.05.20