משוריין של צה"ל
IDF troops along the Syrian border on the Golan Heights
Photo: AFP
IDF troops along the Syrian border on the Golan Heights

Israel's fight with Iran knows no coronavirus crisis

Analysis: With war-torn Syria further weakened by the epidemic, Tehran scrambling to reassert regional power and Moscow struggling to justify its investment in Assad, Jerusalem sees now is the time for decisive action

Alex Fishman |
Published: 05.08.20 , 23:05
As far as the Syrian front goes, Israel's coronavirus crisis is a thing of the past.
  • Follow Ynetnews on Facebook and Twitter

  • The series of attacks in Syria attributed to Israel during April seems like a planned policy, and is no longer merely a presumed response to Iranian initiative.
    משוריין של צה"למשוריין של צה"ל
    IDF troops along the Syrian border on the Golan Heights
    (Photo: AFP)
    It seems it was a planned action, most likely meant to root out any Iranian weeds trying to entrench themselves on Syrian soil via the deployment of pro-Iranian militias on the Golan, resuming Hezbollah operations on the plateau, reinforcing its headquarters and munitions warehouses.
    Beginning in February, foreign sources reported that Israeli military activity had all but ceased, attributing this to the coronavirus crisis that peaked in Israel around Passover.
    But since the war Israel is conducting all across the Middle East is far more intricate than mere aerial bombardments, it makes sense the scope of its activities - including reports of mysterious explosions - is apparently far more intense than has been reported by the foreign media.
    Iranian Chief of Staff Mohammad Bakri on a tour of the Syrian city of Aleppo Iranian Chief of Staff Mohammad Bakri on a tour of the Syrian city of Aleppo
    Iranian Chief of Staff Mohammad Bakri on a tour of the Syrian city of Aleppo
    (Photo: AP, Syrian Central Military Media)
    Iranians are also trying to return to the pre-coronavirus routine in Syria. If at the end of March the Revolutionary Guard transport jets were flying medical equipment from China to Tehran, in early April those same aircraft started landing in Damascus as well, carrying military equipment in their cargo holds.
    Coincidentally or not, the first foreign report of fresh Israeli airstrikes in Damascus also first appeared in early April. Since then, Syria's seaports in Latakia and Banias have also been reopened, bringing fuel and equipment of various kinds from Iran.
    מהניג העליון של איראן עלי חמינאי פגישה עם בשאר אסד מהניג העליון של איראן עלי חמינאי פגישה עם בשאר אסד
    Syrian President Bashar Assad meeting with Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei in Tehran
    (Photo: EPA)
    The Iranian machine is back on its feet in Syria - albeit mostly limping - after it suffered three deadly blows: the deadly coronavirus crisis with its economic and social consequences, the continued U.S. sanctions, and - above all - the oil price crisis.
    The Syrian regime is also returning to the game much more scarred than before. Not only is the economic crisis in Syria escalating, but there also seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel due to the lack of an exit plan.
    Syrian people stand near a graffiti painted due to the ongoing pandemic of the Covid-19 disease, in Idlib, SyriaSyrian people stand near a graffiti painted due to the ongoing pandemic of the Covid-19 disease, in Idlib, Syria
    Syrians in Idlib stand beside graffiti about the coronavirus outbreak
    (Photo: EPA)
    The coronavirus crisis has hit Syria no less than other countries in the region - only in the war-torn country, there is no one to collect data or tend to the sick. Syrians stand in line for bread and not for coronavirus testing.
    Israel could not renew its attributed activity in Syria without Russia's tacit consent. In the fifth year of their sojourn in Syria, as the sun slowly set on the coronavirus epidemic, the Russians have found themselves in a state of deep frustration.
    All their expectations of benefiting - especially financially - from their investment in Syria have thus far failed to pan out.
    מסוקמסוק
    A Russian military helicopter patrols the Syrian skies
    (Photo: AFP)
    In fact, in order to maintain Bashar Assad's rule over Syria, they are now required not only to invest huge amounts of money that they do not have, not only on the military but also on the humanitarian-economic-health crisis that does not seem to have a foreseeable finish line.
    The Iranians are the allies of the Russians for the purpose of fighting on Syrian soil but are ultimately an obstacle and competitor in Russian plans for control over Syria and its resources.
    Therefore it is currently easier for the Russians to simply ignore the attacks attributed to Israel by its Iranian rival.
    בנימין נתניהו וולדימיר פוטיןבנימין נתניהו וולדימיר פוטין
    Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin meeting in Russia earlier this year
    (Photo: Reuters)
    The Americans have also upped their game in a possible military confrontation with Iran, as the harassment of the U.S. Navy in the Persian Gulf has led to a clear directive from President Donald Trump: Attack all Iranian vessels.
    The Iranians for their part blame the United States not only for their economic crisis but also for curbing their ability to obtain medical equipment to deal with the coronavirus outbreak that has ravaged the country.
    And so the tensions in the Gulf are rising and will continue to do so as June approaches when the International Atomic Energy Agency will release its report on Iranian violations of enriched uranium storage.
    IAEA meeting on Iran IAEA meeting on Iran
    An IAEA meeting on Iran's nuclear plans
    (Photo: EPA)
    It is safe to assume there is coordination or understanding between Israel and the United States regarding the pressure put on Iran.
    Past experience shows that as tensions rise in the Gulf, so do tensions between Israel and Iran on the Syrian front.
    The circumstances present Israel with the opportunity to weaken Iran's foothold in Syria. This is a strategic opportunity, for even if Iran does seek to respond, it will only create grounds for Israel to conduct a decisive military operation against it across the northern border.
    Talkbacks for this article 0