The repeated Israeli messages in recent weeks meant to lower the level of tension vis-à-vis Syria are falling on deaf ears. The Syrians don’t believe us.
Even if the IDF intelligence chief travels to Damascus and personally reads the army’s annual intelligence assessment to Assad, noting that Israel does not predict a confrontation with Syria this year, the Syrian leader will not be persuaded.
This is very reminiscent of the period ahead of the Six-Day War, when the Russians made sure to fan the flames and feed the Syrians with horror stories.
A hint regarding the identity of the war-monger at this time may be found in the words of US National Security Advisor Jim Jones last week. The American general spoke about the planned US sanctions against Iran. In response to the sanctions, he said, there is a possibility that Tehran will encourage its satellites in the region – Syria, Hezbollah, and Hamas – to attack Israel and set the whole region on fire.
Jones’ words indicate that the Syrians are being provoked by the Iranians. Tehran is presenting its own tangible threat in the face of the American threat: If you mess with us, we will set fire to the Middle East.
The flames are increasingly being fanned on the northern border as the decision on Iran sanctions approaches. The US Administration has already decided that it would first attempt to impose sanctions via the United Nations Security Council. Should this fail and the Chinese torpedo the move, the US will turn to independent sanctions, in the hopes that other major European countries, including Russia, join it.
These are not empty words. The Americans have already started to take some steps on the ground: This week they deployed active anti-missile defense systems in Persian Gulf states. And so, on the one hand the Americans intend to tighten the chokehold on Iran, while at the same time they are preparing for an Iranian military response.
The Iranians are well familiar with the American target date. Hence, their reactions are increasingly becoming more extreme. On the one hand they are suddenly conveying a sense of moderation and declaring that they are willing to transfer their uranium for enrichment in another country, yet at the same time they are publicly displaying ballistic missiles and issuing threats in all directions.
And what about the Syrians and the Lebanese? They are merely pawns on the Iranian chessboard.
About two weeks ago, IDF Northern Command Chief Gadi Eisenkott characterized the tensions on the northern border as “virtual.” There is no real Israeli threat on Syria. The problem is that in our region, virtual tensions that are not handled properly can quickly turn into reality.