The alleged Israeli attack on the Iranian military base near Damascus this weekend indicates, for the second time in about three months, that Israel is making good on its threats to prevent an Iranian entrenchment in Syria and is drawing a red line for the Iranians—if the strike was indeed carried out by Israel.
Throughout the past summer, senior Israeli defense officials warned against the construction of a precision-guided missiles factory on Syrian soil, which would supply the Assad army—and primarily Hezbollah—with missiles with a limited explosion radius. According to foreign reports, the factory was attacked by the Israel Air Force on September 7 in what was in fact the most significant strike in Syrian in recent years.
This isn’t, therefore, just another one of the 100 or more alleged Israel strikes in Syria, but an Iranian target that may be less strategic than the missile factory, but draws the red line as part of the new policy.
On November 11, BBC published satellite footage allegedly pointing to continued construction work in a base near al-Kiswah from January to October 2017. The images show more than 20 relatively low buildings, which according to the network were likely being used to house soldiers and store vehicles.
The British news broadcasting corporation has no intelligence capabilities of course, and an interested party obviously made sure to leak the footage as a warning the Iranians against the idea of establishing a base that would mainly be inhabited by members of Shiite militias operating under the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.
Since then, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman and IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot have been warning against Iranian military entrenchment in Syria. Lt.-Gen. Eisenkot said recently in an interview to a Saudi news website: “We won't accept an Iranian presence in Syria. We've warned them against building factories or military bases, and we won’t allow it.”
Friday night’s strike in Syria—if Israel is indeed behind it—is part of warfare on three fronts: A diplomatic front—in a bid to influence the agreements on Syria's future; a media front—through PR and reports like the footage that reached the BBC; and a military front—by attacking attempted weapon smuggling and Iranian entrenchment attempts.
And so, according to foreign reports, at 12:30am Friday night, Israel attacked the Iranian base near the city of al-Kiswah, located about 15 kilometers southwest of Syria's capital, Damascus.
According to the report, the strike was carried out using five missiles, some of which were intercepted by the Syrian antiaircraft systems in the military airport in the Damascus neighborhood of al-Mezzeh. Two other missiles exploded near the cache.