Earlier this month, the BBC reported that there are emerging signs that the Iranian military is engaged in construction of what appears to be a permanent military base in Syria, just outside a site used by the Syrian army near El-Kiswah, 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus.
Ramification of the Revelation
The report was widely quoted in a number of other news channels, but — significantly and surprisingly — seems to have been studiously ignored by the U.S. mainstream media. At least a rather extensive Google search, which I conducted, did not produce a single hit for any of the major American news channels.
In the discussion of the ramifications of the revelation, attention a appeared to focus on two principle issues: (a) The significance for the completion of the "Shi’ite arc of influence" stretching from east of the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and the creation of a land-based logistical supply line from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon; and (b) the stern warnings issued by Israel that it would not permit an Iranian takeover of Syria, hinting that it would be prepared to use military force to prevent this.
However there is another vital element germane to the expanding Iranian military presence in Syria — and one that has received remarkably little media attention. It is, however, one whose relevance Israel will ignore at its peril.
After all, as ominous as the current Iranian military deployment in Syria is, it might well have been far more menacing. Indeed, the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is not perched on the Golan Heights, overlooking the Sea of Galilee is solely because Israel did not fall prey to the seductive temptation of the land-for-peace formula — and did not cede the strategic plateau that commands the approaches to the entire north of the country.
Inconvenient But Incontrovertible Fact
One can only shudder with dread at the thought of the perilous predicament the country would be in, had it heeded the call from the allegedly "enlightened and progressive" voices, who — up until the gory events of the Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011 — hailed the British trained doctor, Bashar Assad, as a moderate reformer, with whom a durable peace deal could be cut if only an intransigent Israel would yield the Golan to his regime.
Indeed, it is an inconvenient — albeit incontrovertible — fact that every time Israel has relinquished/abandoned territory, to Arab control, that territory has — usually sooner rather than later – become a platform from which to launch lethal attacks against Israel, almost immediately in Gaza; within months in Judea-Samaria; within years in south Lebanon and after several decades in Sinai, now descending into the depravity and brutality of a Jihadi-controlled no-man’s land — with no good options on the horizon.
This is something Israeli policy makers dare not disregard. For as dangerous and detrimental as the outcomes of previous withdrawals proved to be, they are likely to pale into insignificance compared to consequences of territorial concession in Judea-Samara (a/k/a the "West Bank").
Compounding the Gravity
Indeed, even the Golan, with all its vital strategic significance, cannot match the importance of the highlands of Judea-Samaria commanding Israel’s urban megalopolis in the coastal plain. Indeed, as I pointed out in a previous Newmax blog, any forces deployed on these highlands command all of the of the following: Major airfields (civilian and military) including the country’s only international airport; major sea ports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power transmission, water systems, and communication networks); main land transport routes (road and rail); principal power plants; the national parliament and most government ministries; crucial centers of civilian administration and military command; and 80 percent of the civilian population and of the commercial activity in the country.
Significantly, all of these strategic objectives will be within easy range of weapons being used today against Israel from territories previously relinquished to Arab control.
Compounding the gravity of any threat entailed in Israel yielding sizeable portions of Judea-Samaria to the Palestinian-Arabs are reports of renewed ties between Iran and Hamas, purportedly "stronger than ever."
Significance for New Peace Initiatives
Accordingly, just as it was only Israel resisting territorial concession on the Golan that prevented the presence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards deploying on the fringes of the Galilee, so it is only by resisting territorial concessions in the "West Bank" that Israel can prevent the Iranian Revolutionary Guards deploying on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.
These are the grim realities that any new "peace initiative" reportedly brewing in Washington must take into consideration.
Dr. Martin Sherman is the founder and executive director of the Israel Institute for Strategic Studies, dedicated to the preservation and propagation of joint values shared by the USA and Israel as embodied in the U.S. Constitution and Israel’s Declaration of Independence. He served for seven years in operational capacities in the Israeli Defense establishment and acted as a ministerial adviser to Yitzhak Shamir's government. Sherman lectured for 20 years at Tel Aviv University in Political Science, International Relations, and Strategic Studies. He holds several university degrees — B.Sc. (Physics and Geology), MBA (Finance), and PhD in political science/international relations. He was the first academic director of the internationally renowned Herzliya Conference and has authored two books as well as numerous articles and policy papers on a wide range of political, diplomatic and security issues. He was born in South Africa and has lived in Israel since 1971. To read more of his reports — Click Here Now.
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