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Israel Forcing Iran Out of Syria

Israel Forcing Iran Out of Syria
Israeli Defense Minister Naftali Bennett

Micah Halpern By Thursday, 20 February 2020 02:24 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

Israel's Defense Minister Naftali Bennett addressed a tech conference in Tel Aviv and proclaimed that Israel has forced Iran to change its strategy in Syria.

At the New Tech 2020 Military Technology Conference which was held in Tel Aviv, Bennett said: "I can inform you that we have identified first signs of Iran loosening and re-evaluating its course in Syria. They are sending forces to try to establish [presence] there and wear us down, but we can turn the disadvantage to an advantage. We have superior intelligence and operational capabilities, and we are telling Iran loud and clear: Get out of Syria! You have nothing to look for here."

Bennett explained that Israel is changing its strategy from defensive to offensive. That change has begun to hurt Iran and is forcing Iranian leadership to rethink their operations in Syria. Bennett hammered home his point saying: "We are moving from a defensive strategy to an offensive strategy — to weaken, exhaust, wear down and erode the octopus head to weaken its tentacles. And we've only just begun."

The reasons for the change in Israel's attitudes towards Iran are obvious. Iran has long been a threat to the region and to the world. For years, Iranian leadership went unopposed.

But recently, there has been a groundswell of change within Iran. Israel paid attention to the voices of the Iranian man on the street long before Iranian leadership heard those voices.

Making that point, Bennett explained to the audience that: "in the Iranian street, the Persian people are telling the ayatollahs: 'Stop wasting our money and shedding our blood in adventures.'"

He explained that the Iranian people do not want their leadership to continue their involvement in foreign interests. "The ground is burning in Iran, the embers are not extinguished, they are glowing," he said.

Bennett is correct. And now — even with Syria in their pocket, Iran is unable to adequately respond to Israel's new policy. Iran was in Syria for several reasons — primary among them was supporting the Assad regime and then bolstering Hezbollah. Both those reasons put the interests of Shiite Iran over the interests of their neighbors, the Sunni population dominant in the rest of the Arab Middle East. 

But Iran is not content only torun counter to the rest of the Arab world. Iranian leadership thrives on its opposition to the West, specifically to the United States.  Countering the interests of the United States in Syria is critical for Iran. 

American interests want to oust Assad, and checking U.S. interests by securing Syrian President Bashar Assad's position is a major feather in the fez for Iran.

Also high on the list for Iran is the fact that Hezbollah and Syria reside right along Israel's northern border.  

Syria serves Iranian interests in many ways. Their proximity to Israel, Iran's nemesis, allows Syria to serve as Iran's eyes and ears in service of Iran's Supreme Leader. They host thousands of Iranian soldiers and military advisers. For years Iranian advisors and troops, including the now dead Gen. Qasem Soleimani, wandered around Syria as freely as they wished.

In addition, their presence in Syria gives Iran the ability to end-around many U.S.-sponsored sanctions. Goods, intended for Iran, are brought in and out of Syria. Two groups pay attention to what enters and leaves Syria: Israel and Russia.

Israel is threading a needle. Jerusalem does not want to strike Iranian interests so badly that it would result in a real war. But they need to up the pressure. They need to make certain that Iran cannot move weapons freely in and out of Syria.

National elections for parliament are approaching in Iran. The citizens of Iran are suffering from serious voter fatigue. And that has everything to do with Iran's involvement in Syria and the paralyzing sanctions that the United States has imposed on their country.

The Iranian economy is teetering. Iranians, especially young Iranians, think that their government is hurting innocent people — their own people.  The masses on the streets on Iran think that to invest so much scarce and badly needed money abroad on foreign interests — like supporting Syria when the people of Iran so badly need the money and need local investment, is putting the needs of citizens and their interests at the bottom of the priority list.

I think they are correct. And here's the good news for the Western world.  The Iranian electorate will most probably punish their government in these next elections. Iranian leadership will probably continue to lose ground in Syria.  Iran will certainly continue to feel the sting of U.S. sanctions.  And Israel will continue to hammer away at the Iranian regime.

Micah Halpern is a political and foreign affairs commentator. He founded "The Micah Report" and hosts "Thinking Out Loud with Micah Halpern" a weekly TV program and "My Chopp" a daily radio spot. A dynamic speaker, he specializes in analyzing world events and evaluating their relevance and impact. Follow him on Twitter @MicahHalpern. To read more of this reports — Click Here Now.

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The reasons for the change in Israel's attitudes towards Iran are obvious. Iran has long been a threat to the region and to the world.
israel, iran, syria
Thursday, 20 February 2020 02:24 PM
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