Against all logic and despite reports from politicians — Iran continues to make Syria a priority.
It's no secret that Israel was hoping to force Iran out of Syria. The IDF (Israel Defense Forces) has been targeting Iranian and Hezbollah forces in Syria. Israel has spent a billion dollars on the operation, all in an attempt to add even more pressure to the other stifling and humongous weights plaguing Iran.
But it is not working.
Iran continues in their commitment to maintaining a strong presence in Syria and, by extension, in Lebanon. The Iranian commitment to maintain a presence in Lebanon is predicated on the ability to set up a front to attack Israel with help from Hezbollah, their proxy in Lebanon.
After the successful assassination of Qassem Suleimani, the Iranian commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force, by the United States in January outside the Baghdad airport, Israel saw the perfect opportunity. They jumped in and seized the moment. Israel ratcheted up the pressure by striking Iranian bases and centers in Syria.
Suleimani was Iran's most strategic and gifted military leader. He was responsible for all operations outside Iran — including those in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq and even in Europe. Over his career, Suleimani was responsible for hundreds of operations and the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people. His death toll included Americans, which explains U.S. involvement in targeting and killing this Iranian military mastermind.
After Suleimani's assassination, Israel embarked on a targeted, methodical, consistent campaign to convince Iranian leadership that it was not worth their while staying in Syria. Their costs would be too exorbitant. The Israelis were striking Iran in Syria with drones, jetfighters, sea-based missiles from ships and with helicopters.
Israel miscalculated. Jerusalem assumed that Iran would assess the situation and calculate — as other countries would, that when the costs are too high, you cut your losses and leave. Israel was hoping to persuade Iran to make the right decision, militarily, economically, politically. But Iran is not like other countries.
When you trace the comments of Naftali Bennet, Israel's Defense Minister during this period, that is exactly the tone that he set, urging Iran to make the decision and evacuate Syria. But Iran does not make decisions the way other countries make decisions.
Hatred is one of Iran's raisons d'etre. Iran's hatred toward Israel is one of their motivating factors.
Hatred for Israel is the fulcrum through which Iranian leadership hopes to galvanize the entire region under their leadership. There are many factors inhibiting the natural flow of leadership from Iran to the rest of the Middle East. Most importantly, however, are the religious differences between Iranians and the rest of the region. Establishing this leadership can only emerge by uniting against Israel.
And so, despite the crushing sanctions by both the United States and the United Nations, despite the drop of oil prices to way below any price that could have been expected, despite the gargantuan loss of life especially in the highest echelon of leadership and the high financial costs of COVID-19, Iran continues their policy and stays entrenched in Syria and determined to support President Bashar Assad and Hezbollah.
But that's not all. Almost as strong as their hatred of Israel is Iran's visceral fear of Russian influence in the region — in their region.
If Iran pulls out of Syria, all resources and the entire area will default to Russian control. The rebuilding of Syria will fall totally under the control of Russia. Russia will inherit the region and influence the region for decades to come. It will be Russia and Russia alone. The United States has removed itself from the equation and there is no other world power able to, or interested in, this conquest.
That's why this military dance, this back and forth, this balancing act, is so important to Iran. And that's why it's so important to Israel. Israel would prefer Russia to Iran.
In Syria this week when two factories were blown up, fingers were pointed at Israel. They were probably pointed in the right direction. Israel is doing what they need to do. Jerusalem needs to follow through with their decision to strike Iranian and Hezbollah positions in Syria in the hope of pushing them out. If that does not happen, Israel must at least prevent the Iranian sponsored buildup and transfer of powerful weapons and training in Syria.
At that, so far, Israel has been successful.
The two factories that were struck and decimated were manufacturing long-range SCUD- D missiles. The SCUD-D has a range of 700 miles. From anywhere along the Syrian/Israel or Lebanon/Israel border Hezbollah/Iran can hit all of Israel, including Beersheba, the capital of Israel's south.
Those factories were run by Iranian and — I kid you not, North Korean engineers. The SCUDS were destined for the missile caches of Assad and Hezbollah for the express purpose of attacking Israel. Assad is fighting a civil war in Syria — he has no need for long-range missiles.
Israel must continue with their policy. Jerusalem cannot give up the hope that internal strife in Teheran will overwhelm and eventually prevail and that Iranian leadership will conclude that Syria is not worth the cost given the hurdles they are confronting.
But hope is not enough, and logic does not always prevail. And that's why Israel is exercising military options in Syria, against Iran.
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. Read Micah Halpern's Reports — More Here.
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