By: mahmoud ghorab
Due to its fears of Iran's preparations for carrying out retaliatory blows against Israel following its raid on the T-4 military airport, Israel has raised its alert on the northern front, particularly in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. The Israeli attack left seven Iranian soldiers killed, including the commander of the drone unit.
It seems that the direct confrontation, which began in February after shooting down an Iranian aircraft armed with explosives in the Israeli airspace, and then the downing of an Israeli fighter jet over Israel's Galilee, would see a new phase of escalation in which Iran may not rely on proxies such as Hezbollah. However, Iran may carry out its operations through its drone aircraft armed with explosives or through firing rockets by its affiliated forces in the region.
In a report published last February, the National Interest magazine predicted that a war between Iran and Israel would break out in 2019 if Tehran used its presence in Syria against Israel. The magazine added, "That the direct conflict between Israel and Iran is not only on the horizon, but happening now: interception of an Iranian drone over Israel, downing of an Israeli F-16, and retaliatory strikes against Syrian and Iranian targets."
The magazine pointed out that these converging events are opening scenes of a wider war if Iran continues trying to fortify its presence in Syria after the defeat of ISIS. The National Interest has highlighted the threat by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Iranian foreign minister Mohammad JavadZarif, when he called on him not to test Israel's resolve, on February 18. However, Zarif has also made threats. He said: "I can assure that if Iran's interests are not secured, Iran will respond seriously." The magazine has clarified that the escalatingtension between Tehran and Tel Aviv has increased recently and it may become harder next year.
About two months ago, Debka website has published a report revealing that there is a process of transferring pro-Iranian Shiite militias from Iraq into Syria supported by Russia. The intelligence website predicted that the coming confrontation between Iran and the Israeli army will take place in April. It added that the Israeli raids targeting Syria were clear threats to the Iranians from the bill of confrontation with the Jewish state.
In his report published in February, Debka predicted that the next clash between Iran and Israel would be more extensive than infiltrating the Israeli airspace by Iranian drone aircraft. Debka's report noted that Russia and Iran were carrying out a two-way military move across the border between Iraq and Syria.
Debka revealed that the Shiite force is composed of 5,000 Iraqi fighters, who are undergoing special training course for combat in Syria. According to the website, those militants were equipped with advanced weapons and anti-aircraft guns.
Debka's report added that Russian and Iranian air force officers are setting up an aviation unit called the Combat Helicopters Directorates, to consist of dozens of Russian Mil Mi-17 assault and freight choppers as well as Iranian Shaed 285 attack choppers. According to the report, the bulk of the new force is expected to be ready to start moving west in the course of April and cross over into southeast Syria in the regions of Abu Kamal and Deirez-Zour by early May at the latest.
After the killing of seven Iranians by the Israeli strikes that targeted T-4 airport a few days ago, it is estimated that the response of the Revolutionary Guard Corps, headed by QassimSoleimani, to the Israeli attacks may take place within weeks. On its report, Al Arabiya channel added that thr Iranian response may be linked to the date of US President Donald Trump's decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran on May 12.
The report added that Israel was interested in leaking information and sending messages to Iran that "any retaliation would lead to an Israeli response that would end the Iranian military presence in Syria, threating to overthrow the Syrian regime." This position may be against the one of the Russians, which can accept any strikes targeting Iran to realize that they are under Russian tutelage, but Bashar Assad's survival is a strategic goal, and a red line for Russia.
In a strict move aimed at deterring Iran from launching attacks against Israeli targets, Israel has revealed details of Iran's military presence in Syria. The aim is to send a message that these Iranian targets will be targeted.
Iranian air force fighters are present at five Syrian airports, where the Russian cargo planes Ilyushin Il-76 are supplying the Iranian forces with missiles, usually for Hezbollah, and drones for direct use by the Qods Force. These airports, which are supervised by General Hajizadeh are the T-4 airport between Palmyra and Homs, Aleppo airport, Deirez-Zor airport, Damascus International Airport, and Al-Sekal military airport south of Damascus.
The second system that Israel may target is the surface-to-surface missiles system, which is composed of short-range Fajr-5 rockets to medium-range Fateh 110 missiles, which have a range of approximately 300 kilometers (190 miles), to long-range Shehab ballistic missiles capable of hitting targets over 1,300 kilometers (800 miles) away, which could, therefore, reach Israel if they were launched from Iran. The second target of the Israeli potential strikes includes Iranian radar systems and laboratories for converting rockets into accurate rockets.
It is worth mentioning that Iran has already responded to an Israeli strike through launching a "rocket" by militants of Islamic Jihad current. They fired rockets from Syria into Galilee, after the killing of an Iranian general during the assassination of Jihad Mughniyeh, in Syria in 2015.
Israeli military sources say Israel will not repeat in Syria what it called "the mistake that has been made in Lebanon" by allowing Iran to set up a massive rocket arsenal of more than 120,000 rockets. However, Israel fears of two issues. The first concern is the failure of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to convince Trump not to withdraw his forces from Syria in half a year, which could lead to a strategic threat to Israel, namely, the opening of the supply and expansion line from Iran to the Mediterranean, through Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. This means that tens of thousands of fighters could be transported by land in any future war.
The second Israeli concern is coming from the south of Syria. After the military strike led by the US, France, and the UK have not touched Iran's positioning or traditional targets of the Syrian regime and Hezbollah, Israel fears of Iranian moves to open the southern front from Daraa to Quneitra, which creates direct front against the Israeli army in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights. Al Arabiya concluded its report that the expected escalation between Israel and Iran has become only a matter of time. This escalation could be the flame of a full-scale war, which Israel calls "the first north war" because it could include Syria, Lebanon and Iran.