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'Israel Will Continue to React to Iran Military Entrenchment' – Scholar

© AP Photo / Ebrahim Noroozi, FileIn this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, Iran's Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade marking the 36th anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran, in front of the shrine of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran
In this Sept. 21, 2016 file photo, Iran's Revolutionary Guard troops march in a military parade marking the 36th anniversary of Iraq's 1980 invasion of Iran, in front of the shrine of late revolutionary founder Ayatollah Khomeini, just outside Tehran, Iran - Sputnik International
In a tweet earlier on Monday, Israeli Defence Forces confirmed a military operation, admitting that the country carried out airstrikes on Iranian targets in the vicinity of the Syrian capital Damascus.

Radio Sputnik has discussed the development with Prof Efraim Inbar, President of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies.

Sputnik: Israel seldom admits to carrying out strikes inside Syria. Why has it broken the silence now?

Prof Efraim Inbar: I think that our military activity is dependent upon incoming intelligence. And when there is enough intelligence and accurate enough intelligence of arms transports, of establishing bases for acting against Israel, Israel tries to prevent it and it uses its Air Force to do so.

Sputnik: Now, you have already mentioned obviously the insurgence of Iranian forces. Obviously, there is a potential vacuum with the American forces removing themselves from the area, how avoidable is a large scale conflict at this point? Is it inevitable or will things return to some kind of semblance of order? What is your take on the current situation then?

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Prof Efraim Inbar: Well, frankly, I don't think it depends much upon Israel, it is an Iranian decision. If they will continue to deploy the forces… with a clear intent of building bases against Israel, similar to what they have done in Lebanon with Hezbollah, I think that Israel will continue to react to this type of military entrenchment. I think in Israel there is a great realisation that Israel's behaviour vis-à-vis, what happened in Lebanon for many years, where Hezbollah has strengthened its ability to strike Israel, is not a phenomenon that has to be repeated.

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And as a result of that, we try to limit as much as possible the military presence of Iranian forces or of the Shiite militias that are fighting in this part of the civil war. But the civil war is, of course, ending, so they are now primarily… they are there in order to establish bases against Israel along its northern border.

Sputnik: Notwithstanding what you have said we know that we have got a new IDF Chief of Staff in place now Aviv Kochavi. What can you tell us about Aviv in terms of his particular strategy on the situation in Israel and Syria?

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Prof Efraim Inbar: Aviv Kochavi as Deputy Chief of Staff was part of establishing this strategy in the last three years. He is a paratrooper officer. He is quite offensive in his thinking and he said quite, you know, clearly when he was appointed Chief of Staff that he is trying to build a military that is very effective in destroying Israel's enemies. So I think he lives very well with the policies of what [was] established by the Israeli government, of course. And from his very first day, he has continued to implement this policy that sends a clear message to Iran: "stay away of Syria".

Sputnik: Now we do seem to know that history shows that any government that shows a very determined strategy when it comes to enforcement militarily, seems to embolden the general electorate. What kind of effect is this strategy going to have in terms of this very important vote that is going to happen in April in Israel?

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Prof Efraim Inbar: Well, since there is no dispute between the opposition and the government on the use of force against Iran in Syria, I don't think that this will be an issue in electoral politics. You know we have elections in April. What could be an issue is the Israeli use of force or not enough using force in respect to Hamas provocations in Gaza. But Iran is the subject of great consensus in Israel.

Sputnik: Now the airstrikes also come as the US is withdrawing their troops from Syria. How prepared is Israel now for any confrontation should that happen once that vacuum is created? From your previous questions, it looks as though that doesn't really have too much of an issue. What can you add to your further comment?

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Prof Efraim Inbar: Well, I think that it is clear that the American forces in Syria didn't take any part in the struggle against Iran. They were primarily directed in fighting the Islamic State* and of course had some effect on preventing a land corridor in the hands of Iran: from Iran, where Iraq to Lebanon, to the Mediterranean. But we should not exaggerate the importance of those forces.

READ MORE: Syrian Air Defences Destroyed 30 Israeli Missiles, Guided Bombs — Russian MoD

This is an American decision, of course. It is so far not being implemented quickly, so Israelis are spectators on this issue. We have other important issues to discuss with the Americans. And if President Trump decides to withdraw [his] forces from Syria, we are not going to oppose it or to make an issue of it in our good bilateral relations with Washington.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of Prof Efraim Inbar and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.

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