“‘O Lord God, please forgive! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’ … This is what the Lord God showed me: behold, the Lord God was calling for a judgment by fire, and it devoured the great deep and was eating up the land. Then I said, ‘O Lord God, please cease! How can Jacob stand? He is so small!’” (Amos 7:2–4)
Iranian troops are now stationed on Israel’s northern doorstep on the Israeli-Syria border.
In a violation of the status quo on the Golan Heights, an area once patrolled by United Nations separation forces, Iran is backing a Hezbollah-Syrian force while at the same time placing its own troops there.
The Golan Heights front had been quiet since the Separation of Forces Agreement of 1974.
“Alongside Iran’s direct guidance of Hezbollah’s actions in the north and Hamas’ in the south, Iran is trying also to develop a third front on the Golan Heights via the thousands of Hezbollah fighters who are in southern Syria and over which Iran holds direct command,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said at the start of his weekly cabinet meeting Sunday.
Iran and Hezbollah have had a clear change in approach, with Iran openly implementing an anti-Israel strategy on Israel’s borders.
“Since 1973, Syria kept the Golan quiet while activating south Lebanon with Iranian help. Now the Iranians and Hezbollah have quieted south Lebanon and are activating the Golan front under the cover of the Syrian war,” said Andrew Tabler, a Syria expert with the Washington Institute for Near East Policy in Washington, D.C.
In an Iranian publication, Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) senior official Hossein Hamedani boasted of having “130,000 trained Iranian Basij fighters waiting to enter Syria.”
Also, senior Iranian officials recently boasted of direct Iranian deployment in the Golan Heights, creating a unified battlefront stretching from Rosh Hanikra on the Mediterranean coast to Kunetra in the Golan.
“Our strategic depth reaches to the Mediterranean, and above Israel’s head,” former IRGC commander Yahya Rahim Safavi said last year.
Recently, a surprise offensive by Iranian troops against Syrian rebels in Southern Syria was really a smoke screen for creating a new front in the Golan Heights directed against Israel. (Al Jazeera)
According to Al Jazeera, the attacking force is numbered at about 5,000 troops with a combined force that includes members of the Syrian army, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, Lebanese Hezbollah fighters, Shia fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan, and Syrian National Defense Force militiamen who are mainly Alawite loyalists.
IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said, “Today, the borders of Islamic Iran and [its Islamic] Revolution have expanded, and we are not defending our country from its own borders but are standing fast and fighting together with our Shiite and Sunni brothers against the front of the arrogance [i.e., the West, headed by the U.S.] many kilometers from Iran’s borders.” (Israel HaYom)
The offensive that was launched on February 9th is supposed to push rebel forces out of the Kunetra area and back toward the Jordanian border.
If it succeeds it will make it possible for the terrorist group Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, to extend its lines from the Mediterranean to the Yarmouk River on the Syria-Jordan border.
Israel has warned that it will not allow this and last month staged a missile strike against a Hezbollah convoy in the Golan to prove its point.
The offensive was initially successful but slowed down after meeting resistance from rebel forces that included the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Jabhat al-Nusra and its allies. Heavy snow storms also grounded the Syrian air force.
Israel has been keeping a close eye on Iranian advances in the Golan Heights.
A drone strike in Syria by Israel last month that killed senior Hezbollah men and an Iranian general prompted Hezbollah to strike an Israeli military convoy killing an officer and a soldier.
Hezbollah fired two laser-guided missiles simultaneously from a distance of three miles, according to an investigation by the United Nations’ peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon.
Earlier this month, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu protested Iran’s attempts to “build an infrastructure of terror against Israel on the Golan Heights.”
Syria claims that Israel is assisting the rebels with both weapons and tactical intelligence. The UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) reported seeing meetings between rebel forces and Israeli military along the border.
While it is unlikely that Israel will replicate the experience of southern Lebanon where it armed and funded the Christian Lebanese forces there, it is also unlikely that they will allow Iran and Hezbollah to gain a foothold in the Golan.
According to Tabler, this Iranian activity in the Golan has set off alarm bells comparable to those with regard to Iran’s nuclear activities. (Al Jazeera)
“Iran’s aim in deploying in the Golan Heights is not only to deter Israel from acting against its nuclear program, defend Syria as part of the resistance axis, and establish an active front for anti-Israel terror attacks in the Golan—and even liberate the Israeli Golan,” stated a recent MEMRI analysis by Y. Carmon and Y. Yehoshua.
“It also meshes with the Iranian regime’s ideological perception of Israel as an entity that must be eliminated, as is evident in statements by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to this perception, the West Bank must be armed, as the Gaza Strip was, in advance of eliminating the state of Israel,” the analysis continued.
Meanwhile, the Israel Defense Forces has set up a hospital on the volatile Syrian border, aiding all civilians who ask for medical help.
“We help civilians who are injured by Syrian Army attacks or by the rebels,” asserted Golani Company Commander Maj. Simon Sisso. “This is what differentiates us from everyone else: the fact that we do not discriminate against women, by race, religion or anything else.”
Beyond medical treatment, Israel remains ready for attacks out of Syria.
“At some point it will hit us,” Sisso said. “They’re our enemy and I must be prepared for the day that they’ll attack us.” (IDFblog)