Are the Golan Heights Ground Zero for the Coming Conflict with Iran and Syria?

The coming war between Israel and Iran is nearly a foregone conclusion.  The Iranian drone incident and F-16 downing now over 2 weeks old was not only the first direct clash between Israel and the Ayatollahs, it outlines the course of events now unfolding on Israel’s Golan.

For years, Israel’s armed forces and generals prepared for a missile war with Hezbollah.  Large budgets had been put together for missile defense.  The drone incident has scrambled the notion that it is Hezbollah that will fire the opening shot. Iran has moved close to Israel’s border and if reports are accurate the Iranian movements are supported by Russia.

The ceasefire in Ghouta unanimously passed by the UNSC and now implemented by Russia for 5 hours a day has the potential to send thousands of refugees to Israel’s Golan border.  Whether this was purpseful or not doesn’t quite matter.  The coming chaos on the Golan will enable Iran to send fighters into Israel and try to accomplish what Syria has failed to do for years; that is to recapture and occupy the Golan Heights.  If Israel fights back then Hezbollah will unleash its hundreds of thousands of missiles on Israel.

The Golan is now ground zero for the coming war.  The faster Israel prepares to hold back the flood of refugees and impending Iranian invasion the easier it will be to defend itself against a much wider conflict.

Israel Strikes Near Damascus

According to Syrian sources, the Israeli airforce attacked targets just outside of Damascus early on Tuesday morning (Jan. 9th) .  The official statement by the Syrian government said “that at 2:40 local time Israeli warplanes launched few missiles at targets near Damascus from the Lebanese airspace. The missiles were intercepted and one Israeli warplane was targeted by air defense forces.”

Despite damage to the military base in Syria, the government was able to utilize its new Russian made defense systems and intercepted most of surface to surface missile strikes.

Following the initial attack, at 4:00 local time, two surface-to-surface missiles were launched from the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. They were also intercepted.

At 4:15 local time, Israeli forces launched 4 other missiles from the Golan Heights. One missile was intercepted and the others hit a target causing damage to positions of Syrian force

The damaged base was a known warehouse of scud missiles and other deadly weapons the Israeli government has vowed to keep from being used against its citizens.

The Israeli government has yet to issue an official response.

Despite this, the attack demonstrates that either Putin is allowing these sorts of pinpoint strikes according to his personal agreement with Bibi Netanyahu or the Israeli military has continued to find a soft spot in the upgraded Russian defense system.

SYRIAN WAR: Regime Forces Capture Strategic Hill Near the Golan, Jihadists Ask for Truce

According to Al-Masdar News, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) has captured the strategic hilltop of Tal Marwan, following a fierce battle with the jihadist rebels of Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham. Tahrir Al-Sham was formerly an Al Qeida linked Al Nusra Front before  chainging its name.

With their collapse imminent, the jihadist rebels are at the mercy of the Syrian Arab Army’s missile battalions.  These battalions can now shoot artillery shells and rockets with incredible accuracy due to the fact that Tal Marwan overlooks Mughar Al-Mir.

According to a military source in Damascus, the jihadist rebels have waved the white flag at Mughar Al-Mir and asked for terms in order to secure  their departure from the town.

In exchange for their transfer, the Syrian Army will have full control of the Beit Jinn pocket, which would mark the end of the jihadist rebel presence in west Damascus.

The Beit Jinn pocket, which serves as Israel’s buffer against a combined Syrian-Iranian push on the Golan Heights has been the only card played by Israel against the regime forces now approaching Israel.

While Israel has not openly supported any side in the Syrian Civil War, Jerusalem makes no secret that the stronger the buffer zone between Israel and Syria is, the harder it will be for the Syrian-Iranian axis to make trouble.

Despite rumors of an arrangement hatched out between the USA and Russia over controlling the Syrian and Iranian forces, the fast moving nature of both nations’ armies towards Israel appears to render those verbal agreements pointless.

As the Syrian Regime continues to strengthen, Israel may have to enter the Syrian Civil War an dpush back against Assad’s forces or face a far more formidable enemy than before.

Israel Attacks Syria, but the Message Was for Russia and America

Regardless of how hard the Syrian regime controlled media and Russian propagandists spin it, Israel’s attack on an Iranian base just 50km from the Golan Heights is a tactical failure on the part of the Shiite-Russian alliance.  The contours of the attack keep on changing, but one thing is clear, Jerusalem is using its ability to penetrate the vaunted S-400 anti-aircraft system to accomplish three very important things.

The first is holding off Iranian advancement towards its border and permanent entrenchment in Syria.  The Israel’s airforce (IAF) has been able to accomplish this by using Lebanon as a launch area for its F-35 stealth fighters.  For all of the grandiose statements highlighting the impenetrability of the S-400, Israel has punctured its absoluteness when it comes to providing an umbrella of security to Syria.

The attack also sent a message to Russia, that Israel would no longe sit idly by and watch the Iranians utilize the chaos to draw close to Israel.  With or without Russian agreement, Israel is prepared to act over and over again.

The last accomplishment is a message to Washington D.C. that Israel does not need America’s help in countering Iran and can do so on its own.  This is important for two reasons, the most important is that Israel is prepared to forge and independent foreign policy in the region whether Washington is onboard or not.  In conjunction with this Israel prefers working with regional partners such as Saudi Arabia, but its foreign policy visa vi the current civil war and Iranian advancement in Syria does not need to be directly and permanently attached to the Sunni alliances needs a the moment.


WAR DRUMS: Syrian Regime Takes Strategic Hills East of Israel’s Golan Heights

Multiple sources in Syria have confirmed that despite ongoing fighting between the Syrian Regime and Jihadists, the regime has taken the Bardaya Hills just East of the town of Bayat Jin near the Golan Heights.  Assad’s dreaded 4th Armoured Division over ran the Jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham to take the hills.

The area around Beit Jinn has been strategic in giving Israel a wide enough buffer zone to keep Assad and Iran away from the Golan.  With the 4th Division over taking it, this buffer zone is now in peril.

Althought the Prime Minister has threatened to take action, the continual advancement towards the Israeli border by the Syrian Regime and thus Iran appears to have taken Jerusalem by surprise.  At the end of the day, Israel’s security has been continually outsourced to either the Trump administration who has seen the Syrian theatre as a losing quagmire or Russia who does not have Israel’s needs in mind.

Israel is coming to a crossroads and must take the necessary action before the Assad regime and Iran complete it take over of the North East Israeli border area, thus rendering Israel a paper tiger.

But for the grace of God- Iran in Syria & the lessons for Israel

Only by resisting territorial concessions on the Golan, Israel prevented deployment of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the fringes of the Galilee; only by resisting territorial concessions in the “West Bank” can Israel prevent them from deploying on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.

Israel has a strategic interest in disassociating Syria from the extremist axis that Iran is leading. Syria is not lost, Assad is western educated and is not a religious man. He can still join a moderate grouping. –  Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, Chief of Staff of IDF, Nov 13, 2009.

…we should not belittle the signals of peace coming from Syria. – Ehud Barak, Israeli Defense Minister, Nov 13, 2009.

Syria is the key to regional change for us. If I was prime minister, I would pin all my hopes on Syria.” – The late Binyamin Ben-Eliezer, former Israeli Defense Minister (2001-2002), May 23, 2010.

Just how appallingly wrong these assessments by the most senior echelons of the Israeli security establishment proved to be was driven home by a recent BBC report, indicating that the Iranian military is engaged in the construction of what appears to be a permanent military base in Syria. But more on these—and other—disturbing lapses in judgment a little later.

Permanent Iranian presence in Syria?

Based on satellite images commissioned by the BBC, the report suggests extensive ongoing construction between January and October this year, just outside a site used by the Syrian army near the town of El-Kiswah, 14 km (8 miles) south of Damascus.

It comes on the heels of evermore disturbing accounts of the increasingly pervasive presence of Iranian forces throughout Syria – with Russian endorsement and US acquiescence – together with growing concern that Tehran will soon attempt to deploy both air and naval forces, including submarines and set up weapons production plants to supply its Lebanese proxy, Hezbollah.

In the discussion of the ramifications of these revelations, attention appeared to focus mainly on two cardinal issues: (a) The significance for the completion of the “Shi’ite arc of influence”, stretching from east of the Persian Gulf to the Mediterranean and the creation of a land-based logistical supply line from Iran to Hezbollah in Lebanon; and (b) the stern warnings issued by Israel that it would not permit an Iranian takeover of Syria, hinting that it would be prepared to use military force to prevent this.

However, there is another vital element germane to the expanding Iranian military presence in Syria—and one that has received remarkably little media attention. It is, however, one whose relevance Israel will ignore at its peril.

Inconvenient but incontrovertible fact

After all, as ominous as the current Iranian military deployment in Syria is, it might well have been far more menacing. Indeed, the fact that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard is not perched on the Golan Heights, overlooking the Sea of Galilee, is solely because Israel did not fall prey to the seductive temptation of the land-for-peace formula, as urged by many, in both the international community and in its own security establishment (see introductory excerpts)—and did not cede the strategic plateau that commands the approaches to the entire north of the country.

One can only shudder with dread at the thought of the perilous predicament the country would be in, had it heeded the call from the allegedly “enlightened and progressive”  voices, who – up until the gory events of the Syrian civil war that erupted in 2011—hailed the British trained doctor, Bashar al-Assad, as a moderate reformer, with whom a durable peace deal could be cut – f only an intransigent Israel would yield the Golan to his regime.

Indeed, it is an inconvenient—albeit incontrovertible—fact that every time Israel has relinquished/abandoned territory, to Arab control, that territory has – usually sooner rather than later – become a platform from which to launch lethal attacks against Israel – almost immediately in Gaza; within months in Judea-Samaria; within years in south Lebanon and after several decades in Sinai, now descending into the depravity and brutality of a Jihadi-controlled no-man’s land—with no good options on the horizon.

This is something Israeli policy makers dare not disregard. For as dangerous and detrimental as the outcomes of previous withdrawals proved to be, they are likely to pale into insignificance compared to consequences of territorial concession in Judea-Samara (a.k.a. the “West Bank”).  

Compounding the gravity

Indeed, even the Golan, with all its vital strategic significance, cannot match the importance of the highlands of Judea-Samaria, commanding Israel’s urban megalopolis in the coastal plain. As I have pointed out elsewhere, any forces deployed on these highlands command all of the following: major airfields (civilian and military) including the country’s only international airport; major sea ports and naval bases; vital infrastructure installations (power transmission, water systems, and communication networks); main land transport routes (road and rail); principal power plants; the national parliament and most government ministries; crucial centers of civilian administration and military command; and 80% of the civilian population and the commercial activity in the country.   

Significantly, all of these strategic objectives will be within easy range of weapons being used today against Israel from territories previously relinquished to Arab control.

Compounding the gravity of any threat entailed in Israel yielding sizeable portions of Judea-Samaria to the Palestinian-Arabs are reports of renewed ties between Iran and Hamas, purported to be stronger than ever.”  

An Iranian proxy over-looking Tel Aviv?

Addressing journalists in Gaza last August, Hamas leader, Yehiyeh Sinwar declared that the terror group had restored relations with Iran after a five-year rift, due to Hamas’s refusal to support Assad, and is using its newfound financial and military aid to gear up for new hostilities against Israel. According to Sinwar, “Today, the relationship with Iran is excellent, or very excellent”, adding that Iran is “the largest backer financially and militarily” of the organization’s military wing.

Clearly, were Israel to withdraw from Judea-Samaria, there is little that it could do to curtail the spread of Iranian influence. Indeed, without the IDF to prop up the corrupt kleptocracy of Fatah, it is more than likely that Hamas, increasingly an Iranian proxy in the mold of Hezbollah—despite being on opposite sides of the Sunni-Shia divide—could mount an effective challenge for power. This could be done either via the ballot (a recent Palestinian poll shows that Hamas’s Ismail Haniyeh would trounce Fatah’s Mahmoud Abbas) or by the bullet—as it did in in Gaza in 2007, and could well do again in Judea-Samaria, especially if bolstered by Iranian backing

Accordingly, just as it was only Israel’s resistance to territorial concession on the Golan that prevented the deployment of Iranian Revolutionary Guards on the fringes of the Galilee, so only by resisting territorial concessions in the “West Bank” can Israel prevent Iranian Revolutionary Guards (or any other Jihadi elements) from deploying on the fringes of Greater Tel Aviv.

Assessing new “peace initiatives”: Rank is no recommendation

These are the grim realities that any future “peace initiative” must take into consideration.

This caveat takes on special significance in light of rumors that a new “peace” initiative is currently brewing within the Trump administration, seemingly enamored with the allure of cutting “the ultimate deal”.

In this regard, Israel must internalize the lessons of the past and robustly resist pressures to relinquish further territory to Arab control. In particular, it must be wary of counsel from individuals and organizations, who have demonstrated, consistently and conclusively that—no matter what their past experience and seniority—their judgement cannot be trusted (see introductory excerpts). After all, as the past clearly indicates, when assessing such initiatives, rank is rarely any recommendation.

Indeed, not only have the “top brass” of Israel’s security establishment been hopelessly and hazardously wrong in appraising Assad’s role as a peace partner, they have been equally wrong in predicting his imminent fall – see for example here,  here, here, here, here and here.

Israel can ill-afford such lapses in judgement when it comes to making fateful decisions regarding concessions in Judea-Samaria that would critically imperil the vast majority of the nation’s population.  

With this in mind, it cannot for a moment forget what–but for the grace of God—our fate in the Golan would have been.

IDF Clashes with Syrian Army in the Golan

The Syrian Army breaches the DMZ for the first time, breaking international law.

Israeli tanks fired shells at a Syrian army position under construction within the internationally recognized DMZ between Israel and Syria.  Considering that Syria is in direct cooperation with Iran and Hezbollah, the move to build a permanent base in what should be a demilitarized area has now inflamed an already tense situation.

The IDF said they fired the shots because the Syrian army’s actions is in direct violation of the 1974 truce agreement between Israel and Syria. The agreement “prohibits the entry of heavy construction tools or military vehicles into the demilitarized zone.”

The action occurred very close to the Druze village of Hader.  Hader was the site of an incident earlier this month involving Syrian regime forces and Jihadist, which appeared to threaten the safety of the Druze village. The IDF pledged to protect the village of Hader even though it is to the East of the DMZ due to it being Druze.

Leading to War?

The actions by the Syrian forces while not severe from a military standpoint, represent a serious escalation because it directly challenges Israel’s assertion that the IDF would in fact push back on Iranian influence so close to Israel’s border.

Does this mean war is about to break out?  No.  But the escalation is certainly leading the region in that direction.  It also  calls into question the IDF’s defensive posture as unsuitable for an enemy looking to push forward and win. Look for increasing skirmishes along the Israeli-Syrian border region on the Golan Heights.  With Syria and Hezbollah beginning to encircle Northern Israel, the IDF has become increasingly prepared to attack within Syria to push back on the Iranian led advance.


War In Israel’s North Draws Close As Syrian Regime Advances in Beit Jinn

According to sources in Syria, the Syrian Regime has made headway with its war on ISIS and is advancing within the Beit Jinn area.  This brings it closer to the Golan DMZ.


Led by their elite Ghiath Forces, the Syrian Army began the assault by firing several surface-to-ground missiles towards the Jihadist strong holds. Attack choppers continually attacked the jihadist positions at the farms north of Beit Jinn.

With most reports indicating that the Jihadist group Hay’at Tahrir Al-Sham was losing control, this is a double edge sword as far as Israel is concerned.  While Israel does not want ISIS on its border, it also does not want the Syria Regime, which now acts as an enabler for Iran to have access to the Golan border as well.

This development places the decision to send the IDF to at least secure the Druze village of Hader even more critical than it was at the end of the last week.

With the Syria-Iran-Russia axis on the move against both Saudi Arabia and Israel, the IDF has little time for a final decision on whether or not time has come to directly face Syria itself.

Has Israel Reached the End of its Detente with Russia?

Iran Attack Israel

There had been signs for months that the “special” understandings reached between Putin and Bibi Netanyahu were fraying.  Afterall, Israel never chose to have Russia interject itself into the Syrian civil war, but once it had done so, Israel had no choice but to try to tame the Russian Bear.  The understandings reached allowed Israel a level of continued independence to strike out against Syrian convoys heading towards Lebanon.  When Iran started moving closer, Israel was allowed to hit sensitive figures.

Despite all of this, there was always the need to ask for permission and reestablish the understandings, which according to reports have contantly changed.

With Trump and Putin reaching an understanding at the G20 that allowed Russia to man the borders of Israel and Jordan in order to supposedly “enforce” a ceasefire, the understandings between Israel and Russia broke apart.

Israel can handle a Russia farther North from the Golan who is focused more on creating stability for its Mediteranean port at Latkia, but a Russia intensely involved with allowing Iranian troops and the militia it supports to reach the Golan border is completely unacceptable.

When Bibi travelled to Sochi over ten days ago, the prevailing assumption was that he would be able to convince Putin that it is in Russia’s best interest to hold back Iran and in failing to do so Israel would have no choice but to attack the Iranian forces.

Russia would have none of it and has since pushed back strongly against Israel’s verbage and protests against the Iranian presence on its border.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the following about Israel’s concerns that Iran is building up strength in the Golan to attack Israel:

 “We do not have any information that someone is preparing an attack on Israel. Whatever area of cooperation between Iran and Syria, my position is that if their cooperation in whichever field does not violate the basic provisions of international law, it should not be cause for question,” Lavrov said.

So the proverbial goal posts of past understandings between Israel and Russia have once again been moved, but in the direction of the Israeli border.  Where at one time Russia acquiesced to Israel’s concerns about Iran’s proximity to their Northeastern border, today they just have to “behave” and all is well.

The emerging crisis on Israel’s border with Syria is no small matter.  Under Russian protection Iranian troops can operate freely and this being the case, Iranian agents can always lay the groundwork to be ready when Russia changes the rules again.

Bibi Netanyahu has a huge choice to make.  He can either keep the facade that Russia is an honest broker between the Jewish state and Iran and therefore allow Israel to become fully surrounded and in a sense dependent on Russia for holding back Iran or he can drop the facade and take out the Iranian forces quickly establishing themselves in the Syrian Golan.

His choice will determine the costs involved when the war in Israel’s North begins.


Putin Holds the Key to the Golan

The pervading assumption is that Vladamir Putin, Russia’s President was willing to work with Israel.  Afterall every time there has been a near conflict of interest between Israel and Russia, Bibi Netanyahu and Putin have met to smooth it out. This was the appearance this past week between the two leaders in the Russian resort city of Sochi.

Reports indicated that Prime Minister Netanyahu did indeed lay out red lines for Putin on Iran’s approach to the Golan, but these red lines have already been obliterated as Arab and Israeli media report that Iranian special forces have taken up positions on the Golan border.  According to reports Iran had asked for this allowance as payback for helping Russia stabilize Syria.

This ultimately means that Israel’s North is now surrounded by Hezbollah and Iran under Russian protection.

Russia as the Keymaster

Voices are being raised in Israel for a preemptive strike to knock out Iranian positions East of the Israeli Golan,  but Russian troops positioned there are providing cover for the Iranian militias and Hezbollah.  Israel has little choice but to either take a chance in opening a wider war between Russian backed Iranian militias, Hezbollah, and the Syrian regime or beg for Russia to force these troops back.

Putin understands Israel’s predicament and will want something in exchange for this move. The only question for Israel will be whether his price is too high.

The coming days will be critical in determining Israel’s next course of action. As Iran strengthens its position on the Golan, Israel may have no choice but to knock out these troops before they become to many to quickly get rid of.

A Deal in the Works?

Yet, in the “Great Game” of the Middle East, there is still time for Putin to give Israel a free hand to rid himself and Israel of Iran by allowing the IAF to wipe out the nascent Iranian positions near Israel. Doing so would send a message to Iran not to approach the Golan and would convey Putin’s view that Iran’s partnership can be terminated whenever he deems fit.

Given the present fluid situation, it impossible to predict the next steps, but what is clear is that the region is fast approaching a point of no return.