Thursday, April 26, 2018

Defining the Battlefield

An Iran-Israel clash seems likely. But not over Syria, it seems.

This article speculates that an Iran-Israel clash is likely soon:

Senior members of the Israeli security establishment are predicting that the month of May will be one of the most volatile periods in the current era. Maj. Gen. (Res.) Amos Yadlin, the former head of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) Military Intelligence Directorate, said in an interview published April 22, “I have not seen a May this dangerous since May 1967.”

Of particular note, two of the five military fronts concerning Israel have rapidly escalated in recent months. In the campaign against Iran being waged in Syria, the two sides have inched closer to an unprecedented tipping point. The situation in Gaza has worsened, with mass marches and protests held at the border fence every Friday for the past four weeks, in addition to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

The odds for an all-out war between Israel and its opponents this summer are no longer miniscule. As I wrote April 18 in Al-Monitor, Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said at a Cabinet meeting that it is possible that war will, indeed, erupt, and if so, Israel will have to cope with Iran, Syria, Hezbollah and the Lebanese army as well as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Salafist groups in Gaza.

But this article seems to carve out one potential battlefield as off limits:

Iran and Israel traded blame on Sunday for an unprecedented, weeks-long surge in hostilities between their forces over Syria but played down prospects of a spillover into war.

Both can be true. A war could be coming but both Israel and Iran may want to keep Syria out of the fight.

Perhaps with Syria as the big prize, Iran is willing to throw Hezbollah in Lebanon under the bus--while offering them new sanctuary in Syria--and does not really care what happens to Hamas in Gaza.

But then again, I tend to connect my dots to bolster the idea that Israel plans to hammer Hezbollah in Lebanon.

UPDATE: Are the Iranians and Israelis continuing to negotiate their respective homelands out of the battlefield?

Israel would retaliate against any Iranian attack on Tel Aviv by striking Tehran, Israel's defense minister said in remarks published on Thursday, as the arch-foes faced off over Syria.

We'll see. Hezbollah won't be part of that kind of deal, of course, but Israel can deal with Hezbollah.

UPDATE: Although Secretary of Defense Mattis appears to believe Israel-Iran conflict in Syria is "very likely":

Direct conflict between Israeli and Iranian forces is increasingly likely in Syria as Tehran pursues a permanent military presence there, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis warned on Thursday.

Addressing a congressional panel before hosting his Israeli counterpart, Avigdor Liberman, at the Pentagon, Mattis said it was “very likely” from his perspective, “because Iran continues to do its proxy work there through Hezbollah.”

Is bringing it up the way he did a warning to Iran to not use their forces in Syria if Israel hits Hezbollah in Lebanon?

Is bringing it up intended to put Russia on notice that they should control Iran--if they can--in order to avoid a conflict in Syria that might draw Russia in? A fight that would be humiliating for Russia's reputation as a protector of Assad and as a weapons exporter?

Or is it intended to warn Israel not to expand a war against Hezbollah in Lebanon to Syria where Iran is?