All signs are looking like the Iranians are sufficiently confident that Bashar Assad will not only survive but prevail that they have started turning their attention to the next phase of Iran’s plan, unleashing Hezbollah on Israel.
The least remarked upon casualty of the war in Syria has been Lebanon. Where before that war broke out, one could argue that there was a governmental authority that was not Hezbollah, now you can’t. Iranian arms, money, and volunteers own Lebanon. Hezbollah troops are now active in an area in which they are forbidden to operate and they are operating there by UNIFIL. Last week, Hezbollah hosted a media tour of the Golan border to showcase their presence and strength and demonstrate it is Hezbollah that is calling the shots in Lebanon.
To answer that question, I should first explain what exactly happened there last week at the western part of the border between Israel and Lebanon. It was a well orchestrated and timed theatrical production that is Hezbollah’s hallmark: more than 50 foreign and local media outlets were invited to a kind of frontier tour guided by Hezbollah troops and according to Lebanese sources – with the permission of the Lebanese army and UNIFIL. Hezbollah uniformed guide explained in great details the IDF’s deployments for defense and the types of fortifications the IDF had built along the Blue Line (the international border line between Israel and Lebanon). During the tour, the journalists “happened into” “camouflaged” Hezbollah activists who “secured” the event and who were armed with various types of weapons. .
Since the last war between Israel and Hezbollah in 2006 until recently, Hezbollah has been trying to pretend that it has been observing UN Resolution 1701, which ended the war, led to a cease fire and banned the presence of illegal weapon in Southern Lebanon. Hezbollah troops walked around in civilian garb, concealing their weapons in villages or under residents’ homes. It became increasingly difficult for Israel to prove that Hezbollah had military presence in Southern Lebanon without disclosing intelligence information. According to intelligence materials that were nonetheless revealed, tens of thousands of rockets and mortar bombs have remained in Southern Lebanon, even during Hezbollah’s engagement in the war in Syria, ready for use in the next war against Israel.
— Israel-Alma (@SaritZehaviALMA) April 25, 2017
— Israel Nitzan?? (@IsraelNitzan) April 21, 2017
— The Tower (@TheTowerDotOrg) April 26, 2017
Israel’s Defense Minister was in Moscow yesterday and made it clear that Israel was not going to stand by and watch Hezbollah and Iran mass forces on Israel’s frontier.
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told Russian ministers during a meeting in Moscow on Wednesday that Israel “won’t allow concentrations of Iranian and Hezbollah forces on the Golan Heights.”
Speaking with Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu and Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, Liberman expressed Israel’s concern that Iran is using Syrian territory to smuggle arms to the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah — something Israel has said it cannot abide.
Israel had an unlikely ally:
Riyadh is standing against the involvement of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Hezbollah group in Syria, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Jubeir said at a news conference after talks with Sergey Lavrov in Moscow.
“We believe that they have no place in Syria or in any other part of the world. These groups influence the situations in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, the Gulf countries, Yemen. Hezbollah is carrying out its operations in various Middle East regions and follow’s Iran’s agenda,” Jubeir said.
“We would like to put an end to Iran’s involvement in the region,” he added.
Why is this important? The Syrian Army has an offensive underway centered on the town of Beit Jinn.
That dotted line barely four miles to the west is the Israeli frontier. Taking Beit Jinn gives the Syrian regime, its Iranian masters, and their Hezbollah proxies a clear line of communications from Damascus to Israel.
Speaking of Damascus. At least twice since November, the Israeli Air Force has destroyed Hezbollah convoys moving munitions from Damascus to dispersal sites. Last night, for the first time, Israel struck at storage depots near Damascus airport:
In the video you can see bomb strikes, there are occasional burning projectiles tossed in the air (probably rockets of some type), and you can see propellant burning off in addition to secondary explosions.
An Israeli strike on Thursday hit an arms supply hub operated by the Lebanese Hezbollah group near Damascus airport where regular supplies of weapons from Tehran are sent by commercial and military cargo planes, a regional intelligence source said.
The depot handles a significant amount of weapons that Tehran, a major regional ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, sends regularly by air, the source who requested anonymity said, without giving further details.
The source said the arms depot gets a major part of the weapons supplied to an array of Iranian backed militias, led by Hezbollah, which have thousands of fighters engaged in some of the toughest fronts against Syrian rebels.
And Russia is begging for the Israelis to just behave:
The Russian government has called on Israel and other countries to avoid any actions that may escalate tension in Syria, after Israel conducted airstrikes Thursday against an arms supply hub near Damascus International Airport.
“All countries need to need to refrain from any kind of actions that lead to an increase in tension in this already restive region,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters in Moscow.
Peskov also said Syria’s sovereignty should be respected.
Note: There have been numerous reports that Israel’s F-35 “fleet” has been in action in Syria because of the high air defense threat level. Odds are that a facility as important to the regime and as heavily defended as the Damascus airport was hit by F-35s.
And now they have a few more of them:
A big week for our Air Force! ✈ pic.twitter.com/MxOkfq118b
— IDF (@IDFSpokesperson) April 26, 2017
Just an hour or so ago, Israeli air defense shot down a target over the Golan Heights:
— Amichai Stein (@AmichaiStein1) April 27, 2017
My colleague, Andrea Ruth, reported on it. The AP report says the target was a “projectile.” But this is just crappy reporting that confuses Iron Dome with Patriot. The target was either a Russian or a Syrian reconnaissance drone.
With just a little bit of bad luck, a regional war could break out along the Israel-Syria-Lebanon frontier. Iran is using the $1.7 BILLION that Obama gave them to arm Hezbollah and their own IRGC units to the teeth. Their obvious objective is to attack Israel. We are probably going to see Israeli air strikes on logistics targets increase and it is difficult to imagine Hezbollah being highly armed and on Israel’s border and not attacking. When that happens we are off to the races.