As forces of the so-called Islamic State terrorist group are pushed across Syria and Iraq, one can clearly see Israel’s shifting position regarding the situation in Syria, which can be explained by Tel-Aviv’s desire to reorder the Middle East.
It’s clear that Israel has finally realized that it’s been betting on the wrong side in Syria and is now risks losing all. It goes without saying that once defeated, Israel’s leadership will be in no position to demand anything from anyone. This includes failing to establish a security zone within the Golan Heights, as well as failed ambitions over controlling the Iraqi-Syrian border which now will likely not come to fruition. In fact, the panic mode that the Netanyahu administration has been in for a while reflects the dramatic changes that are taking place in Syria and across the region. After Israel’s betting on the losing party for so long, Tel-Aviv has no other choice but to pursue damage control in a desperate bid to save its Jordanian and Kurdish proxies. Its new strategy states that it must draw Iraq and Syria away from Iran and integrate them into the Israeli-American-Saudi alliance.
Over the last six years of conflict in Syria, Israel would try to avoid any direct military confrontation. Only recently Israeli aircraft and artillery have started launching strikes inside Syrian territory. Among their targets included Hezbollah, which is fighting on the side of the Syrian government, but also military facilities of the Syrian Arab Army as well. In particular, the recent bombardment of Israeli artillery targeting Syrian army positions in the Golan Heights, according to Israeli media reports, destroyed three Syrian artillery positions.
Israel has always been deeply involved in the Syrian conflict. Repeated statements by Israeli officials that “Tel-Aviv pursues a policy of non-interference in the Syrian civil war” have been circulating within Western media sources for years. However, in a recent series of explanations given by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to European officials, he would acknowledge that Tel-Aviv destroyed dozens of Iranian convoys fighting in the Syrian Arab Republic against ISIS hordes. On June 18, the Wall Street Journal reported that Israel and Saudi Arabia were allies from the very beginning of the Syrian conflict, as Israel supplied the Syrian rebels operating alongside its borders with money, food, fuel and even drugs. The Wall Street Journal has also added that Israel might be sponsoring a total of four rebel groups operating inside Syria. These groups would use the cash provided to them to pay mercenaries and buy ammunition. These revelations, according to Zero Hedge, can also explain why ISIS terrorists would never attack Israeli citizens or launch operations deep inside Israel’s territory despite their close proximity.
According to Telegram’s Directorate 4 channel, militants have recently released a video of one of their gangs using anti-aircraft ammunition delivered from Israel while engaged in a deadly firefight against Syrian government troops in the vicinity of Daraa. It is noted that this was not the first time that media sources received confirmation that Israel has been supplying weapons to miltiants depicted by the West as “radical Islmasists.” In addition, it’s been repeatedly reported that Israel has been providing medical aid to militants wounded in Syria.
In mid-October it was reported that Syrian troops discovered four warehouses filled with US and Israeli-made weapons in the liberated Syrian city of Mayadin.
Tel Aviv’s sympathy for ISIS was confirmed last May by the editor of Politico, Bryan Bender, who visited Israel just before US President Donald Trump’s visit, discovering that Israeli military forces did not want the US to fulfill its promise to crush the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria .
Regarding the policy of Israel, a number of regional politicians and experts have noted an abrupt increase in its attempts to provoke the so-called redrawing of the Middle East map, which will inevitably result in the weakening of some countries across the region. This was stated, in particular, at the press conference given by Iranian Interior Minister Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli in early October. Fazli would emphasize Israel’s support for the referendum of independence in Iraqi Kurdistan, for the sole purpose of weakening Tel-Aviv’s opponents in the Middle East.
The consistent political support for an Iraqi Kurdistan provided by Israel has recently been empathized by the commander the elite paramilitary Peshmerga unit known as Black Tiger, General Sirwan Barzani, the nephew of the long-time leader of the Iraqi Kurds – Masoud Barzani. Israelis have been freely visiting Iraqi Kurdistan with their national passports, although such a paper would make any an unwelcome visitor across the Arab world. Israeli companies are beginning to unofficially operate in Erbil, while the Kurds are seeking the support of the Israeli lobby in the US in hopes that it would support Kurdistan’s independence. Last year, the Kurdish authorities announced the opening of a “representative office for relations with Jews”, which can be viewed as a nascent diplomatic mission.
Of course, there’s intelligence cooperation to be found between Israel and Iraqi Kurdistan. Simply, the “common enemy” has now changed – instead of targeting the hated Sunni regime of Saddam Hussein, those services are now targeting the government of the now Shia Arab majority along with Iran which supports it. There is no doubt that through Kurdistan, Israeli special services have been enjoying eady access to the territories of Iran and Iraq, which in the event of a major war would be a crucial factor.
However, the Kurds are not cooperating with Israel openly because they are afraid of the wrath of Iran and the Arab world that it may trigger.
Israel’s goals in supporting Iraqi Kurds are truly multifaceted. One of them, according to the former Israeli intelligence officer Alexander Grinberg, is to resist Iran’s influence while maintaining leverage against Turkey. Especially given the fact that commercial relations between Turkey and Israel began to develop rapidly and both Ankara and Tel-Aviv share a number of positions on the Iranian issue, in spite of the fact that Erdogan is an impulsive leader with anti-Semitic and dictatorial habits, while according to the opinion prevailing in Israel today, it’s Turkey that is the main supporter of Hamas, not Qatar.
In a bid to preserve its role as a major Middle Eastern power in the eyes of America’s elite, Israel has offered Washington a plan that may allow it to push Iran both from Syria and the regional scene. The plan was drafted under the supervision of Israel’s Minister of Transportation and Intelligence, Yisrael Katz, and approved by the country’s top political leadership. According to the Katz Plan, Washington must recognize the Golan Heights occupied by Israel since the Six-Day War of 1967 as Israel’s sovereign territory. Such a recognition will grant Israel a number of advantages, especially in the matter of striking the positions of Hezbollah within Syrian territory, particularly those found in the immediate vicinity of the disputed heights. Also in the Katz plan, special emphasis is placed on preventing the permanent military basing of Iranians in Syria. In this regard, the US is recommended to tighten sanctions against Tehran on the pretext that Iran is “supporting terrorism.”
Tel-Aviv is also aware of the growing role that Russia is playing in the Middle East, so it wants to get Moscow on board with its plan of pushing pro-Iranian forces out of Syria. In order to achieve this goal Tel Aviv has been unprecedentedly active in approaching Moscow along with its “allied” Arab leaders: Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. In exchange for reviewing its relations with Iran, Russia, which has already established two permanent military bases in Syrian territory, is promised to receive a whole set of “preferences”, including the tacit acceptance of Russian jurisdiction over Crimea by the West, the lifting of Western sanctions, the restoration of Russia’s membership in the G8, and guarantees on the preservation of Moscow’s air and naval bases in the Syrian provinces of Latakia and Tartus. There is another “benefit” for Russia in the form of keeping President Bashar Assad in power in Damascus indefinitely, as well as supplying Riyadh with Russian arms and the list goes on and on.
Valeriy Kulikov, expert politologist, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook.”