Veteran journalist and Middle East analyst Ehud Yaari recently came out with the disturbing statement that just across the northern border, the Iranian military is becoming firmly entrenched in the Syrian Golan. Yaari noted that for the past two months, these combined forces besieged the city of Daraa, occasionally shelling the city. Inside the city are rebel groups who refuse to surrender. The Syrian army intends to exile the rebels to the Turkish-controlled region to the north. Russian attempts at mediation have failed.
Daraa holds particular significance as it was the scene of the first protests against the Assad regime in 2011.
The tense situation threatens to explode at any moment. Another Syrian army bombardment of Daraa on Sunday killed six rebels. The Syrian army declined to comment on the reports but said in a statement it was losing patience with what it called “armed groups and terrorists” in the neighborhood.
Syria loomed as a belligerent threat to Israel until its civil war began a decade ago. But Yaari claims that even in its weakened state, it is still a threat Israel would be reluctant to aggravate. concern.
Though Jordan has expressed a willingness to renew ties with Syria, a powerful Iranian-Hezbollah threat on its border is unappealing to King Abdullah according to Yaari. He claimed that the Syrian army’s 4th and 7th divisions are now essentially controlled by Iran and Hezbollah, further amplifying the threat to Jordan.
Yaari notes that the situation has become even more complex as Israel cannot depend on US support under the Biden administration. The prospect of a dominant Iranian military presence in the Golan is, of course, unacceptable to Israel but with Russia firmly entrenched with the Khmeimim Air Base in Latakia, the IDF is limited in its ability to act against the Iranian presence.
“Israeli efforts to disrupt, prevent or delay the deployment of Iran and Hezbollah in the Syrian Golan region has not been completely successful,” Yaari said.“They’ve inserted themselves into the Syrian army’s nervous system – its chain of command – and into the everyday lives of the local population.”
Israel is caught in a delicate balancing act, caught between Russia, Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran. Yaari warned that a Hezbollah rocket attack targeting Israeli cities could be the match that sparks a major inferno in the region.
“Iran knows that once it erects a military outpost in the area, the IDF will not hesitate to strike,” he explained.“If Israel does not act soon, Iran and Hezbollah will establish a significant military presence in the Golan,” he concluded.
“The result will be that due to tacit approval of the other powers, through cunning and sophistication, Iran will continue to turn the Syrian Golan and the Houran in southern Syria into a branch of the Lebanese front line,” Yaari wrote. “Hezbollah and its patrons will be deployed from the Yarmouk River to the Mediterranean. Putin, despite his promises, is not thwarting this plan and Assad will certainly not stand up to those who saved him from an uprising that began a decade ago and has yet to subside.”
Yaari’s analysis was supported by a recent report published by a Turkish think tank that claimed that Iran has doubled its presence in southern Syria’s Golan Heights, while building military infrastructure in the region, specifically for a future conflict with Israel.