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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 19-Jun-2018
19-Jun-18 World View -- Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria

Web Log - June, 2018

19-Jun-18 World View -- Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria

Israeli airstrike on Syria-Iraq border kills dozens of Shia militia fighters

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from GenerationalDynamics.com

Israeli airstrike on Syria-Iraq border kills dozens of Shia militia fighters


Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference in Sochi (AFP)
Benjamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin at a joint press conference in Sochi (AFP)

An airstrike on Iraqi Shia militias on Sunday evening killed dozens of fighters supporting the regime of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad. The airstrike targeted a position in Syria's Deir az-Zour province, near the border with Iraq.

Syrian media blamed the US-led coalition for the airstrike. According to the report from Syrian media SANA, the fighters were from the regime army, and they were fighting ISIS:

"A military source said in a statement to SANA that the US-led coalition on Sunday targeted one of our military positions in the town of Al-Hiri, southeast of al-Boukamal city, leaving a number of martyrs and wounding other people. ...

The coalition has been targeting the military positions in a desperate attempt to raise the collapsed morale of the terrorist organizations due to the achievements of the Syrian army.

The field reports confirm that Washington provides Daesh [ISIS] organization with various kinds of support to prevent its collapse and invest it to keep its forces illegally in the Syrian territory and steal the economic resources in the eastern region through its mercenaries of terrorist groups."

By Monday evening, numerous reports have come up describing errors in the SANA report, essentially making it "fake news."

Most important, the US-led coalition had conducted no airstrikes in the region on Sunday evening, and the US military repeatedly denied that the US coalition had anything to do with the airstrike.

Second, there have been reports that the most likely force behind the airstrikes was the Israeli military. Israel is refusing comment, but unnamed Israeli military sources are confirming this off the record.

Israel rarely comments on its airstrikes in Syria, but prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced on Sunday that Israel is "already taking action" against Iran in Syria:

"Over the weekend I spoke with Russian President Vladimir Putin and with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. We discussed regional issues and focused -- of course -- on Syria.

I reiterated our guiding principles regarding Syria. First of all, Iran needs to withdraw from all of Syria. Second, we will take action -- and are already taking action -- against efforts to establish a military presence by Iran and its proxies in Syria both close to the border and deep inside Syria. We will act against these efforts anywhere in Syria."

This statement by Netanyahu actually represents a bit of an expansion of previously announced policy. Previous policy indicated that Israeli airstrikes would be focused on southern Syria, along the border with the Israeli-governed Golan Heights. In Sunday's statement, Netanyahu made it clear that Israel will strike pro-Iranian targets anywhere in Syria. That statement clears up some confusion about whether Israel could have been responsible for the Sunday evening airstrike, whose target had been much deeper into Syria than previous Israeli airstrikes.

A final problem with the Sana story is that it wasn't clear about what forces the Israeli airstrikes were targeting. It has emerged that 40-50 militia fighters were killed, a combination of Syrian army forces, Iraqi Hezbollah forces, and Iran-backed members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU) umbrella organization, which takes its orders from Iranís Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani. SANA (Damascus) and CNN and Debka (Israel) and Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria

Netanyahu's statement, quoted above, confirms something that's been increasingly clear for at least two years -- that Israel's alliance with Russia is growing, and that Russia is doing nothing to stop Israeli airstrikes on Iranian targets in Syria.

That Russia's relationship with Israel is getting closer couldn't have been demonstrated more clearly than when Russia openly accepted Jerusalem as Israeli's capital and on June 14 attended a celebration of Russia's Independence Day at a reception being held in Jerusalem.

Russia, Iran and Turkey formed an alliance in 2015 to support al-Assad in Syria's civil war, with each one taking on a different "assignment." But it's always been fairly certain that once these "assignments" were completed, then there would be no long left for them to fight except each other, since they all had different objectives.

Russia's objective was to establish Russian military bases in Syria, and it has accomplished that with naval and air bases. Iran's objective was to establish its own bases in Syria, where they could be used to launch attacks on Israel. Russia does not want Iran to have bases in Syria, and more important, Russia does not want a full-scale war between Iran and Israel.

Iran does have thousands of trainers, advisors, technicians and other support specialists to make the Syrian Army and their Iranian allies. According to one estimate, Iran supervises over 50,000 mercenary forces in Syria, mainly Shias from Afghanistan and Lebanon. As we reported in 2015, al-Assad's army was near collapse, and was saved only through the intervention of Russian bombers and Iranian mercenaries.

As the role of the Iranian mercenaries winds down, Russia is demanding that "all foreign troops" (except themselves) leave Syria. Of course this is nominally directed at the Americans and Turks, but it's also directed at the Iranians. One thing most everyone can agree on, including most European and Middle Eastern nations, is that Iran should get out of Syria. Until that happens, the chances of a war between Israel and Iran in Syria will continue to grow. Al-Monitor and Strategy Page (12-June) and Spectator (UK) and Media Line

Related Articles

(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 19-Jun-18 World View -- Russia-Israel alliance grows, while Russia-Iran alliance frays in Syria thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (19-Jun-2018) Permanent Link
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