‘More Israeli strikes against Iranian positions likely as Tehran seeks to destabilize region,’ says analyst

Fragments of a Syrian anti-aircraft missile found in Alonei Abba, about 2 miles (3.2 km) from where the remains of a crashed F-16 Israeli warplane were found, at the village of Alonei Abba, Israel February 10, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 11 February 2018
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‘More Israeli strikes against Iranian positions likely as Tehran seeks to destabilize region,’ says analyst

JEDDAH: Saturday’s sudden military escalation between Israel and the Assad regime may be a harbinger of what lies ahead as the Syrian fighting winds down and an emboldened Iran establishes a military presence that Israel vows it will never accept, analysts told Arab News.
“We can expect more Israeli strikes against Iranian and Hezbollah positions on Syrian soil in the future as Tehran seeks to further destabilize the region,” said Oubai Shahbandar, a Syrian-American analyst and fellow at the New America Foundation’s International Security Program.
The escalation also shows that “Iran is at the helm of what remains of Assad’s military, and has supplanted any semblance of Syrian sovereignty,” he said.
“The Assad regime’s military suffered a major blow as a result of Iran’s military incursion. The Israeli airforce counterattack destroyed a significant portion of Assad’s long range SA-5 integrated air defense network outside Damascus.”
Gerald Feierstein, the US Ambassador to Yemen and director for Gulf affairs at the Middle East Institute, said: “Even though both sides are indicating that they don’t seek an escalation, the heightened tensions and the proximity of all of these forces are a clear threat.
“These kind of incidents can spin out of control with unintended consequences. The possibility that Russia and the US could be pulled into a confrontation between Israel, Syria and Iran should make everyone very worried.”
In Washington, the Pentagon said: “We share the concerns of many throughout the region over Iran’s destabilizing activities that threaten international peace and security, and we seek greater international resolve in countering Iran’s malign activities.”
Other analysts said they did not expect further escalation for now, but suggested the heavy anti-aircraft fire showed Syria was more emboldened to stop Israel’s strikes.
Ofer Zalzberg of the International Crisis Group said Russia should mediate since “it is the only stakeholder which has strong relations with all sides today.
“This incident signals a new phase … of the war in Syria,” he said.


Syria rejects US demand for Iranian withdrawal

US this week issued a list of demands to Iran including the pullout of its forces from Syria. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Syria rejects US demand for Iranian withdrawal

  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has noted that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops, a rare instance in which Moscow suggested Iran should not maintain a permanent military presence in the country.
  • srael has warned it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria, and Israel struck a number of Iranian targets there earlier this month after what it said was a cross-border Iranian missile attack.

MOSCOW: Syria on Wednesday dismissed American calls for the withdrawal of Iranian troops and Lebanese Hezbollah militants from the war-torn country.

Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal Mikdad told Russia’s Sputnik news agency that “this topic is not even on the agenda of discussion, since it concerns the sovereignty of Syria.”

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a list of demands this week for a new nuclear deal with Iran, including the pullout of its forces from Syria, where they have provided crucial support to President Bashar Assad’s government. Russia is also a key ally of Assad, and has been waging an air campaign in Syria since 2015.

Mikdad said in Wednesday’s remarks that Syria “highly appreciates” Russia’s military support as well as “advisers” from Iran and Hezbollah. He added that “we cannot let anyone even raise this issue” of the Iranian withdrawal. “Those who ask for something like that — and this is definitely not our Russian friends — are considering the possibility of intervention in all parts of Syria, including the support of terrorists in Syria and elsewhere in the region,” Mikdad said.

At a meeting with Assad, who visited Sochi last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin noted that a political settlement in Syria should encourage foreign countries to withdraw their troops.

Putin’s envoy for Syria, Alexander Lavrentyev, later commented that the Russian leader’s statement was aimed at the US and Turkey, along with Iran and Hezbollah. It marked a rare instance in which Moscow suggested Iran should not maintain a permanent military presence in the country. Russia has argued that its troops have deployed at the Syrian government’s invitation, while the military presence of the US and others has been illegal.

Lavrentyev’s statement appeared to reflect a difficult balancing act for the Kremlin, which hopes to maintain good ties with both Iran and Israel. 

Israel has warned it will not accept a permanent Iranian military presence in Syria, and Israel struck a number of Iranian targets there earlier this month after what it said was a cross-border Iranian missile attack.

During the talks with Assad, Putin also encouraged him to send representatives to a commission in Geneva that would work out proposals for Syria’s new constitution as part of a peace process.

Mikdad said, however, that Damascus is not ready yet to nominate its candidates to the body.

“It is too early to speak about (candidates), but there are many people who are able to represent Syria and the Syrian government in these talks,” he said.

In Moscow, Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoy of the Russian military’s General Staff, pointed at the Syrian troops’ recent gains, saying Wednesday that “all the necessary conditions have been created for the revival of Syria as a single, unified state.”

He noted the government’s capture of the last remaining opposition enclave in southern Damascus from Daesh militants, which brought the entire capital and its far-flung suburbs under full government control for the first time since the civil war began in 2011.

The general also said Russia, Iran and Turkey set up nearly 30 checkpoints to monitor the de-escalation zone in the northern province of Idlib as part of a deal the three countries brokered.