Iran, Israel and their phoney war
If the report is confirmed, the existence of such a base near the Israeli border would increase tension in the region to a new level. Israeli has warned Iran not to cross a red line by establishing a permanent military base in Syria, or launching anti-terrorism operations near the Israeli border in the occupied Golan Heights.
Despite the establishment of this red line, and Israeli air strikes on Hezbollah convoys and military bases in Syria in the past seven years, Israel has remained largely uninvolved in the Syrian conflict.
Iran and Israel both understand the cost of any confrontation, and so far they have kept their distance. Last month Israel said it had intercepted an Iranian drone in Israeli airspace, and Syrian air defenses shot down an Israeli F-16 fighter jet over Syria. Iran denies owning the drone, and has never discussed whether it is building permanent missile storage bases inside Syria.
Despite all the mutual irritation and the exchange of verbal threats, neither Iran nor Israel wants a conflict. The Iranian deputy foreign minister Abbas Araghchi told the BBC: “Iran’s presence in Syria is not to create a new front against Israel, but to counter terrorism.”
But if Iran’s regional strategy is to avoid a conflict with Israel, and they are aware of the consequences, why build military bases to raise suspicion and make the international community have doubts about their real aims?
It appears that neither country seeks a direct confrontation, but deterrence is important. For the Iranians, giving up their military presence in post-Daesh Syria is dangerous. Operating in Syria and Lebanon allows the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to threaten Israel, far from the Iranian homeland. For the same reasons, Iran is not an easy target for Israel.
So there is a balance of power, and as long as Iran does not wish to make changes to its foreign policy, that balance can be maintained, however stressful.
Beneath all its bluster, the clerical regime in Tehran is fighting to ensure its own survival.
The reality is that Syria and Lebanon are Iran’s frontier against Israel and the US.
That is why Tehran is prepared to pay such a heavy price for fighting in Syria, and supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon, despite widespread anger among ordinary Iranians.
It appears that nothing — whether the threat to the 2015 nuclear deal, or the possibility of regional security talks — will persuade the regime in Tehran to change its ideology or its strategy, or rein in its regional ambitions.
Perhaps one of the reasons that the conflict in Syria remains unresolved is Iran’s resistance to changes in the government, and its fears that Bashar Assad could not be the next elected president after a free and fair election supervised by the United Nations.
Also, Tehran’s uncertainty about the future of the nuclear deal and its relations with the West also makes them hesitant to pull back from Syria and cooperate with the regional and international community.
In reality, beneath the bluster against Israel, the clerical regime is avoiding any conflict with Israel and the US while they wait to engage in further talks to ensure their own survival.
- Camelia Entekhabifard is an Iranian-American journalist, political commentator and author of Camelia: Save Yourself By Telling the Truth (Seven Stories Press, 2008).
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view