Daniel R. DePetris
Security, Middle East
The strikes in Syria demonstrate to Iran, Assad, Hezbollah and any other anti-Israel party that Israel has red lines it will enforce.
During a trip to the Israel-Syria border in the Golan Heights on February 6—after commiserating with the Israeli military officers defending the frontier and inspecting the equipment—Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivered a warning through the press to the Iranians, the Assad regime, Hezbollah, the Islamic State and any other actor on the Syrian battlefield that sought to challenge the Jewish state. Israel, Netanyahu assured, wants peace for everybody in the region. But if anyone dares attack Israel in any way, “we are prepared for any scenario, and I do not suggest anyone test us.”
Apparently the Iranians didn’t get the message. Or maybe they just waved it away, calculating that Netanyahu would not risk a wider regional war by retaliating in such a forceful fashion. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps was proved wrong shortly after, and they discovered it the hard way.
After an Iranian drone crossed into Israeli airspace at approximately 4:30 in the morning on February 10, an Israeli attack helicopter shot it out of the sky. But the Israelis weren’t done; eight fighter jets were scrambled and entered Syrian airspace, neutralizing a Syrian military base where the drone was reportedly being piloted. Syria’s antiaircraft system managed to shoot down one of the planes, the first time an Israeli fighter was downed by an enemy force since the 1980s. Fortunately, the Israeli pilots ejected, sparing Netanyahu’s government from having to organize a state funeral for their service members. The lack of fatalities, however, didn’t restrain the Israelis from taking further action. By the time the day was over, a dozen additional sites in Syria, including four Iranian targets, were hit.
Shocked that the Israelis and the Iranians, two mortal enemies in the Middle East, would be taking potshots and testing one another’s red lines? You shouldn’t be. The way things in Syria were heading, it was only a matter of time before the two countries would engage each other directly.