January 18, 2019

Is War Brewing Between Israel and Iran? Here’s What You Need to Know.

Israel struck several Iranian targets in Syria over the weekend, leading to speculation that Israel and Iran are on the verge of war.

The weekend’s events began with Iran launching an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), more commonly known as a drone, from Syria and into Israel on the morning of Feb. 10. The drone was subsequently shot down by an Israeli helicopter; Israel proceeded to launch raids in Syria targeting the command center that Iran operated the drone from.

During the raids, Syria was able to down an Israeli F-16 through anti-aircraft missiles; Israel responded by unleashing a flurry of attacks against 122 Iranian and Syrian targets primarily close to Damascus. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) estimate that they extinguished close to 50 percent of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s air defenses in the attacks.

The pilot and navigator in the downed F-16 were able to survive due to ejecting from the jet before the anti-aircraft missile struck the jet. It’s not yet known what exactly the Iranians had planned with the drone; Iran is claiming that it was related to self-defense.

“The government and army of Syria as an independent country have a legitimate right to defend [the country’s] territorial integrity and counter any type of foreign aggression,” Iranian Foreign Ministry Spokeman Bahram Qassemi told state television.

The drone was reportedly derived from the U.S. drone that Iran captured in 2011.

“We dealt severe blows to the Iranian and Syrian forces,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “We made it unequivocally clear to everyone that our rules of action have not changed one bit. We will continue to strike at every attempt to strike at us.”

Tensions between Israel and Iran have been rising since Iran has ramped up their presence in Syria following the decline of ISIS, even going as far as building a military base in Syria. This is also coinciding with Assad tightening his grip on power, raising the very real possibility that the Syrian dictator could look to reclaim the Golan Heights, which has been occupied by Israel since 2011. Additionally, a bloody conflict between Israel and the Iranian proxy Hezbollah appears to be inevitable.

All of this points to further conflicts between Israel and Iran’s Shia crescent, with the U.S. being notably missing in the conflict as they focus on exterminating the remnants of ISIS. Consequently, Israel may have to turn to Russia, an ally of Iran and Syria, to be the mediator of the conflict, as Russia has been pulling all the strings in Syria in the absence of the U.S.

“We need to prepare ourselves operationally and intelligence-wise for the mounting threat,” IDF chief Amit Fisher told Israeli forces. “The big test will be the test of war.”