By L. Todd Wood:
With the Syrian Civil War winding down as Russia turns the tables in Bashar al Assad’s favor, Israel now becomes the object of Persian ire. Despite being bogged down in a struggle against radical Sunni offshoots, such as the Islamic State, for control of most of the Middle East, Shia Iran (the real Islamic theocracy) has never abandoned its desire to destroy the Jewish State, or “wipe it off the map,” as they like to say.
Recently, Iran conducted a missile test in which the words, “Death to the Jews” were written on the side of the projectile. Of course, Iran assured the world that they don’t have any desire to hurt the Jews, they just enjoy writing “Death to the Jews” on missiles that could hit Israel. Even the supreme leader of Iran recently said these words. Of course, he didn’t mean that either. It’s all Israel and America’s fault.
The problem is that for the last eight years, America has had a president who was an overt Iran enabler at best, and and Iranian Islamic sympathizer also bent on the destruction—or at least the reduction of power—of Israel at worst. The last decade has seen Iran make great progress toward the development of nuclear weapons, all the while delaying and obstructing any attempts to stop this development. We saw the Obama administration allow this delaying tactic, even colluding with Iran to put the nuclear “deal” in place. We later found out that the White House was lying to the American public and the press, even creating its own “echo chamber” to get its narrative across to get the deal passed.
For its part, Iran has spent the last few years developing a network of militias across the Fertile Crescent and the Levant to carry out its agenda, essentially standing up a mercenary army in the region. This consists of Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria as well as other Shia militias in Syria and Iraq, all funded and trained by Iran, most likely with the billions of dollars the Obama administration gave Iran during its “negotiations.” Now the prospect of Iran turning this army against Israel once again is very real.
Israel has fought a war in Lebanon against Hezbollah. The Jewish State is very aware of the danger this group presents. The militia has been recently used primarily in Syria as Iran’s ground force against the Syrian opposition. Assad is supported by Russia and Iran. This experience has battle hardened the militia and “bloodied” their soldiers, if you will. They are now a more organized, experienced terrorist army that has become much more dangerous. Russia allowed Hezbollah free access to its weapons depots in the region in exchange for intelligence on the ground in the Russian air campaign against anti-Assad forces, essentially acting as Moscow’s eyes and ears in the conflict.
Israel is now very concerned that Hezbollah, along with Iranian operatives, will gain a permanent foothold along the Israeli border with Syria and Jordan. It seems that Tel Aviv has warned Iran that it will not accept this situation, both in private and publicly.
“It’s not so much the possibility that it happens, but the prospects of an Israeli retaliation if Iranian forces come near its border,” an Arab intelligence officer said. “Israel made it clear, publicly and behind the scenes, that it would not tolerate Hezbollah and Revolutionary Guards’ presence along its border,” reported Breitbart recently.
“Iran has exploited the campaign against Nusra Front and the Islamic State to take root in the border area,” he said. “Jordan and Israel too would like to see these organizations out, but not to the point that Hezbollah and Iran fill the void.”
“It is also in [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s best interest to keep the Iranians out,” the official contended. “True, he has stated that the Golan Heights would be liberated by force, and he relies heavily on Hezbollah and Iran. But at some point, he’d wish to rule over his own border areas, which is something Jordan can live with. But not Iran.”
Hezbollah and Iran have long warned that once the Syrian Civil War subsided, they would turn their sights on Israel. So the border issue will lead to blows between the two sides—it is only a matter of time. Hezbollah frequently fires on Israeli positions on the Golan Heights as it is. Netanyahu seems to have calculated that he could outlive the Obama administration and wait for a better partner if Israel does decide to reduce the threat of Iranian nuclear weapons or fight against Iranian militias on its borders. The Trump administration has left no doubt regarding its support for the Jewish State.
For its part, the Obama administration has left the Middle East in a much worse position for the United States and its allies. The Gulf States have been marginalized against Iran. Israel is facing a greatly enlarged Shia force on its borders, and Russia is now calling the shots. The change has been truly transformational. No sane person would recognize that the United States spent trillions of dollars and lost thousands of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The surrender of power has been complete.
This was Obama’s real goal. You can listen to what a man says or you can see the results of his decisions. Obama had to know that removing US troops would lead to a huge power vacuum that would be filled by enemies of the United States. He had to know that backing down from the Syrian chemical weapons “red line” would lead to an emboldened Russia in the region ready to pounce on the gift horse of a weak American president—a once in a lifetime opportunity—and Putin took it.
And it’s not just its eastern borders that Israel has to worry about. In Gaza, Hamas is actively teaming with the Islamic State operating out of Egypt and sheltering ISIS commanders from Egyptian authorities. All the while, Hamas is rebuilding the tunnel infrastructure that Israel destroyed during the 2014 conflict. Iran is assisting in this effort, funding the Palestinian terrorists. It seems that Shia and Sunni Islam can cooperate when the subject is the destruction of the Jewish State.
I have been to the Gaza border and was rocketed by Hamas in 2014. Deadly shrapnel shredded the homes of the Israeli citizens of Sderot, with rockets landing in the backyards of grandmothers with their grandchildren running around the back yard. The prospect of a border war on both sides is simply unacceptable to those who have a realist view of Israeli national security.
Netanyahu needs an American partner to ensure success in any future conflict. The Iron Dome is a very successful system, but it needs to be resupplied, and the missiles are very expensive. That is why he had such a huge smile on his face at the news conference with Donald Trump. His gamble worked, and he once again has a partner he can trust. Now the issue is to figure out how to successfully deal with the national security issues created by the Obama administration.
Vice President Mike Pence recently said publicly that the Trump administration would never accept or allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons. It seems logical that Trump would also not accept an Iranian army on Israel’s border. It seems to me that we are heading for a crisis in the Middle East, all based on Iran’s intentions, which may push America, the West, and Israel into a conflict. Iran is testing additional missiles as we speak, in violation of at least the spirit of the Iranian nuclear “deal.” It remains to be seen if our new president has the foreign policy “chops” to effectively deal with the situation. Perhaps the new Trump slogan should be to make America—and Israel—great again.
L. Todd Wood is an OpsLens contributor, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, flew special operations helicopters supporting SEAL Team 6, Delta Force and others. After leaving the military, he pursued his other passion, finance, spending 18 years on Wall Street trading emerging market debt, and later, writing. The first of his many thrillers is “Currency.” Todd is a national security columnist for The Washington Times and has contributed to Fox Business, Newsmax TV, Moscow Times, the New York Post, the National Review, Zero Hedge, The Jerusalem Post, and others. For more information about L. Todd Wood, visit LToddWood.com.