Collisions on the border, the interception of Iran's drones and the destruction of the Israeli F-16 in response, the IDF strikes against targets in Syria showed that the shadow confrontation between Israel and Iran threatens to escalate into a large-scale conflict. Worse, his escalation is almost inevitable, and then the war in the SAR will be supplemented by another front, which will turn into a problem already for Russia.
The evening before, the Syrian military opened fire on Israeli reconnaissance aircraft that crossed the country's border in the south-west - near the city of El Quneitra. Under the strikes of air defense forces, Israeli aviation was forced to retreat, but things could have ended much worse.
While in Syria there was a civil war, Israel was in relative safety, maintained its balance, did not interfere in the conflict with its neighbors, and only periodically stopped fundamental threats for itself. A list of such threats - the red lines that the opponents of Israel should not have stepped over - the country's leadership has voiced more than once. Among them - the shelling of Israeli territory by Syria, the fall into the hands of Lebanese "Hezbollah" strategic weapons and the creation of military-industrial enterprises for the production of weapons. On such Israelis reacted with pinpoints, declaring to the world community about their right to self-defense. As Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu stressed, his main principle is "to stop illegal actions in their embryo."
Meanwhile, the multilateral conflict in the UAR and the strengthening of the IGIL * gave the main enemy of Israel - Iran - an excellent opportunity to increase its influence in the region. The preservation of the Syrian regime was in this sense a fundamental task, therefore throughout the war Tehran acted as the financial and military patron of Assad, although he did not officially recognize this. As an ally, the Iranians settled firmly in Syria, where they are primarily supported by Shiite groups fighting on the side of government forces, but under the command of Iranian military personnel and consultants. These include the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (they also do not recognize their presence in the SAR Tehran), the Shiites from Iraq, the paramilitary forces "National Defense Forces" and "Hezbollah", the Shiite Afghan brigades "Fatimiyun" and the Shiite Pakistanis "Zainabiyun". In addition, since 2014, there have been teams of Syrian Shia militiamen united in the group Hezbollah in Syria, created according to the model of the Lebanese prototype and also supported by Iran.
To gain a foothold in the UAR, the Islamic Republic builds military bases there, as reported by Israel's Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Danny Danon, at a meeting of the Security Council at the end of February. There is clearly a certain amount of truth in his words: Iran controls significant paramilitary groups that need to be based somewhere. Yes, and its officials back in 2016 year announced the need for a naval base on the Syrian coast.
Becoming an initiative-less witness to such an increase in their enemies, the Israelis did not intend - as they warned in words before proceeding to action. In early December, the IDF inflicted point-like strikes with land-to-surface missiles at a military facility near the town of Al-Kisua in the suburb of Damascus. According to Israeli and Western intelligence services, the goal was precisely the Iranian military base, which was located 50 kilometers from Israel-controlled Golan Heights. In February this year, Israeli blows were also inflicted on the Iranian base, which, according to the representative of the IDF, is located next to Palmyra in the desert in the east of the country.
In response, Tehran remains silent, and Russia claims that it does not have information whether Iran has a military base near Palmyra. But the Jewish state is fully convinced of this, as well as the fact that Iran is taking steps to create military-industrial facilities for the production of high-precision missiles in Syria and Lebanon. On them, Israel, too, strikes point-like blows. For example, 7 September 2017, the Israeli Air Force bombed in the outskirts of the city of Masjaf in the west of the Syrian Arab Republic an enterprise of the Syrian Research Center, which, with the assistance of Iranian experts, developed weapons. And 4 December 2017, a missile attack was fired at the military scientific center in Jumbray near Damascus.
In the strengthening of Iran, Israel sees an existential threat, which, as its leadership has repeatedly emphasized, exceeds the threat from IGIL. At the same time, IGIL weakens and recedes, and Iran, using the opportunity, fills the vacuum that has appeared. But with an open and large-scale confrontation with Iran against Israel, not only Shiite groups in Syria and Hezbollah in Lebanon, but also Hamas will perform. As the leadership of the latter confirms, Teheran became the largest supporter of the armed wing of the Palestinian group.
In terms of increasing influence, Iran is among the obvious winners of the Syrian game. It has increased considerable strength not only in the RAA, but also in the region as a whole. Under the influence of Tehran are Iraq and Lebanon. At the same time, according to Israeli intelligence, through the union states, the Iranians are trying to get a "corridor" to the Mediterranean and to the Shiite population of the Persian Gulf countries, which will further strengthen their political, military and economic influence.
At the same time, political circles in Israel fear that the main ally - Washington - will follow the US president's concept of "First thing - America", that is, it minimizes its role in Syria and limits its presence there. However, there is no confirmation of these concerns yet. The Americans use tough rhetoric against Tehran, defend Israel's right to self-defense, designate Iran as the main threat and conduct an emphatically pro-Israeli course, as Donald Trump's broad gesture of recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the American embassy to it. Well, perhaps most importantly: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson confirmed a month ago the US intention to maintain a military presence in Syria precisely in order to reduce the influence of Iran.
Another influential actor of the Syrian conflict - Russia - behaves with restraint, but friendly towards Israel, trying to balance between Tehran and Tel Aviv. To avoid possible discontent from Moscow, the Israeli leadership maintains continuous contact with the Kremlin, informing him of its intentions and being thus a stable and predictable partner. However, Russia maintains much closer partner relations with Iran, for the benefit of the Islamic Republic was the Kremlin's support and remained on the same side of the barricade in the difficult periods of pressure from the West for Moscow. Tehran needs Moscow and Syria, since their situational alliance, of which Turkey is also a part, demonstrates a new center of power and symbolizes the end of the undivided influence of the US and its Western allies in the Middle East. In this regard, Moscow is unlikely to go on a confrontation with Iran for Israel's sake.
In any case, it is safe to say that Tel Aviv will continue its resistance and will not close its eyes to the strengthening of Iran under any circumstances. It is also obvious that Israel will not be able to completely limit Iran and force it to withdraw, because the influence in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon is of strategic importance for Iran and Teheran is determined to strengthen it.
Sooner or later, two enemies will collide, and without foreign diplomatic interference, their confrontation can not be strengthened. And the actual war between Iran and Israel in the territory of Syria will change the alignment of forces as you like, but not in favor of Damascus and Moscow, which relied on the process of political settlement.
If you do not think about the worst, at the moment there are two obvious options for the development of events. According to the first, if the United States begins a purposeful confrontation with Tehran in the UAR to reduce its influence, Israel will act together with its American ally by writing its steps in the overall US concept and involving in the conflict all the new participants from the Persian Gulf countries. According to the second, Russia, which has contacts with both sides, will try to act as an active diplomatic intermediary. But the rates in this case will be so high that Russia, Israel, and the region as a whole will inevitably have to sacrifice something.
* Organization, in respect of which the court accepted an inured decision on liquidation or prohibition of the activity on the grounds provided the Federal Law "On Countering Extremist Activity"