TEL AVIV – Syria was most likely pressured by Iran to fire surface-to-air missiles at Israeli aircraft carrying out strikes in Syrian territory over the weekend, an Arab intelligence official told Breitbart Jerusalem.
On Sunday, Israel confirmed attacking Syrian targets, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu explaining the strikes took out weapons bound for the Iran-sponsored terrorist group Hezbollah.
AFP reported on the strike:
Syria’s military said it had downed an Israeli plane and hit another as they were carrying out pre-dawn strikes near the famed desert city of Palmyra that it recaptured from jihadists this month.
The Israeli military denied that any planes had been hit. The Syrian government has made similar unfounded claims in the past.
The Arab official said that despite Syria’s wish to change the balance of power vis-à-vis Israel – “whereby Israel attacks Syria repeatedly without retaliation” – according to intelligence estimates from the region “it’s not a good time for [President Bashar] Assad to rock the boat.”
“The [Syrian] regime’s best interest is to keep waging counterattacks on the rebels in the big cities, along the shoreline and the border regions with Iraq, Turkey, Jordan and Israel,” he said. “Therefore, we believe that Assad was pushed into retaliating by Iran.”
By firing at Israeli aircraft, he contended, Iran wants to send Israel a message that it should think twice about attacking convoys carrying weapons to Hezbollah.
“Iran sees the renewed rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and the new American administration, and realize that they are in the crosshairs, and Hezbollah may be too. That’s why Iran is keen to step up weapons shipments and bolster its foothold in Lebanon, which is essentially Iran’s foothold, and firing at Israeli aircraft is meant to create some sort of deterrence that would benefit the smuggling operation,” he said.
However, he added that “no Syrian fire would deter Israel. There is another war in Syria, led by Israel, to prevent it from becoming an Iranian outpost, and prevent Hezbollah’s armament. Iran not only understands it, they experience it as well. That’s why they’re adamant about adding Syria into the equation, despite Assad’s best interest, which is to focus on defeating his domestic enemies.”
“We estimate that Assad, once his victory and survival are guaranteed, would not object to restricting Iran’s clout, despite all the reports of his gestures to them,” he said, referring to claims of an Iranian naval base being built in Latakia with Assad’s permission.
“Ultimately, the naval base in Latakia may be an advanced payment to Iran for having saved Assad, but consolidating Hezbollah’s status in Lebanon is definitely not on his agenda. Therefore undoubtedly he was coerced into changing his policy vis-à-vis Israeli attacks,” he said.
“No less than Iran, Assad seeks to maintain Egypt’s support and capitalize on Jordan’s recent warming to him, which positions him at the forefront of the international war on terror,” the Arab official concluded. “A conflict with Israel is the last thing he (Assad) needs right now, even though he said that when the war ends he will resume his efforts to liberate the Golan Heights.”