TEL AVIV – Following the U.S. launch of Tomahawk missiles targeting a strategic Syrian airfield on Thursday night, Iran must be monitored carefully for the possibility that it may use its proxies for retaliation, especially against Israel’s northern border.
Following eight years of inaction on Syria under the Obama administration, President Donald Trump demonstrated last night that he is willing to hold Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to account, this time by striking the Shayrat Airfield near the Syrian city of Homs that was believed to have been utilized to carry out a chemical weapons attack that killed scores of civilians.
The U.S. airstrikes signaled to Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers that Trump will act in Syria and the administration strongly supports the removal of the Syrian president – an important strategic ally of Moscow and Tehran. The U.S. military move demonstrates to Israel and the Sunni Arab bloc cast aside by Obama’s nuclear deal with the mullahs that American leadership has officially returned to the region.
Assad himself is unlikely to retaliate since the last thing he wants amidst a years-long insurgency attempting to topple his regime is to go to war with Trump or expand the battlefield to U.S. ally Israel.
Trump’s bold authority in Syria directly threatens Russian interests since it was Moscow that largely filled the security vacuum in that country when Obama repeatedly failed to take any meaningful action against Assad. However, Russia’s direct response will most likely be confined to vocal protestation, such as Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov calling the U.S. strikes “aggression against a sovereign nation” carried out on a “made-up pretext.”
President Vladimir Putin cannot risk a military confrontation with Trump and Russia is already signaling willingness to abandon Assad to come to a larger regional accommodation.
Still, there is the possibility that Russia may quietly support action by others, especially agents of a very nervous Iranian regime that has been preparing proxies for years who can heat up Israel’s northern border and beyond. Both Moscow and Tehran have reason for wanting Trump to pay a price for acting in their Syrian playground. The question is whether they will dare to respond, even tacitly.
And that brings us to Iran. Trump’s embrace of America’s traditional Sunni Arab partners at the expense of Tehran and his strong positions against the disastrous international nuclear agreement have been deeply concerning to the expansionist, terrorist-supporting Twelvers in Tehran. And while the removal of Assad from power would be a blow to Russia, depending on the ultimate outcome such a move could be disastrous for Iran’s position in Syria. Iranian Revolutionary Guard units have been fighting the anti-Assad insurgents alongside the Syrian military and the Iran-backed Hezbollah militia. Syria represents a key pawn in Iran’s geopolitical chessboard that stretches across the vital region.
In recent weeks, there have been strong indications that Iran has been seeking to arm its Hezbollah proxy with even more advanced weapons that can target the Jewish state. Last month, Israel took the unusual step of striking a Hezbollah weapons convoy near the city of Palmyra that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said was transporting advanced weapons to the Iran-backed militia.
Israeli leaders and Hezbollah terrorists have in recent weeks ratcheted up war rhetoric, with Israeli officials warning that Hezbollah, which can only act at the direction of Iran, has been preparing for conflict.
Last Sunday, IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot warned the IDF would not hold back from striking Lebanese state institutions in a future conflict with Hezbollah. “The recent declarations from Beirut make it clear that in a future war, the targets will be clear: Lebanon and the organizations operating under its authority and its approval,” Eisenkot stated.
Hezbollah is not Iran’s only option. Breitbart Jerusalem has been reporting on the formation of a “Golan Liberation Brigade,” which was announced last month by the secretary-general of the Iraqi Harakat al Nujaba Shiite militia and is reportedly being trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. The so-called militia is another Iranian front that could be used to target Israel’s Golan Heights at the behest of Tehran.
The next few days and weeks will be critical in determining Iran and Russia’s resolve in the face of an awakened America that has returned from its eight-year slumber.
Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.