Iran and Israel have been exchanging threats for decades. What’s different now is that Syria’s civil war, which sucked in both countries, provides a potential battlespace—one that’s much closer to Jerusalem than to Tehran. It’s a tinderbox, says Ofer Shelach, a member of the foreign affairs and defense committee in Israel’s parliament. “I’m worried about the possibility that a match ignited in the Golan will light up a war going all the way to the sea.’’
There have been coups and revolutions, external invasions and proxy conflicts, but the Middle East hasn’t seen a head-to-head war between major regional powers since the 1980s. There’s a growing risk that one is about to break out in Syria, pitting Israel against Iran.
“But when ye shall hear of wars and commotions, be not terrified: for these things must first come to pass; but the end is not by and by.” Luke 21:9 (KJV)
EDITOR’S NOTE: As I write this, the world stands on the precipice of mind boggling change without even being wholly aware of it. War between Israel and Iran, happening on or around the 70th anniversary of Israel’s regathering as a nation, would not simply be a political or regional conflict. It would be a conflict of biblical proportions. Stop and think for a moment how things stand right now. Russia controls Syria, and has a signed pact with the nations of Turkey and Lebanon for its protection. This is in addition to the pact Russia signed with Iran back in 2015 to back each other up in the event of war. God has made sure that pro-Jerusalem Benjamin Netanyahu has remained the leader of Israel, and that the United States has the pro-Jerusalem Donald Trump as its leader. And then there’s Syria. Syria figures crazy heavily in Bible prophecy, with Damascus being singled out in the time of Jacob’s trouble for utter destruction. The powder keg of prophecy is filled to the brim, and the only thing left is for the LORD to light the match. As we have been saying since 2016, May 14th, 2018 is a date you need to keep an eye on, as the LORD may just be getting ready to pay a visit.
“For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.” Jeremiah 29:10 (KJV)
The Islamic Republic’s forces are entrenching there, after joining the fight to prop up President Bashar al-Assad. The Jewish state, perceiving a direct threat on its border, is subjecting them to an escalating barrage of airstrikes. Nobody expects those strikes to go unanswered.
The path to escalation is clear, and the rhetoric is apocalyptic. “We will demolish every site where we see an Iranian attempt to position itself,’’ Israel’s Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman told the London-based Saudi newspaper Elaph, adding that the Iranian regime is “living its final days.’’
In Tehran, Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said that “100,000 missiles are ready to fly’’ in Israel’s direction, and warned they could bring about its “annihilation and collapse.’’
Iran and Israel have been exchanging threats for decades. What’s different now is that Syria’s civil war, which sucked in both countries, provides a potential battlespace — one that’s much closer to Jerusalem than to Tehran.
Israeli officials say there are 80,000 fighters in Syria who take orders from Iran. As they help Assad recapture territory, militiamen from Hezbollah have deployed within a few kilometers of the Golan Heights on Israel’s border. Iran has vowed to avenge its citizens killed by the Israeli airstrikes, and it has plenty of options for doing so.
It’s a tinderbox, says Ofer Shelach, a member of the foreign affairs and defense committee in Israel’s parliament. “I’m worried about the possibility that a match ignited in the Golan will light up a war going all the way to the sea.’’ Even more troubling is the absence of firefighters.
Israelis lament that Washington has become a bit-part player, unable to impose a Syrian settlement that would guarantee its ally’s security. Absent that, “we can only represent our interests through force,’’ Shelach says.
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Asked about Israel-Iran tensions at a press briefing on Thursday, Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said the U.S. is concerned by Iranian actions that “destabilize the region,” including through its proxy Hezbollah. “Wherever Iran is, chaos follows,” she said.
Far from tamping down tensions, President Donald Trump—egged on by Israel—has been ramping them up. By threatening to withdraw next week from the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program, he’s added another volatile element to the regional mix.
The only power with channels open to both sides, and the clout to play mediator, is Russia.
President Vladimir Putin’s intervention in 2015 to shore up Assad has left Russia as the strongest actor in Syria. Putin is seeking to impose a peace that would lock in his political gains, so he has every interest in averting any spread of the war.
But that doesn’t mean he’s able or willing to rein in Iran. While Russia has cordial ties with Israel, they’re likely outweighed by the confluence of interests with the Islamic Republic, whose ground forces were crucial to the success of Putin’s Syrian gambit. Repeatedly threatened with attack or regime-change by its enemies, Iran sees the sympathetic governments in Damascus and Beirut as providing strategic depth.
Now, the Iranians in Syria have graduated from helping Assad to “building their strategic presence against Israel,’’ said Paul Salem, senior vice president at the Middle East Institute in Washington. “It appears that neither the Russians nor the Assad regime are in control or can limit these things,’’ he said. “The situation is highly unstable and highly unmanaged.’’
One test of Russia’s ability to manage it may come in southern Syria, where Islamic State and other jihadists and rebels still hold territory near Israel’s border — enclaves that are among the likely next targets for Assad’s advancing army.
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“Before they do that, the Russians need to have an arrangement with the Israelis,’’ said Yuri Barmin, a Middle East expert at the Russian International Affairs Council, which advises the Kremlin. Russia is “willing to negotiate on the issue of Iran and Iran’s presence’’ in those regions, he said.
That may not be enough to meet Israeli concerns, which extend far beyond the border.
Earlier in the Syrian conflict, Israel’s airstrikes typically aimed to destroy weapons convoys bound for Hezbollah in Lebanon. There’s been a significant change. Two strikes in the past month—widely attributed to Israel, though the Jewish state doesn’t comment on such matters—targeted permanent infrastructure used by Iran’s forces. Both took place deep inside Syrian territory.
“It’s shortsighted to look at it in terms of how many kilometers from the border Iran is sitting,’’ said Amos Gilad, who recently stepped down as director of political-military affairs at Israel’s Defense Ministry. “Iran cannot be allowed to base themselves militarily in Syria. And Israel is fully determined to prevent that.’’
To be sure, the goal could be achieved without a full-blown war. Salem, at the Middle East Institute, says the likeliest outcome is that Israel and Iran will avoid a conflict that neither really wants — though he says the risk that they’ll end up fighting is higher than at any time since the Israel-Hezbollah war in 2006.
And although hostilities have effectively begun with the airstrikes, many analysts say that they can be contained to Syria—where Israel and Iran can square off without their allies necessarily being drawn into the fight
“Never!’’ said Liberman, when asked if clashes with Iran could lead to clashes with Russia. “There will be no confrontation with them.’’
In Beirut, Sami Nader of the Levant Institute for Strategic Studies said that Russia may not oppose an Israeli attack on Iranian positions in Syria, provided it doesn’t threaten to topple the Assad regime that is “the Russians’ main card at the negotiating table.” Barmin, the Kremlin adviser, said there’s plenty of daylight between the “diverging interests” of Russia and Iran.
So far, Russia’s response to Israeli airstrikes has been muted. But after the U.S. bombed Syrian targets last month, to punish Assad for an alleged chemical attack, Russian officials said they may deliver state-of-the-art S-300 missile defense systems to Syria. That would pose new risks for the Israeli air force—and increase the chance of a flashpoint.
Israel’s parliament this week passed a law empowering the prime minister and defense to declare war without wider Cabinet approval in “extreme circumstances.”
Half a century ago, Israel launched a surprise attack against its Arab enemies. A few years later, in 1973, the tables were turned. In both cases, one of the combatants consciously opted for war.
But that’s not how Israel’s more recent conflicts have started, says Shelach. “It always happened because the situation escalated, deteriorated, without any of the sides making a decision.’’ And that’s the risk he sees now, with no obvious off-ramp. source
ISRAELI KNESSET GIVES PM NETANYAHU AND DEFENSE MINISTER LIEBERMAN COMPLETE POWER TO TAKE THEIR NATION TO WAR
The law is “nothing less than insane,” said Ofer Shelah, a legislator from the centrist Yesh Atid party, which sits in opposition. “I am deluged with calls from experienced security officials who are shocked, and rightfully so,” he wrote on Twitter. The measure, an amendment to the Basic Laws that serve as Israel’s constitution, passed Monday night by a vote of 62-41 in the 120-seat Knesset. The vote was initially overshadowed by Netanyahu’s dramatic, televised news conference the same night in which he presented evidence that he said proved that Iran had been lying about its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.
As Israel faces rising tensions with Iran, Syria and Gaza, its Knesset passed a new law allowing the prime minister and defense minister to decide alone whether their nation will go to war.
“Proclaim ye this among the Gentiles; Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears: let the weak say, I am strong.” Joel 3:9,10 (KJV)
EDITOR’S NOTE: It seems that with each passing day, the likelihood of Israel going to war with Iran increases exponentially. Now comes news that the Knesset has given the power to take Israel to war nearly unilaterally to Prime Minister Netanyahu and his defense minister Avigdor Lieberman. This news has rightfully shocked many in the Israeli government, but to those of us with our eyes on May 14th and the 70th anniversary of the regathering of Israel, this stunning turn of events is right on cue. I’m not a fan of war but absolutely a fan of seeing Bible prophecy fulfilled.
The legislation, which comes after multiple attacks inside Syria widely believed to have been carried out by Israel, makes it much easier for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to declare war. Although the new law restricts the use of that power to “extreme circumstances,” it has provoked domestic criticism for concentrating it in the hands of just two people.
The law is “nothing less than insane,” said Ofer Shelah, a legislator from the centrist Yesh Atid party, which sits in opposition. “I am deluged with calls from experienced security officials who are shocked, and rightfully so,” he wrote on Twitter.
The measure, an amendment to the Basic Laws that serve as Israel’s constitution, passed Monday night by a vote of 62-41 in the 120-seat Knesset. The vote was initially overshadowed by Netanyahu’s dramatic, televised news conference the same night in which he presented evidence that he said proved that Iran had been lying about its efforts to build a nuclear weapon.
The presentation, based on a cache of stolen Iranian documents, capped a long campaign by Netanyahu to kill the international agreement to curb Iran’s nuclear program. President Donald Trump faces a May 12 deadline to decide whether to pull the United States out of the agreement.
And it comes amid an escalating shadow war with Iran.
Airstrikes on a suspected missile storage site near Hama, Syria, on Sunday which destroyed a cache of missiles and killed at least 16 people, many of them Iranians, were reported to have been carried out by Israel. Israel is believed to have conducted several previous attacks in Syria on assets belonging to Iran and its allies, and is bracing for promised Iranian retaliation for a strike on an air base in Syria last month.
The new law would not necessarily change the procedure for those airstrikes, which Israel has not acknowledged. What approval may be required for these strikes is not public information. But it could give Netanyahu more latitude to broaden the hostilities into open warfare.
The law was not written with the current skirmishes with Iran in mind, according to one of the architects of the reform, and applies to any prime minister and defense minister, not just the current ones.
Still, critics note that Netanyahu is under investigation in multiple corruption cases and is fighting for his political future, and the current defense minister, Avigdor Lieberman, is a political hard-liner with little security experience. Those issues could raise questions about their motivations should they decide to take Israel to war.
The law reduces the approval required to go to war from the full Cabinet to half of the much smaller security Cabinet under most circumstances. But a provision was added late in the process to give that authority to the prime minister and defense minister in “extreme circumstances.”
“The last-minute addition giving authority under extreme circumstances to the prime minister and defense minister on their own appears to be out of order,” said Yehuda Ben Meir, head of the national security and public opinion project at the Institute for National Security Studies at Tel Aviv University. “It is not appropriate to Israel’s constitutional system of government.”
The law does not define what constitutes “extreme circumstances.”
Previously, Israeli leaders had to seek the approval of the full Cabinet to go to war, or even to embark on a military action that was likely to lead to war. But in recent years, governments have swelled to up to 30 ministers. Advocates of the new law say that with the larger Cabinets, that system has become unwieldy.
However, some experts also said that the law may have little practical effect since the prime minister and defense minister were unlikely to go to war without strong political backing and the support of the military and security agencies, which have proved in the past to be cautious.
“A government cannot go to war, no matter what the law says, without a national consensus,” said Shlomo Avineri, professor emeritus of political science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
That Netanyahu’s motives could come under suspicion because of his legal troubles only strengthens the need for public and political support, Avineri said.
“Obviously a prime minister under investigation is limited by the kind of choices he can take, and they will be scrutinized even more than usual,” Avineri said, adding that in such a case, “the necessity for broad support is even wider.”
Several analysts pointed to an episode in 2010 when Netanyahu and his defense minister at the time, Ehud Barak, were eager to strike Iran’s nuclear facilities but were stopped from doing so by the Israeli military, which said it lacked the ability, and by the opposition of the broader security establishment.
While that example suggests that Israeli leaders would not go to war without broader support, the following year, Netanyahu and Barak wanted to strike Iran again and were stopped when two ministers balked at the idea, Barak later said.
Under the new law, they may have had a freer hand to attack Iran.
A committee was established in 2016 to formulate recommendations to improve the workings of the Cabinet. Headed by Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser and a major general in the reserves, the committee recommended giving the authority to go to war to the more select political-security Cabinet, which by law numbers at least seven members and not more than half the members of the government.
Amidror said in an interview that Netanyahu was “happy with our recommendation,” but that the newly amended law went beyond that. Netanyahu argued that the law’s requirement of a quorum of the security Cabinet could lead to paralysis in an emergency, Amidror said.
He said that only then did Netanyahu push for the power to be vested in the prime minister and defense minister. Amidror insisted that the timing of the new law was coincidental and had nothing to do with the current tensions.
“I was behind it so I know for sure there is no connection,” he said. “In Israel, any timing is bad timing.” source