Conflict in Syria

Alex Roos, Staffer

On May 10, 2018, Israeli warplanes attacked dozens of Iranian military targets. This attack was a response to what Israel called an Iranian rocket attack launched from Syrian territory just hours prior. The assault took place a little more than a day after the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear agreement.

The most serious assaults during this conflict have been from the cross border exchanges. Israel’s defense minister said that the Israeli warplanes had destroyed nearly all of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria. The attack consisted of 20 rockets targeted toward Israeli targets, none of them reached their target.

The Iranian attack happened shortly after President Trump pulled out of the nuclear agreement in the Middle East. This raised suspicion that the country no longer felt constrained by the possibility that the Americans might scrap the deal if Iran attacked Israel.

Israel appeared emboldened due to support from Syria’s biggest ally, Russia. This allowed Israelis to act against Iran’s military assets in Syria. Moscow did not condemn Israel’s strikes, as it had in the past. Instead it called on Israel and Iran to resolve their differences diplomatically.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel spent 10 hours with President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Wednesday. He told his cabinet on Thursday that he had persuaded the Russians to delay the sale of advanced weapons to Syria.

Russia and Iran have been allies in the Syrian war, defending President Bashar al-Assad. But, as the war appears to be winding down, some analysts say Russia and Iran are splitting. This may be due to the fact that Moscow prefers a strong secular central government in Syria, while Iran prefers a weaker government that would give Iran-backed militias free rein.

Israel has conducted many strikes on Iran and its allies inside Syria, rarely acknowledging them publicly.  Before Thursday, however, Iran had not retaliated. It was seemingly restrained while awaiting Trump’s decision on the nuclear accord.

Even so, the Iranians have plenty to lose if the conflict continues to grow. They still seem determined to preserve the nuclear accord despite renewed American sanctions. The accord also includes Russia, China, Britain, France, Germany and the European Union.