There’s one thing the United States, and its ally Israel, and Russia and its ally, the Syrian Government of Bashar al-Assad all seem to agree on – now that the war in Syria is almost over, and President Assad seems assured on retaining control in Damascus – it’s time for Iranian forces to go home.
That seems to be the take-home message from the Iran-Israel exchange of fire that followed by one day, President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear weapons agreement with Iran.
Here’s the commonly-reported sequence of events, almost all of the reporting reflecting Israeli sources..
Iran fires 20 rockets at Israeli troops in the Occupied Golan Heights, Israeli-held territory inside Syria. The Israelis say they shoot down 4 and the other 16 ”fell short” of their targets. Such a paltry and inept show of aggression almost surpasses belief, and yet Iran has not denied the attack, so I guess we can assume they actually did it.
Before launching its counter-attack, Israel lets Russia know what’s going to happen.
And then whacks some 20 Iranian military facilities in Syria, from Iranian intelligence sites; to a logistics headquarters belonging to the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force; military compounds; and munition storage warehouses of the Quds Force at Damascus International Airport. “Nearly all” of Iran’s military infrastructure in Syria,” according to Israeli defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman.
Even allowing for Ministerial exaggeration, that’s a pretty big hit, and Russia’s response underlined why it was safe to give them advance notice: Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov cautioned both sides against more violence and urged them to reason together diplomatically.
This equanimity must aggrieve the Iranians who have a lot of blood and a lot of money invested in the fight to keep Assad in power, which has also been Russia’s fight.
As states will, Russia and Iran intervened in the civil war in Syria for their own reasons, and now that it looks like the war is in endgame and Assad has won, some of Iran’s reasons look de-stabilizing and dangerous to their enemies, Israel and the US, and to their Russian and Syrian recent-allies.
Stephen F. Cohen is professor emeritus of Russian studies, history, and politics at New York University and Princeton University. A contributing editor to The Nation, his recent book, Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War, is available in paperback from Columbia University Press.