Iran's army on the march. (AP/Vahid Salemi) (AP/Vahid Salemi)
Iran army

Iran’s military buildup in Syria, and not ISIS, is the greatest threat to Israel’s security, Minister Steinitz said. 

Iran’s presence in Syria is a greater threat to Israel than that of the Islamic State (ISIS) terror group, an Israeli minister told The Jerusalem Post Thursday, noting recent gains made by the Shi’ite axis in the Syrian civil war.

“It’s very easy and convenient to focus on ISIS,” said Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli National Infrastructure, Energy and Water Minister. “But we have two challenges in Syria. One is ISIS and one is Iran. The greater threat is coming from Iran, and not just from its nuclear program. The most immediate and urgent threat is the Iranian plan to transform Syria, after this horrible, brutal civil war is over, into some kind of extension of Iran.”

Steinitz expressed serious concerns about what will happen in the aftermath of the war in Syria. “What will we get on our northern border?” he asked. “Shall we face a weakened Syria, or a stronger Iran instead?”

In the event of an Iranian stronghold emerging on the eastern Mediterranean, Steinitz warned, “it is going to be a new Middle East and the entire Arab Peninsula will actually be encircled by Iranian forces.”

Steinitz’s assessment is consistent with that of Uzi Rabi, director of the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University, who wrote Monday that Iran is seeking to establish an arc of influence through the Arab Middle East to the eastern Mediterranean.

Iran’s Growing Regional Threat

The Islamic Republic has been able to manipulate the rise of ISIS and the fracturing impact of the Syrian civil war to advance its hegemonic ambitions, “deploying in the entire region with malicious sophistication, seeking to create a territorial sequence from Iraq through northern Syria to Latakia, on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea.”

Rabi called this “[a] perfect export of a revolution in relative silence, orchestrated by the Revolutionary Guards.”

Chagai Tzuriel, the director-general of Israel’s Intelligence Ministry, told The Times of Israel earlier this month that “the most important strategic issue we’re currently facing is the strengthening of the Shiite axis led by Iran in Syria, especially after the fall of Aleppo.”

Because of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s recent military victories, most strikingly the reconquest of Aleppo, the regime has been able to boost its presence in the northern Golan and is having success in the southern Golan as well.

Veteran Ha’aretz military correspondent Amos Harel noted that “Israel suspects that several Hezbollah operatives have…resumed operations near the border fence under the aegis of the regime’s advance.”

By: the Tower

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