For Israel, now is the best time to deal with the Iran threat
"Better now than never." These were the words of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a recent tweet affirming his country's resolve to block Iranian aggression at any cost. Perhaps no statement could better encapsulate the current Israeli mindset and resolve to block Iranian aggression at any cost. When else will Israel have the ear of a U.S. president willing to tear up a diplomatic deal and double down on Iran, the freedom to strike with impunity against targets in a state already ravaged by civil war, and a young Saudi prince willing to openly collaborate with the Jewish state against the Islamic republic?If the US is foolish enough to ever elect Democrats to run the government again, Israel knows it may lose the moment to act against an enemy bent on its annihilation. Israel has also been able to work with the Russians and has made clear that Assad's survival depends on whether he gives Iran a base to attack Israel. Israel has already seen just how badly the Democrats would screw them to do a deal with Iran.
Israel cannot escape the fact that it is a tiny state in a hostile geopolitical environment that depends on a great power patron. Historical tragedy has a way of molding a state to rapidly seize opportunities that come along ever so rarely and are always laden with risk.
Israel's strategic goals in Syria are threefold: to prevent advanced weaponry from reaching Hezbollah in Lebanon, to prevent the Syrian civil war from spilling into the Golan Heights and to prevent Iran from militarily entrenching itself on its northern frontier. In this carpe diem moment, Israeli airstrikes against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in Syria have picked up. Three major attacks have occurred in the past two weeks alone, and at least 150 strikes have taken place since the civil war began in 2011. By accelerating and widening the scope of the strikes, Israel is deliberately entering a cycle of attacks and counterattacks that could spiral beyond its control.
Its war rhetoric is also on the rise. Israeli ministers in recent weeks have threatened not only to topple Syrian President Bashar al Assad if he "lets Iran turn Syria into a military base against us" but also to take the fight to the Islamic republic if it dares to attack their country. The move is a notable departure from Israel's usual modus operandi of selectively and discreetly carrying out strikes from the shadows when targets of opportunity arise. If Israel is going to risk a broader confrontation with Iran spanning from the Levant to the Persian Gulf, then it needs to beat its war drums hard enough for both Washington and Moscow to hear.