Israeli warplanes launched attacks against dozens of Iranian military targets in Syria after rocket launches aimed at Israel. The attacks came just hours after President Donald Trump announced his intention to pull the plug on the Iran nuclear agreement. At first glance, it would seem that the two events are closely tied – Iran no longer constrained by a nuclear deal, and Israel emboldened by its U.S. ally’s action. The exchange has some analysts and news outlets wondering aloud if we’re on the brink of the world’s next major war.
Israel characterizes its action as defensive, since Iran has been building up its Syrian-based weaponry, threatening the Jewish state. Michael Mosser, who specializes in international relations at the University of Texas at Austin, says that makes sense.
“This has been a shadow war for quite some time – a shadow conflict between Israel and Iran in Syria. This is the first openly acknowledged part of that conflict,” Mosser says. “But with respect to Israel’s justification for this action, they definitely see this as in some ways preventing further Iranian…moves in the future.”
Mosser says European news outlets and government officials are sounding notes of caution, and speculating that these actions could precipitate a major regional war. But Mosser isn’t sure.
“This really does appear to be a very strong message Israel is sending to Iran to back down. But it doesn’t appear to be the first shot in a larger war,” Mosser says.
With strikes from each side of the Syrian border, Mosser says it’s worth watching Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite political party, sponsored and armed by Iran. Rather than attacking Israel directly, Mosser suggests, a more heavily-armed Hezbollah could carry out operations in other parts of the region.
Written by Shelly Brisbin.