Daily TIP

Fall of Aleppo fuels concerns about Iranian presence in the Syrian Golan

Posted by Tip Staff - December 15, 2016


Israel is concerned that Iran will be able to move closer to the Israel-Syria border after the fall of Aleppo, Reuters reported Thursday, which would solidify an Iranian presence and influence in the region from Central Asia to the Mediterranean Sea. At a meeting in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, with the Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told  Nazarbayev to convey the following message to Iran: “Don’t threaten us. We are not a rabbit, we are a tiger. If you threaten us, you endanger yourself.”
According to Avi Dichter, the chair of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee and the former director of the Shin Bet, Iran feels confident after reaching the nuclear deal with the global powers last July, which has given it a cash windfall, and Assad's victory in Aleppo. This confidence, he assesses, may lead them to try to more seriously establish themselves in the Syrian Golan Heights, something they have long tried to do.
“Iran has a strategic plan. It might bring Iranian troops closer to Israel, either Revolutionary Guards…or others, like Hezbollah or the Basij militia, which might be a very good cover for them,” Dichter said. “We have no intention to allow Hezbollah to test their sophisticated weapons because there are no other targets in the Middle East except Israel when Hezbollah and Iran think about an offensive initiative. By all means, Israel is going to stop it, never mind whether by alerts or activities or any other tools.”
An Israeli airstrike on a Syrian regime base outside of Damascus targeted a convoy two weeks ago that was ferrying chemical weapons to Hezbollah, the Syrian opposition said. Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman said last week, “We are trying to prevent the smuggling of advanced weapons, military equipment and weapons of mass destruction from Syria to Hezbollah.”
Israel has previously expressed its determination to prevent Iran and Hezbollah from establishing a terrorist infrastructure in the Syrian Golan. In January 2015, an Israeli airstrike killed Iranian and Hezbollah commanders who were attempting to establish terrorist infrastructure on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights. Four months later, the Israeli Air Force struck a weapons shipment convoy on the Syria-Lebanon border. And last December, Samir Kuntar, a Hezbollah-affiliated terrorist who was imprisoned for decades for the murder of an Israeli father and his four-year-old daughter in 1979, was assassinated after reportedly working to build up Hezbollah’s infrastructure and attack capacity on the Golan.

The U.S. Senate unanimously passed a 10-year extension of sanctions against Iran on Thursday, which President Barack Obama declined to sign, but allowed to become law without his ink. President Obama’s restraint was “an apparent bid to alleviate Tehran's concerns that the U.S. is backsliding on the nuclear deal,” as characterized in the Los Angeles Times.“This administration has made clear that an extension of the Iran Sanctions Act, while unnecessary, is entirely consistent with our commitments in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” according to a White House statement, referring to the international agreement that took effect earlier this year and eased international sanctions in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program.
The ISA, which was set to expire at the end of the year, aims to prevent foreign investment in Iran’s energy sector. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said, “Given Iran’s continued pattern of aggression and the country’s persistent efforts to expand its sphere of influence across the region, preserving these sanctions is critical.” Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), who supported the Iran nuclear deal, explained his support for the extension of the sanctions legislation: “The practical effect is the Iran nuclear agreement depends on our resolve, on our commitment to...stop a nuclear armed Iran by using sanctions and other means if necessary.”
Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, warned last month, “If these sanctions are extended, it will surely constitute a violation of the [nuclear deal] and [the U.S.] should know that the Islamic Republic will definitely react to it.” Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced this past Tuesday that his country would develop nuclear-powered ships, in what he called a reaction to the United States violating the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the P5+1 global powers last year. The White House said that such a move would not be in violation of the deal. However, some nuclear experts are saying that such nuclear-propelled vessels are typically fueled by highly-enriched uranium, the Iranian production and use of which is prohibited by the agreement.  
Hamas is using kites with GoPro cameras attached to them to observe Israeli troops’ movements and border towns, Ynet News reported Thursday. In the next conflict between the Palestinian terrorist group and Israel, the IDF expects cross-border incursions into Israel’s border communities combined with seaborne attacks, with Hamas seeking to kill and kidnap Israelis. 

Hamas also uses low-cost drones to survey Israeli territory. All of this, Ynet reports, is “in conjunction with [Hamas] intensely training their maritime Special Forces units, digging tunnels with greater frequency, and improving their rocket arsenal. They are also carrying out more long-range rocket tests into the sea.” The IDF has noted an increase in Hamas military exercises along the border. All of these point toward Hamas gearing up for a future conflict with Israel. Yossi Kuperwasser, the former head of the research division of Israeli military intelligence and later the director-general of the Ministry of Strategic Affairs, told reporters in remarks organized by The Israel Project in May, “They definitely invest a lot in making the necessary preparations so that in the next round, when they decide to start it, they will be able to inflict the heaviest damage on Israel, including through those tunnels.” 
Hamas spends an estimated $40 million of its $100 million military budget on building tunnels into Israel that can be used in future terrorist attacks. In July, an Israeli official estimated that Hamas digs some six miles of tunnels every month.
The IDF carried out a preparatory exercise on Israel’s southern border earlier this month, which included a mock Hamas attack using motorcycles, which were found in cross-border attack tunnels by the IDF during Operation Protective Edge in 2014.

To celebrate 25 years of production of its Colorado Boot, Caterpillar footwear turned to artists around the world and asked them to create a piece of art using a pair of boots as their canvas. Tel Aviv graphic artist and illustrator Benchūk (aka Ben Amoyal) recently won top honors in the contest. Benchūk’s Meltdown boot is an ice cream cone illustration with bright pink and turquoise painted over the laces. “I feel great,” Benchūk tells ISRAEL21c. “It was a fun collaboration project and I always enjoy making customized pieces.” Benchūk says inspiration for his work comes from animals, geometric shapes and patterns. Many of his works are created using found materials such as cardboard and wood and he gives them a new life. So, using a CAT boot as a canvas came naturally. (via Israel21c)

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