Home News Israel Conferred With US on Strike in Syria to Target Iranian War Gear

Israel Conferred With US on Strike in Syria to Target Iranian War Gear

35 min read
0
21

Israeli soldiers stood atop of an armored personnel carrier in the Golan Heights near the Israeli-Syrian border last week amid heightened tensions between the two countries.
Photo:

atef safadi/EPA/Shutterstock

WASHINGTON—With tacit American support, the Israeli military targeted an advanced Iranian air-defense system at a Syrian base last week, said intelligence officials and others briefed on the matter, the latest sign the Trump administration is working with Israel to blunt Tehran’s expanding influence in the Middle East.

After conferring with President

Donald Trump,

Israeli Prime Minister

Benjamin Netanyahu

ordered a strike on the newly arrived antiaircraft battery to prevent Iranian forces from using it against Israeli warplanes carrying out increasing numbers of operations in Syria, some of these people said.

Israeli officials told the Trump administration about the planned strike in advance so that the U.S. was aware of their plans to directly target an Iranian base, according to two people briefed on the plans.

Israeli leaders have kept silent about the strike, but Russia, Iran and Syria all accused Israel of carrying it out. Information provided by intelligence officials and others briefed on the strike offered new details on the specific target, Israel’s goals, and the discussions with Washington.

/* 4u Graphics Standalone */ @media all and (max-width: 585px) body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-wrap, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-margin, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-bleed, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-header, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-inline display: block !important; max-width: 300px; body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .djai2html-tagline float: left; body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .djai2html-foot, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .djai2html-headline, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .djai2html-leadin max-width: 300px; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto; /* 8u Graphics Standalone */ @media all and (min-width: 666px) and (max-width: 745px) body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-wrap, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-margin, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-bleed, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-header, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-inline max-width: 620px; display: block !important; /* 12u Graphics Standalone */ @media all and (min-width: 586px) and (max-width: 665px) body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-wrap, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-margin, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-bleed, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-header, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-inline max-width: 540px; display: block !important; /* 16u Graphics Standalone */ @media all and (min-width: 746px) body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-wrap, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-margin, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-bleed, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-header, body.template-standalone:not(.nc-exp) .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-inline max-width: 700px; display: block !important; body.at4units .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u, body.at4units .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-wrap, body.at4units .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-margin, body.at4units .bleed .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-bleed, body.at4units .header .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-header, body.at4units .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-inline max-width: 300px; .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-wrap, .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-wrap, .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-wrap, .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-margin, .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-margin, .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-margin max-width: 300px; body.at4units .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u, body.at8units .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u, body.at12units .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u, body.at16units .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u, body.at4units .bleed .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-bleed, body.at8units .bleed .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-bleed, body.at12units .bleed .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-bleed, body.at16units .bleed .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-bleed, body.at4units .header .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-header, body.at8units .header .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-header, body.at12units .header .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-header, body.at16units .header .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-header, body.at4units .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-inline, body.at8units .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-inline, body.at12units .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-inline, body.at16units .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-inline, body.at4units .offset .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-offset, body.at8units .offset .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-offset, body.at12units .offset .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-offset, body.at16units .offset .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-offset, body.at4units .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u, body.at4units .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-wrap, body.at8units .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-wrap, body.at12units .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-wrap, body.at16units .wrap .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-wrap, body.at4units .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u, body.at4units .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-4u-margin, body.at8units .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-8u-margin, body.at12units .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u-margin, body.at16units .margin .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u-margin display: block !important; .at12units #wsj-article-wrap[data-articleCentered=”true”] .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u, .at12units #wsj-article-wrap[data-articleCentered=”true”] .offset .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-12u display: none !important; .at12units #wsj-article-wrap[data-articleCentered=”true”] .inline .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u, .at12units #wsj-article-wrap[data-articleCentered=”true”] .offset .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874show-16u display: block !important; .at8units #wsj-article-wrap[data-articleCentered=”true”] .inline .ai2html_export, .at8units #wsj-article-wrap[data-articleCentered=”true”] .offset .ai2html_export margin: 0 auto; max-width: 620px;

#wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 position: relative; overflow: hidden; width: px; display: none; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiAbs position: absolute; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiImg display: block; width: 100% !important; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 p font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px; margin: 0; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-0 font-family: Retina,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 16px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-1 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-2 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: right; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-3 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-4 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-5 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-6 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 13px; font-weight: 300; font-style: italic; text-align: center; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-7 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-4-8 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: right; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px;

Iranian positions in Syria

TURKEY

Afrin

Hasakah

Aleppo

Raqqa

Idlib

IRAQ

Deir Ezzour

SYRIA

Mediterranean

Sea

T4 airbase

Homs

Palmyra

LEBANON

Douma

Damascus

JORDAN

ISRAEL

50 miles

50 km

#wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 position: relative; overflow: hidden; width: px; display: none; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiAbs position: absolute; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiImg display: block; width: 100% !important; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 p font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px; margin: 0; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-0 font-family: Retina,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 16px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-1 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-2 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: right; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-3 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-4 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-5 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-3-6 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px;

Iranian positions in Syria

TURKEY

Afrin

Hasakah

Aleppo

Raqqa

Idlib

IRAQ

Deir Ezzour

SYRIA

T4 airbase

Homs

Palmyra

LEBANON

Douma

Damascus

JORDAN

50 miles

50 km

#wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 position: relative; overflow: hidden; width: px; display: none; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiAbs position: absolute; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiImg display: block; width: 100% !important; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 p font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px; margin: 0; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-0 font-family: Retina,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 16px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-1 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-2 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: right; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-3 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-4 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-5 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-6 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 13px; font-weight: 300; font-style: italic; text-align: center; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-7 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-2-8 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: right; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px;

Iranian positions in Syria

TURKEY

Afrin

Hasakah

Aleppo

Raqqa

Idlib

IRAQ

Deir Ezzour

SYRIA

Mediterranean

Sea

T4 airbase

Homs

Palmyra

LEBANON

Douma

Damascus

JORDAN

50 miles

ISRAEL

50 km

#wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 position: relative; overflow: hidden; width: px; display: none; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiAbs position: absolute; .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874aiImg display: block; width: 100% !important; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 p font-family: Arial,Helvetica,sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 18px; margin: 0; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-0 font-family: Retina,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 15px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-1 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #727272; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-2 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-3 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-4 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; letter-spacing: 0.06666666666667em; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-5 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 500; text-align: center; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px; #wsj-ai2html-1524000322874 .wsj-ai2html-1524000322874-aiPstyle-1-6 font-family: “Retina Narrow”,Helvetica,Arial,sans-serif; font-size: 14px; line-height: 14px; font-weight: 300; text-align: right; color: #000000; margin-top: 1px;

Iranian positions in Syria

TURKEY

Aleppo

Hasakah

Raqqa

Idlib

Deir

Ezzour

SYRIA

T4 airbase

Homs

Palmyra

LEB.

IRAQ

Damascus

50 miles

JOR.

50 km

Note: Data as of April 2

Source: Institute for the Study of War

Last week’s attack marked a significant escalation in Israel’s efforts to prevent Iran from cementing its military presence in Syria, where Tehran and its Hezbollah ally provide vital support for President

Bashar al-Assad.

Iran has threatened to hit back at Israel, which is bracing for a wider clash with Tehran. A protracted confrontation between the two Middle East rivals could create a dangerous new dynamic in Syria, where Mr. Trump is looking to extricate American forces from a convoluted conflict that shows no signs of coming to an end soon.

Some U.S. officials worry that a broader Israel-Iran fight in Syria could trigger new spasms of conflict that envelop Lebanon and Israel.

The region is roiled by a toxic stew of conflicting alliances surrounding the war in Syria. Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are helping Mr. Assad push rebels to the brink of defeat. More than 2,000 U.S. troops whose mission is to defeat Islamic State militants work alongside Kurdish and Arab forces in Syria. And Turkey has seized another section of Syria as Ankara moves to contain Kurdish ambitions.

U.S. support for the Israeli strike comes as Mr. Trump, wary of an open-ended fight in the Middle East, is leaning on allies—especially Israel and Saudi Arabia—to play a bigger role.

An Israeli Iron dome system was recently deployed near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights.
An Israeli Iron dome system was recently deployed near the Israeli-Syrian border in the Golan Heights.
Photo:

atef safadi/EPA/Shutterstock

Iran has denied it is seeking to establish bases in Syria, but has said its forces will remain in the country to defend Mr. Assad’s government.

Syria’s government is on alert for more American or Israeli strikes, and on Tuesday launched missiles and sounded air raid sirens for what turned out to be a false alarm.

Since taking office last year, Mr. Trump has allied himself with Mr. Netanyahu, giving Israel strategic backing for its efforts to target Iran’s expeditionary military operations in Syria, according to the people familiar with the discussions.

The Syrian base targeted by the Israeli airstrike has become an elevated concern for Israel. Known as T-4, Syria’s largest air force base hosts government forces, Russian fighters and a growing Iranian drone fleet used for reconnaissance and potential attacks, defense analysts said.

In February, Israel accused Iran’s Quds Force of using the base to launch a drone into Israel. An Israeli helicopter shot down the drone, which Israel said last week was fitted with explosives.

Israeli F-16s followed up by carrying out airstrikes that destroyed the suspected command post at the T-4 base operating the drone.

Timeline of Recent Israeli Action in Syria

  • January 2013 Israel strike in Syria on a suspected shipment of missiles for Hezbollah, officials said. Israel doesn’t confirm or deny the attack.
  • September 2015 Russia launches airstrikes against rebel targets. Israel and Russia agree to a coordination mechanism to avoid potential accidents.
  • June 2017 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accuses Iran of setting up arms factories in Syria, which Tehran denies.
  • August 2017 Israeli Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Amir Eshel says Israel has attacked convoys allegedly bringing arms to Hezbollah in Syria during the past 5 years.
  • September 2017 Israel strikes a Syrian military site in what former Israeli officials say is an attack to thwart military threats from Iran and Hezbollah. The strike also targets an alleged chemical weapons facility.
  • October 2017 Syrian regime fires at Israeli planes over Lebanon, the Israeli army said. In response, the Israeli military strikes a Syrian antiaircraft battery.
  • December 2017 Israel hits a military site south of Damascus under Iranian control, according to pro-Syrian regime media. Israel doesn’t comment.
  • February 2018 An Iranian drone breaches Israeli airspace and Israel mounts airstrikes in response. Syria anti-aircraft batteries down an Israeli F-16, drawing a larger-scale Israeli attack on Syrian military infrastructure.
  • April 2018 Israel mounts airstrikes against an Iranian air defense system flown from Iran to Syria, intelligence officials familiar with the operation say.

After the strikes, an Israeli jet was shot down by Soviet-era, surface-to-air missile, marking the first time one of Israel’s jets had been brought down in combat since 1982.

In response to the February strike, Iran moved to beef up its air defenses at the base. Earlier this month, Israel tracked an Iranian plane that flew a Tor missile system from Tehran to the Syrian base.

Israel moved quickly to destroy the new air defense system before Iranian forces could set it up, said intelligence officials.

Mr. Netanyahu called Mr. Trump two weeks ago to talk about Iran and Syria. Without going into detail, the White House said the two men “agreed to continue their close coordination on countering Iran’s malign influence and destabilizing activities.”

Mr. Netanyahu also told Mr. Trump about the planned strike on the Iranian base, said one person briefed on the call, but Israeli and American officials declined to provide any details.

Related Video

U.S., British and French forces struck sites associated with Syria’s chemical-weapons capabilities on Friday. Video footage shows the missile launches and resulting damage. Above, a Syrian soldier films the damage. Photo: AFP/Getty

The Israeli strike came five days later, on April 9. Israel destroyed the antiaircraft system at the Syrian base and a hanger used to shelter drones, triggering denunciations from Syria, Russia and Iran. Iranian media said seven Iranian military advisers were killed, including an officer who oversaw drone operations.

Israel had begun planning the strike before a suspected Syrian chemical weapons attack on April 7. As Mr. Trump vowed to hit Mr. Assad for the chemical attack, Israel launched its strike against Iran, triggering speculation for a time that the U.S. had carried out the April 9 airstrike. An attack against chemical weapons facilities by the U.S., France and Britain followed on April 14.

Mr. Netanyahu considers permanent Iranian military bases in Syria a “red line.” Israel and the U.S. both are concerned about Iran using Syria to attack Israel and to establish a weapons supply route running from Tehran to Lebanon.

Iran is flying weapons into Khmeimim Air Base, a well-defended Russian base on the Mediterranean coast, according to intelligence officials briefed on the matter.

Iran also has rebuilt a presence at Damascus International Airport after a 2015 airstrike, and the airport also now serves as a base for Iran’s Quds Force, which has built underground storage tunnels to safeguard weaponry, these people said.

In total, Iran now works from five airfields in Syria, including Aleppo, Deir Ezzour, T-4, Damascus airport and Sayqal, located south of the capital, according to intelligence officials. At each, Iranian military transport aircraft bring weapons for Hezbollah or missiles and drones specifically for Iranian forces, these officials said.

“It’s the most serious establishment of Iranian military positions close to Israel’s border than [Israelis] have ever seen,” said

James Sorene,

chief executive of Bicom, a U.K.-based think tank.

The Trump administration says it will work to push Iran out of Syria, but Mr. Trump’s national security team is divided over how. The Pentagon repeatedly has dismissed suggestions that it plans to turn its focus in Syria from defeating Islamic State to challenging Iran. Pentagon officials worry that Tehran will target American forces across the region if the U.S. directly challenges Iranian forces in Syria.

However, U.S. forces in Syria haven’t always been able to avoid confrontations with Iran. Last year, U.S. warplanes shot down two Iranian-made drones viewed as a threat.

Dore Gold,

former director general of Israel’s foreign ministry and president of the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs, said it is increasingly important that Israel “clarify its red lines in Syria in the event that the U.S. disengages from the region.”

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com and Rory Jones at rory.jones@wsj.com

Let’s block ads! (Why?)


Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Check Also

The best Black Friday beauty deals of 2018

Jessica Teich Reviewed Published 5:44 PM EST Nov 20, 2018 – Our editors review and r…