Iranian Envoy Travels To Syria Days Before Coalition Airstrikes, Officials Threaten Israel

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Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said on Monday: "We will not tolerate a significant Iranian military force in Syria in the form of military ports and airports or the deployment of sophisticated weaponry". The source noted: "It was the first time we attacked live Iranian targets-both facilities and people". Their few attacks through the Syrian civil war have typically targeted the IRGC and its militias, including Lebanon's Hezbollah, Iraq's 'Assa'eb Ahl Al-Haqq, the Afghan Fatemiyyoun, and others, but if this continues it may well help bring down the Syrian and the Iranian Regimes.

"The Zionist regime should not be able to take action and be exempt from punishment", spokesman Bahram Qasemi told reporters, according to Iranian news media.

If/when the United States punishes Syria for the chemical weapons attack, it probably won't be through an Air Force bombing but, like the April 2017 attack, with Tomahawk cruise missiles, positing less danger to American heroes than bombing sorties. Two key allies, Russian Federation and Iran, remain determined to prop him up. After some reports placed the blame on Israel, an IDF spokesman said that the Israeli military does not comment on foreign reports.

"Iran is transferring to Syria several combat methods under the pretense of delivering humanitarian aid", said an Israeli military official.

Despite the rhetoric, experts believe neither Iran nor Israel are looking for open conflict.

A complete recording of the call is available here.

Those fears deepened after Assad's forces recaptured the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus earlier this month after a devastating offensive and the suspected chemical attack. Earlier this week, Thomas Freidman, a columnist for The New York Times, quoted a high-ranking Israeli military officer making a rare Israeli confirmation of such an attack. From Iran's perspective, these are a threat.

If true, that suggests that the Quds Force - commanded by Iran's military mastermind Qassem Suleimani - was trying to launch an actual military strike on Israel. Iran, Israel's arch-foe, has cast its military personnel in Syria as reinforcements helping President Bashar al-Assad battle a seven-year-old insurgency. Iran, which has to depend largely on Syria's air defense system, is particularly exposed to Israel's air force.

The confusion during the false alarm highlights growing concerns of escalation in the wake of a USA -led coalition strike on Syria's chemical weapons infrastructure Saturday and an April 9 strike on an air base Israel is believed to have carried out.

The number of confrontations with Iran in Syria have led to a kind of routine in Israel. The IDF also responded by carrying out airstrikes on the T-4 base in Syria where the drone was launched.

Seth J. Frantzman is the executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis and a writing fellow at Middle East Forum.

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