In the past week, Linah al-Saafin at Al Jazeera English points out, an Israeli drone hit a Hizbullah target in Lebanon, Israeli fighter jets bombed a base in Syria with Iranian personnel, and Israel somehow hit bases of a Shiite militia in Iraq, including one on the Syria-Iraq border, killing a militiaman.
Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed that the Iraqi bases posed some sort of threat to Israel. But Iraq is a very long way from Israel and Iraqi militias don’t have SCUDs that could strike Israel. Netanyahu is just tweaking Iran and letting the Shiite militias in Iraq know that they are not beyond the reach of Tel Aviv. (Some of the Iraqi Shiite militias have a presence in Syria, from which they could theoretically launch rockets at Israel, though to my knowledge none has). It is the long-time philosophy of Israel’s ruling party, the Likud, that the Arabs will never accept Israel and therefore the only way to deal with them is to flatten them repeatedly. The Likud’s origins are in a far right wing ideologue in the age of dictatorships back in the 1930s.
Netanyahu and other Israeli leaders were frightened half to death earlier this week that Trump might actually meet with Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani and that Trump would pull a North Korea with Iran. Netanyahu leads the most militarily powerful state in the Middle East, but is dedicated to further settler colonialism in the Palestinian West Bank, and needs the bogey man of Iran to wag the dog of international diplomacy in favor of Israel.
The new drone war is largely symbolic. The strike on Hizbullah may have killed a fighter or two. (Hizbullah, which is not nearly as formidable as the Israelis and US politicians keep alleging, has a few thousand fighters.) The point was to send a message that some Hizbullah members are informing for Tel Aviv and Israel knows where at least some of the safe houses are.
The Syria strike was nothing new — Israel has occasionally been bombing such facilities for years. Mainly Netanyahu wants, again, to send a message to Iran that Israel is watching, knows where the facilities are, and knows where the 2,000 Iranian advisers are, from the Jerusalem or Qods Brigade of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps. Israel is very sensitive to the possibility of rocket or drone strikes, since enough of them could start a mass migration out of the country. There are already thousands of Israelis in Germany and likely hundreds of thousands in the US who say life was too nervous-making in Israel.
While the Israeli military can handily defeat a major conventional military threat from an Arab neighbor, Israeli intelligence is concerned about micro-rockets and drones that can be launched without a clear return address. While Israel knows every inch of the West Bank, the 2006 war showed that their intelligence in southern Lebanon was primitive, and while they may have a few assets in Syria and Iraq, they are vulnerable from the vast hinterland of what Jordan’s King Abdullah II called the “Shiite Crescent.”
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