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HomeGeopolitical CompassThe LevantIsrael-Iran Shadow War in Syria Intensifies Amid International Developments

Israel-Iran Shadow War in Syria Intensifies Amid International Developments

Author: Gregory Aftandilian 

Affiliation: Arab Center Washington DC (Nonresident Fellow), American University (Senior Lecturer), Boston University and George Mason University (Adjunct Faculty), Former Staff Member of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Middle East Analyst at the US State Department

Organization/Publisher: Arab Center Washington DC

Date/Place: March 23, 2022 /Washington DC, USA 

Type of Literature: Article

Word Count: 2320


Keywords: Syria, Iran, Israel, US, Foreign Policy, War 


The author starts by stating that despite the Russia-Ukraine crisis and a probable return to the Iran nuclear deal, the current military war between Israel and Iran in Syria shows no indications of abating. These huge global changes may have given Israel and Iran some leeway in recent weeks to intensify their strikes. Both claim that they have many benefits in Syria. For Israel, it is diminishing Iran and Hezbollah’s influence in Syria; Iran wants the contrary of this, as it gives it a lot of power and weight in the Levant. The author lists events that highlight the development of the strikes in Syria. Israelis state that they want to keep Iran from turning Syria into an Iranian base near Israel. Hundreds of Iranian scientists are said to have been dispatched to Syria to assist in the military sectors. One of Iran’s strategies was not to directly hit Israel as it would result in a more violent confrontation, so it bombed an Israeli intelligence cell in Iraq instead. Some have explained Iran’s attack in Irbil as retaliation for the hundreds of Iranian drones that were targeted by Israeli airstrikes in western Iran. Russia has also been contributing to the Syrian government’s military aid, which helped to swing the civil war to Assad’s advantage, and has required that it coordinate with Israel in Syria’s skies. Israel has always wanted to maintain a good relationship with Russia, and it even led Naftali Bennett not to have a strong stand against the invasion of Ukraine. Bennett has attempted to act as a peacemaker in the dispute. The author says that part of Russia’s ability to retain its role in the Syrian crisis is because different actors are either reliant on it or unable to confront it. The author then mentions the nuclear deal and claims that most sanctions will be lifted as part of this agreement, allowing Iran to produce more cash, notably from resurgent oil sales which will be used to increase their presence in the Arab world. His policy recommendations for the Biden administration are that the US must persuade the Israelis not to exploit the coming Iran nuclear agreement as a justification to escalate military operations in Syria against Iranian targets, which will exacerbate the country’s bloodshed and perhaps escalate to another Hezbollah-Israeli conflict. Additionally, the US should request that its European allies convey a uniform statement to Iran, stating that they will be closely monitoring how additional Iranian earnings are used as well. 

By: Zeina Akef, CIGA Research Intern



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