A new conflict is emerging along the boundaries of the “fourth de-escalation zone” (Idlib and the area surrounding Aleppo). All indicators suggest that this is a multi-faceted conflict, given the complex situation and overlapping interests. Although Russia and Turkey declared a truce, it lasted for no more than two days. While a security meeting was being held between the head of Syrian intelligence, Ali Mamlouk, and his Turkish counterpart, Hakan Fidan, in Moscow, at the same time the US delegation, led by United States Special Representative for Syria Engagement James Jeffrey, met with the Syrian opposition in Istanbul.
Israel’s recent raids on — primarily Iranian — sites near Damascus and in other parts of Syria appear to be designed to show Iran that any attempt to launch missiles against Israel will be met with a much greater response that Iran may have expected. In return, Iran has changed the rules of its engagement with Israel by adopting the principle of “bombs for bombs”, and Syrian and Iraqi territories have become Iran’s preferred arena for testing out that principle in practice. Some time ago, Israel started to push back against Iranian positions in Syria and Iraq, which it now seems far more determined to do. This paper will examine Israel’s policies and strategies for dealing with Iranian positions in Syria, discuss how Tel Aviv is interacting with actors on the Syrian political scene, and identify the greatest challenges and opportunities facing Israel.
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