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Monday, February 16, 2015
MEMRI: Iran Builds Active Front From Mediterranean To Golan, With Direct Iranian Presence On Israel's Border, To Deter Israel And Promote Ideology Of Eliminating Zionist Regime

MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series | 1146 | February 16, 2015
Iran Builds Active Front From Mediterranean To Golan, With Direct Iranian
Presence On Israel's Border, To Deter Israel And Promote Ideology Of
Eliminating Zionist Regime
By: Y. Carmon and Y. Yehoshua*

"Israel faces a fateful crisis. As much as it feared the Iranian nuclear
program, it never imagined that Iran would be standing on its border even
before its nuclear agreement with the Americans was complete. The Iranian
threat to Israel is no longer theoretical, nor does it have anything to do
with Israel's deterrent of using its nuclear weapons, which cannot be used
considering the international power balance. The threat has become direct,
practical and conventional."[1]

Introduction

In recent years, Iran has based its deployment in Syria on the establishment
of a new Hizbullah Syria organization along the lines of Hizbullah Lebanon,
as well as on the direct presence of Iranian forces in Syria, particularly
in the Golan Heights.

Iran's deployment in Syria, and particularly the presence of its forces in
the Golan Heights, at first only as command posts and a limited number of
special forces, reveals a trend of Iranian activity in the region that is
direct, not only by proxy as it has been to date. According to the Iranian
plan, the command posts are meant to operate "130,000 trained Iranian Basij
fighters waiting to enter Syria," as is evident from May 2014 statements by
Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) senior official Hossein Hamedani,
that were censored and removed immediately after publication in Iran.[2]

Statements expressing intent to establish a front of anti-Israel activity in
the Golan were heard from Iranian and Syrian officials as early as 2013, and
have been implemented openly and in practice in the past two years (see
MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5307, Assad And His Allies Threaten To Open A
Front In Golan Heights, May 21, 2013). During this time, there were also a
few terror operations as well as operations to collect intelligence
information in the Golan, which Israel claims were carried out by Hizbullah
and Iranian elements; for example, there have been rocket fire, roadside
bombs, drones launched, and weapons transferred to Hizbullah. Israel for its
part has carried out pinpoint counter-operations inside Syrian territory,
such as bombing missile deliveries and attacking senior Iranian officials in
Syria, for example, the January 2015 assassination of Gen. Mohammad Ali
Allahdadi and other IRGC soldiers who have not been publicly identified,
alongside several Hizbullah operatives, and the February 2013 assassination
of top IRGC official Hassan Shateri, which Iran claims was carried out by
Israel.[3]

Iran's direct deployment in the Golan creates a single battle front against
Israel from Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra.[4] It also constitutes a violation of
the status quo of the Golan Heights front, which has been quiet since the
Separation of Forces Agreement of 1974,[5] and comes on top of Hizbullah's
violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.[6] Syrian Foreign
Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem said in an interview on Iran's Al-Alam TV channel
that "there is resistance in the Golan that is acting against Jabhat
Al-Nusra and against the Israeli plans."[7] Lebanese analyst Anis Naqash,
who is close to Hizbullah, also said that "there is indeed resistance in the
Golan." According to him, there have been several actions against Israel by
the Golan resistance, which he called popular Syrian resistance, and Israel
has not acknowledged this so as to not reveal its helplessness. Regarding
the violation of Resolution 1701 he said: "From the onset there was
confusion about it. We, the resistance camp, violated Resolution 1701 from
the moment they began implementing it."[8]

Furthermore, Iran's deployment on the border has implications for the
chances of a war breaking out in the region and for the character of such a
war. This, because it increases the possibility that any local eruption
could quickly develop into a regional conflict, since Iran now commands the
theater that stretches from Iran and Iraq through Syria and Lebanon and the
Mediterranean.[9] It should be noted that Hizbullah's January 28, 2015
retaliatory attack against Israel's January 18 attack in itself did not
develop into a broader conflict only because Israel refrained from
responding to it. A senior Iranian spokesman assessed that this was due to
Israel's "intense fear of the outbreak of an all-out war."[10]

Iran's aim in deploying in the Golan Heights is not only to deter Israel
from acting against its nuclear program, defend Syria as part of the
resistance axis, and establish an active front for anti-Israel terror
attacks in the Golan and even liberate the Israeli Golan. It also meshes
with the Iranian regime's ideological perception of Israel as an entity that
must be eliminated, as is evident in statements by Iranian Supreme Leader
Ali Khamenei. According to this perception, the West Bank must be armed, as
the Gaza Strip was, in advance of eliminating the state of Israel.

It should be noted that in addition to its deployment for the purpose of
eliminating the state of Israel, Iran is building capabilities and ways of
operating against Israel and against Jewish/Israeli targets worldwide; these
are occasionally put into action.[11]

Iran's front on Israel's northern border, in addition to its involvement in
other arenas in the region, creates tremendous pressure on its dwindling
resources and exhausts it, intensifying its dependence on regional forces.
But the export of Iran's Islamic Revolution always contributes directly to
the survival of the Iranian regime. This is because the mobilization of
Iranian national forces and Iranian youth in the ideological framework of
struggle outside Iran inoculates Iran's dictatorial regime against internal
uprising and rebellion against it.

I. Regional Background: Under Guise Of Fighting Sunni Jihadi Organizations,
Iran Deploys On Israel's Border

In recent years Iran has taken advantage of the fact that the theater
between Iraq and the Mediterranean that is, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, has
become a veritable no man's land like Afghanistan, and has tightened its
grip there and built up its deployment vis-ŕ-vis Israel. Following the
abandonment of the Syrian theater by the West, primarily the U.S., and the
absence of any operation to decide the conflict following the Syrian
uprising, Syria has become an arena of regional and global conflict.
Participating in this conflict are fighters in the global jihad, such as
Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State (ISIS), which have the support of
Sunni elements, and on the other side Iran and its satellites, such as
Hizbullah Lebanon and Hizbullah Syria, as well as the Iraqi militia Asa'ib
'Ahl Al-Haqq and "the Fatimiyyoun Brigade" of Afghan Shi'ites.[12]

The West's nonintervention in Syria has spawned not only Iran's infiltration
into that country but also its infiltration into two additional theaters
where it has tightened its grip. First, the non-intervention has brought
about the undermining of the situation in Lebanon, where in addition to the
influx of millions of refugees and the collapse of the political system, the
country has become an arena of conflict between Iran and the Sunni jihadis.
Likewise, it has brought about the complete undermining of the situation in
Iraq, where ISIS, which first established itself in Syria, has invaded the
Sunni region and has consolidated its status there. The Iraqi army has
collapsed, leading to the emergence on the ground of pro-Iran militias and
of troops of the IRGC's Qods Force, which is headed by Qassem Soleimani.[13]

Thus, Iran has created for itself a single theater of operation stretching
from Iran to the Mediterranean, as Iranian officials describe it. For
example, Yahya Rahim Safavi, former IRGC commander and security affairs
advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted in May 2014: "Our strategic
depth reaches to the Mediterranean, and above Israel's head."[14] In recent
similar statements, Ali Saeedi, Khamenei's representative in the IRGC, said:
"The borders of Islamic Iran have expanded [all the way] to the shores of
the Mediterranean, and the countries of the region are supported by Iran."
He said further that "we must prepare the ground for the globalization of
the Islamic Revolution."[15] In another speech, he said: "In the past, our
borders were Haji Omran [on the Iran-Iraq border], while today our borders
are the shore of the Mediterranean and Bab El-Mandeb [in Yemen]."[16] IRGC
commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said: "Today, the borders of Islamic Iran and
[its Islamic] Revolution have expanded, and we are not defending our country
from its own borders but are standing fast and fighting together with our
Shi'ite and Sunni brothers against the front of the arrogance [i.e. the
West, headed by the U.S.] many kilometers from Iran's borders."[17]

In deploying directly on Israel's border, Iran has effectively become a
country neighboring Israel, despite being geographically distant, while
Syria and Lebanon have become components in a broader Iran-led regional
resistance entity bordering Israel.

II. Building A Single Conflict Front With Israel From Rosh HaNikra To
Quneitra

Implementing the statements it has made over the past two years, Iran has
created a single conflict front with Israel stretching from Rosh HaNikra to
Quneitra, where it and its satellites, Hizbullah Lebanon and Hizbullah
Syria, operate freely against Israel in violation of UN Resolution 1701 and
while changing the status quo that has existed between Israel and Syria
since the Separation of Forces Agreement of 1974.

As part of this implementation, the Syrian Golan has become an Iranian
theater of operation as well. This strategic Iranian presence in the Golan
was at first clandestine, under the auspices of "defending the resistance
axis" and in the name of "the war on Sunni terrorism," but later became
public, and was accompanied by open threats to target Israel from the Syrian
border. Thus, for example, in response to a May 2013 Israeli airstrike in
the Damascus area targeting Fateh-110 long-range missiles being transferred
from Iran to Hizbullah, spokesmen in Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah issued
statements regarding the need for resistance in the Golan.[18] At a May 7,
2013 meeting with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Syrian
President Bashar Al-Assad announced, "The Golan will become a front of
resistance."[19] Iranian Army chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi also
revealed that "according to Assad's strategic decision, a popular resistance
based on the Hizbullah template is being established across Syria."[20]

In their statements, the top leaders of the resistance axis stress that, in
addition to forming an active front in the Syrian Golan vis-ŕ-vis Israel,
the axis means to actually "liberate the Syrian Golan" from Israeli control.
The deputy of the Iranian chief of staff, Mas'oud Jazeyeri, promised that
the region would see many changes, "some of which will pass through the
Golan," and added that "the liberation of the Golan is not impossible."[21]
Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah announced, for his part, that
his organization would aid the Syrian resistance "in order to liberate the
Syrian Golan."[22] Nahed Hattar wrote in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar that
"ending the Syria war [i.e., expelling the jihad organizations from it] is
meaningless without wresting the Golan from Israeli hands."[23]

In the framework of this plan for creating a single front from Rosh HaNikra
to Quneitra, Hizbullah Lebanon is ignoring the Lebanon-Syria border and is
operating freely in Syria, particularly in the Golan, despite criticism in
Lebanon.[24] Nasrallah's January 30, 2015 speech, delivered two days after
Hizbullah's counterattack following Israel's January 18 attack in Quneitra,
amounted to an acknowledgement of a reality in which "there is no
recognition of division into arenas" and the resistance is entitled to
confront the enemy "wherever it wants and however it wants." Moreover, in
this speech Nasrallah described the death of Hizbullah and IRGC operatives
in Israel's operation as "the mingling of Lebanese blood with Iranian blood
on Syrian soil" and stated that this reflected the fact that there is "one
cause, one destiny, and one battle."[25] He also declared in his speech that
"the rules of engagement" with Israel had now changed, referring to the
rules set out in UN Resolution 1701; as a matter of fact, Hizbullah is
indeed violating this resolution in various ways, including with its
presence south of Lebanon's Litani River, alongside the presence of IRGC
forces.

III. Elements Of The New Iranian Deployment In Syria: Hizbullah Syria And A
Direct Iranian Presence On Israel's Border

The building of the new Iranian front has two elements: a) establishing a
Hizbullah Syria based on the Hizbullah Lebanon model, and b) Iranian forces'
direct involvement in the Golan.

A. Hizbullah Syria Another Resistance Arm Against Israel

The new Hizbullah Syria is also being established as part of an extensive
strategic view and in preparation for the coming conflict with Israel.
Senior IRGC official Hossein Hamedani said in a May 2014 speech that "Syria
has become a decisive geopolitical region in the regional power balance" and
that Iran has established "a second Hizbullah popular militias in 14 Syrian
governorates with 70,000 members, from Syria's Shi'ites, Sunnis, and
Alawites."[26]

Likewise, an April 21, 2014 analysis published by the moderate conservative
Iranian website Farda stated, "The establishment of a Hizbullah Syria, as a
bud of resistance, will not only impact the Syrian crisis but will also
serve as a mighty arm of the resistance that will give the Zionists
nightmares. The Zionist regime, which was previously concerned with the
threats along the Lebanese border, must now prepare itself for the new
situation. As ongoing events show, the resistance front is uniting from day
to day, and the situation for the Zionists and their supporters is
worsening."[27]

Also, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the Basij paramilitary force,
explained: "Hizbullah emerged after the 1982 war in Lebanon. The Palestinian
resistance was born after the attacks against Palestine. And today in Syria
we are witnessing the establishment of a military force, following the
aggression and plots against Syria." He added, "The resistance force will
liberate Jerusalem."[28]

B. Direct Iranian Activity In The Golan And Lebanon

In the past, Iran preferred to manage the conflict with Israel exclusively
through its proxies and allies Assad and Hizbullah. However, there has
recently been open physical presence of IRGC and Qods Force soldiers in
Syria, specifically in the Syrian Golan. As mentioned above, Hossein
Hamedani, former IRGC commander in the Tehran province, even stated in a
speech that "there are 130,000 trained Iranian Basij fighters waiting to
enter Syria."[29]

Arab media also published reports that Iranian forces have been present in
the Golan since May 2013. The reports included details provided by Syrian
oppositionist circles regarding important bases in the Golan where IRGC
forces were present: bases in the Tal Al-Sha'ar area and Tal Al-Ahmar, the
Division 90 headquarters, an espionage base near Mazari' Al-Amal, and a camp
in Al-Shuhada.[30]

Testimony also appeared regarding significant IRGC presence on the
Israeli-Lebanese border, including on a Twitter account close to the IRGC
which posted photos indicating that "the IRGC soldiers of the Islamic
revolution are on the border of [Lebanon and] occupied Palestine."[31] In
this context it should be mentioned that, back in January 2012, there was
outrage in Lebanon following statements by the commander of the IRGC's Qods
Force, General Qassem Soleimani, who said that "Iran has a presence in South
Lebanon and Iraq" and that "these regions are under the influence of the
activity and philosophy of the Islamic Republic of Iran."[32]

The physical presence of senior IRGC generals in the Golan and South Lebanon
also indicates the importance of this arena in Iran's eyes. Examples are
presence of Iranian General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi in the Golan, which was
exposed after he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in January 2015, and of
Iranian General and IRGC commander in Lebanon Hassan Shateri, who was killed
in February 2014 in an attack on a military convoy from Damascus to
Beirut.[33] This, alongside reports that General Qassem Soleimani was
present in Syria in general and in the Quneitra and Dar'a areas in
particular.[34]

IV. Calls In Palestinian Resistance Movements To Join Northern Front

Palestinian resistance movements such as Hamas also expressed willingness to
join the northern front against Israel by activating Palestinians living in
refugee camps there.

Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar called to enable the establishment of
military groups belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades Hamas's military wing in
Lebanese and Syrian refugee camps in order "to resist the enemy from
northern Palestine."[35] At the same time, there have been increasing
reports recently on renewed Hamas contacts with Iran and Hizbullah, after a
period of tension between them due to Hamas's support for the Syrian
revolution.[36]

Abu Ahmad Fouad, deputy secretary-general of the Popular Front for the
Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), supported Al-Zahar's call and said that the
establishment of these militias "should take place as part of a general
framework of resistance movements, including the Lebanese Hizbullah." He
told the Al-Mayadeen TV channel: "We believe what Hizbullah
Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said regarding uniting the fronts against
the Israeli occupation, and there are ongoing meetings to develop the
Palestinian resistance operation and coordinate it with the Lebanese
resistance."[37]

'Imad Zaqout, news director for Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV, even admitted for the
first time that the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades have already operated
groups in neighboring countries, and that the rocket fire from Lebanon into
Israel during the 2014 conflict in Gaza had been ordered by the Brigades. He
added: "Hamas thought and planned for every future war with the Zionist
enemy to be a total one. Meaning that it would include every inch of land in
Palestine and inflict large-scale damage on the enemy."[38]

V. The Iranian Front In The Golan Implementing Iranian Ideological
Perception Regarding Need To Eliminate Israel

Constructing a united front from Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra meshes with Iran's
comprehensive strategy to eliminate Israel. Iranian regime heads have
repeatedly stated their commitment to this goal over the years, from Supreme
Leader Ali Khamenei to other regime and military leaders.[39]

To bring only a handful of examples, in a July 23, 2014 speech, Khamenei
said that "the only solution is to destroy the Zionist regime."[40]
Furthermore, Mehdi Taeb, head of Khamenei's "Ammar Headquarters" think tank
and the brother of IRGC intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, said in a November
12, 2014 speech in Qom that "Iran's sword is currently stuck in the throat
of the accursed Israeli regime, and according to the instructions of the
founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, we must
remove this oppressive regime from the world map... The Imam Khomeini saw
the Basij [as a force] that would destroy the Zionist regime, and today,
thanks to divine grace, Iran has besieged Israel with those same popular
forces."[41] Similar statements were repeatedly made by IRGC officials as
well. On August 27, 2014, IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami said:
"Destroying the Zionist regime is a very simple matter... [It] will take
place gradually. It is a matter of divine faith, [it is] more than a mere
wish for us."[42] On November 26, 2014, Basij Commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi
said: "The Iranian nation and Basij members are determined to hold victory
prayers led by their Imam [Khamenei] at the Al-Aqsa Mosque."[43] The next
day, IRGC navy official Ali Razmjou said that the Zionist regime "will be
eliminated from the world map in the near future thanks to the resistance of
Basij and Hizbullah members throughout the world."[44]

VI. Developing The Palestinian Front By Arming West Bank, Israeli Arabs

To comprehensively implement this Iranian strategy to eliminate Israel, in
addition to its activity in Syria and the Golan, the Iranian regime has
increasingly expressed its intent to arm the West Bank, and even the Israeli
Arabs, as it has armed the Gaza Strip.[45] Khamenei called on several
occasions to arm the West Bank. In a July 23, 2014 speech, he said: "Allah
willing, the day will come when this regime is destroyed. [But] so long as
this false regime is on its feet what is the solution? The solution is total
armed resistance against this regime. This is the solution... Therefore, it
is my belief that the West Bank should be armed just like Gaza."[46] A July
26, 2015 post on Khamenei's Facebook page said: "The West Bank should be
armed like Gaza."[47]

Other officials also referred to the arming of the West Bank as part of a
strategic policy of the Iranian regime. The deputy chair of the Majlis
National Security Committee, Mansour Haghighatpour, said: "One of our goals
is to arm the West Bank, because it is the best measure for fighting the
Zionist regime."[48] Ahmad Vahidi, who was defense minister under
Ahmadinejad and commander of the IRGC Qods Force, said that "arming the West
Bank is a strategic policy of the Leader [Khamenei], whose implementation
will transform the Palestine arena," and even called to arm the territories
that were conquered in 1948, in addition to the West Bank.[49] Iranian
Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said in a rally honoring the Hizbullah
members killed in the Quneitra attack, held on January 27, 2015 at the
Hizbullah representation in Tehran: "We will utilize every available
capability in order to arm the West Bank... The policy of the Islamic
Republic regime is to arm the West Bank and strengthen the resistance axis
and the forces of Hizbullah in order to fight the usurping and occupying
Zionist regime."[50]

In an August 29, 2014 message of congratulations to the Palestinian people
at the close of the 2014 Gaza conflict, IRGC commander Jafari expressed
Iran's support of the Gaza resistance, while mentioning the hope for the
elimination of the Zionist regime. He said: "We shall stand fast with you to
the end. Continue to raise the banner of jihad in the path of God, for your
honor and the honor of all Muslims is linked to this holy jihad. And know
that, with Allah's help, eliminating this crumbling and bloodthirsty Zionist
regime will be the greatest achievement on this divine path, and the final
victory is not so far away."[51]

VII. The Battle In The Dar'a Region Completing The Siege Around Israel

It should be mentioned that the Syrian army, Hizbullah and Iranian forces
recently launched a large-scale joint attack on the southern front to expel
the rebels from the Dar'a region. During this campaign, titled "The Quneitra
Martyrs Battle," the Syrian regime admitted openly for the first time that
Iranian forces were fighting in Syria alongside Assad's forces. In addition,
Gen. Qassem Soleimani visited the region, and Hizbullah and IRGC flags were
flown there.[52]

This joint effort to wrest control of the southern Syria front from the
hands of the rebels is regarded by Syria, Iran and Hizbullah as part of
their struggle against Israel and its allies. A victory in this region will
bring the Iranian forces closer to the Jordanian border in the south and the
Israeli border in the west, will prepare the ground for defeating the
opposition forces in the Quneitra area, and will enable the creation of a
territorial continuum of resistance axis forces stretching from Dar'a
through Damascus and Quneitra to Lebanon.

A Syrian army commander admitted on Syrian TV that the operation in the
Dar'a region was being carried out "in collaboration with the resistance
axis Hizbullah and Iran." He added that the goal of the army's actions in
the Dar'a and Quneitra area was "to ensure calm on the borders with the
neighboring countries [Israel and Jordan] and disrupt the security zone they
are attempting to establish."[53]

The Al-Hadath News website, which is close to the Syrian regime, also
exposed Iran's involvement in the fighting, and even posted a photo of Gen.
Qassem Soleimani in the area. It reported: "Iran, which had been taking part
in the fighting in Syria by means of military advisors within the Syrian
army, recently decided to join the military conflict officially and openly."
According to the site, Soleimani arrived in the area "to supervise and
follow the campaign in southern Syria, and take part in directing it," and
his presence there lends the campaign "a clear geopolitical military
character" that means that "the resistance is calling the shots in southern
Syria." The site added that the first goal of this attack was to defeat the
armed opposition forces in Dar'a in advance of defeating them in Quneitra,
which would be "a blow to the Zionist enemy." This, in addition to
preventing them from advancing towards Damascus. The site stated further
that "southern Syria is clearly no longer involved in an inter-Syrian
conflict, or a conflict between Syrians and takfiri forces [i.e., the jihad
groups], but rather in a conflict between the resistance axis [comprising]
Iran, Syria and Hizbullah on the one hand and the Israel-Jordan-U.S.
alliance on the other."[54]

Ibrahim Al-Amin, board chairman of the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, which is
close to Hizbullah, wrote on this matter on February 11 that the top
leadership of the resistance axis has decided "to create new political,
military and security facts [on the ground] along the border between Jordan
and occupied Palestine."[55]

VIII. The Implications Of Iran And Its Proxies Surrounding Israel

Iran's presence in the Golan, as well as in Lebanon and on the
Mediterranean, creates a situation where any local conflict can rapidly
escalate into a comprehensive regional war with direct Iranian involvement.
Though Nasrallah stressed in his speech in late January 2015 that Hizbullah
had completed its punitive measures for the killing of its six operatives in
Quneitra, and that it is not interested in war, Iran continues to threaten
further attacks, and may arrange further eruptions in the region or outside
it by employing Hizbullah cells in various parts of the world.[56] In
addition, articles in the Lebanese press spoke of the possible outbreak of a
regional war.[57]

As long as Hizbullah operates from Lebanon, Israel is able to deter it,
since Israel's response to an attack from Lebanon employing the full force
of Hizbullah's missile arsenal (comprising over 100,000 missiles) will be
the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructures, a scenario that deters
Hizbullah. However, if Hizbullah is activated from outside Lebanon, Israel
will not be able to respond in the same manner.

As for Iran, it does not regard itself as deterred by Israel, now that it
has built a single, comprehensive front against Israel stretching from the
Mediterranean to southern Syria. It also has the capability of activating
Hizbullah, despite the heavy price this organization will pay.

In fact, the Syrian front in general, and especially in the Golan, has
become Iran's favored theatre of operations, since acting there diminishes
the chance of a war within its own borders. In this context, Khamenei's
advisor Ali Ahmad Velayati said on February 8, 2013 that "Iran has planned
its defensive positions outside its own borders, and has linked its fate to
the fate of the Islamic countries; this is why it will support those such as
[Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad to the end..."[58] Mehdi Taeb, the head
of Khamenei's "Ammar Headquarters" think tank, said in one of his speeches:
"The loss of Syria will lead to the loss of Tehran itself."[59]

Moreover, Iran's presence on the Israeli border limits Israel's ability to
use military measures against Iran's nuclear program. This, since Iran is
building up its response capabilities in the region, to complement its
long-range missiles. In the past, it was Hizbullah Lebanon that deterred
Israel, to some extent, from acting militarily against Iran's nuclear
program. Today this deterrence is significantly strengthened by the advent
of Hizbullah Syria and the direct presence of Iranian forces in the Golan.

According to Mehdi Taeb, the centrality of Hizbullah to Iran's deterrence
vis-ŕ-vis Israel was already demonstrated in the 2006 Lebanon war. In a 2013
speech, he said that Iran never had to attack Israel's nuclear warheads
because "we completely locked up [Israel] with Hizbullah. During the 2006
Lebanon war, the Zionist regime tried to break this lock [i.e. Hizbullah],
but after 33 days [of fighting], it gave up, and left [Lebanon]."[60]

Al-Akhbar columnist Nahed Al-Hattar also addressed the implications of
Iran's deployment on Israel's border. He said that, while Israel is unable
to use its nuclear capabilities due to international considerations, Iran
has created a "practical, direct and conventional" threat against it:
"Israel faces a fateful crisis. As much as it feared the Iranian nuclear
program, it never imagined that Iran would be standing on its border even
before its nuclear agreement with the Americans was complete. The Iranian
threat to Israel is no longer theoretical, nor does it have anything to do
with Israel's deterrent of using its nuclear weapons, which cannot be used
considering the international power balance. The threat has become direct,
practical and conventional."[61]



*Y. Carmon is President and Founder of MEMRI; Y. Yehoshua is Vice President
for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel.

[1] From a February 13, 2015 article by columnist Nahed Al-Hattar in the
Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar.


[2] Fars (Iran), April 5, 2014. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5848,
Iranian Media Reports Deleted Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC
Official Speaking On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has
Established 'Second Hizbullah' There, September 25, 2014.


[3] In the last two years, numerous security incidents have occurred on
Israel's northern border. The incidents include the launch of a drone from
South Lebanon in April 2013, which, according to Israeli estimates, was
carried out by IRGC members; rocket fire towards the Hermon outpost in May
2013; a roadside bomb near the Israeli-Lebanese border in August 2013;
roadside bombs on the Israeli-Syrian border in March and October 2014;
anti-tank missile fire from Syria towards an Israeli vehicle in June 2014; a
drone infiltrating Israel from Quneitra in August 2014; and rocket fire on
the Golan in January 2015. This, alongside Israeli attacks on weapons
shipments such as a shipment of SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hizbullah in
Syria in January 2013, an attack on a truck convoy carrying missiles and a
launcher in February 2014, and an attack on a warehouse storing Russian-made
missiles that were on their way from Syria to Lebanon in December 2014.


[4] The notion of a single front from the Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra (i.e.,
from the Mediterranean to the Golan) was expressed repeatedly in the
Lebanese press. See for example a January 19, 2015 article in the daily
Al-Safir, an article by Firas Al-Shoufi from the same date in Al-Akhbar, and
Nahed Hattar's January 21, 2015 article in Al-Akhbar. The head of Al-Akhba's
board of directors, Ibrahim Al-Amin, expressed a similar notion in the daily
as early as May 27, 2013.


[5] This violation of a decades-long status quo is so grave that, in a late
January 2015 interview with Foreign Affairs magazine, Bashar Al-Assad
persisted in denying that it was happening, claiming, "Never has an
operation against Israel happened through the Golan Heights since the
cease-fire in 1974. It has never happened. So for Israel to allege that
there was a plan for an operation—that’s a far cry from reality, just an
excuse, because they wanted to assassinate somebody from Hizbullah." Foreign
Affairs (U.S.), January 25, 2015.


[6] On Hizbullah's violations of Resolution 1701, see MEMRI Special
Dispatch No. 5857, "Daily Close To Hizbullah: In Violation Of UNSCR 1701,
Hizbullah Has Resumed Operations South Of The Litani River," October 13,
2014.


[7] Al-Alam TV (Iran), February 2, 2015.


[8] LDC (Lebanon), January 29, 2015.


[9] Many columnists close to Hizbullah and Iran addressed the scenario of an
imminent all-out war with Israel. For example, columnist Wafiq Qanso
described Hizbullah's considerations prior to reacting to the Israeli attack
as follows: "The time, place, and manner of a reaction is subject to the
examination of the leadership of the resistance." He said that such an
examination takes into account several elements, including "the reality in
the region and the possibility of a counter-reaction [by Israel] and a slide
into extensive war." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 21, 2015. Lebanese analyst
'Ali Haidar wrote: "It is now clear that direct Israeli military
intervention will trigger a parallel regional intervention on an [even]
larger and more dangerous scale, leading to a scenario of regional
escalation." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 13, 2015. Iranian analyst Hassan
Hanizadeh, who is close to Iranian regime circles, wrote: "The current
confrontation is a prelude to a comprehensive war that will not be confined
to South Lebanon, and may even spread south of Quneitra." Fars, Iran,
January 28, 2015. Al-Akhbar's Ibrahim Al-Amin wrote, "The possibility of an
all-out conflict breaking out that will leave no border between Lebanon and
Syria is valid and in effect." Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, May 27, 2013.


[10] Brigadier Yadollah Javani, an advisor to Khamenei's representative in
the IRGC, said in a February 15, 2015 interview on Iran's Al-Alam TV:
"Nasrallah announced they [Hizbullah] would respond to the [January 18]
attack, and we saw how this response was carried out. The beauty of it is
that the Zionists, for their part, did not respond at all. The reason is
their intense fear of the outbreak of an all-out war."


[11] Recently, many Iran and Hizbullah cells across the world planning
attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets were discovered. For example,
Uruguay in early January 2015 expelled a top diplomat at the Iranian Embassy
in Montevideo on suspicion of his involvement in placing a bomb near the
Israeli Embassy in the city; see: English.alarabiya.net, February 6, 2015.
Likewise, in April 2014, two Hizbullah operatives planning an attack against
Israeli tourists were arrested in Thailand; see: English.alarabiya.net,
April 18, 2014. In May 2013, Nigerian security forces uncovered a Hizbullah
terror cell that planned to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in the
country and in other parts of West Africa. In February 2013, Nigerian
security forces uncovered a terror squad operated by the IRGC's Qods Force
that was planning attacks against Chabad House and against offices of the
Israeli Zim shipping lines in the city of Lagos. See: Haaretz, IBA, May 30,
2013.


[12] Reports on Iranian forces participating in the fighting in Syria
appeared in Iran as early as 2013. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1040,
"Despite Denials By Iranian Regime, Statements By Majlis Member And Reports
In Iran Indicate Involvement Of Iranian Troops In Syria Fighting," December
4, 2013.

Recently, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported, citing Ahmad Ramadan, a member of the
National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, that Iran
was airlifting Shi'ite warriors, especially Iraqis and Afghans, to Latakia,
Syria, where they are trained by the IRGC before being dispatched to Dar'a.
Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, February 13, 2015.


[13] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5877, Iranian Campaign Touts IRGC Qods
Force Commander Qassem Soleimani As 'Savior Of Iraq'; Soleimani: Iran Has
Thousands Of Organizations Like Hizbullah; I Pray To Die A Martyr, November
10, 2014.


[14] Mehr (Iran), February 5, 2015.


[15] Tasnim (Iran), February 11, 2015.


[16] Tasnim (Iran), February 4, 2015.


[17] Mehr (Iran), January 30, 2015.


[18] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5848, Iranian Media Reports Deleted
Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC Official Speaking On Iran's Military
Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has Established 'Second Hizbullah' There,
September 25, 2014.


[19] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London), Almayadeen.net, May 7, 2013.


[20] ISNA (Iran), May 11, 2013.


[21] The statements were made in an interview on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV.
Irinn.ir, May 17, 2013.


[22] Al-Safir (Lebanon), May 10, 2013.


[23] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 13, 2015.


[24] Recently, former Lebanese prime minister Sa'd Al-Hariri, chairman of
the Al-Mustaqbal faction, expressed harsh criticism of Hizbullah's
involvement in Syria. In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of the
assassination of his father, Rafiq Al-Hariri, he said: "[In the past] we
said to Hizbullah: entering the Syrian war is lunacy in itself. It has
brought the terrorist insanity into our country. Today we say to it that
connecting the Golan with the South [of Lebanon] is also lunacy, and another
reason for us to say to it: Get out of Syria. Stop importing Syrian
conflagrations into our country, first a terrorist conflagration, then a
conflagration from the Golan, and tomorrow who knows where [the
conflagration] will come from." See Youtube.com/watch?v=G90oHQpD-AU#t=174,
February 14, 2015.

On earlier criticism inside Lebanon on Hizbullah's involvement in Syria, see
MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 980, Lebanon Openly Enters Fighting In Syria,
June 13, 2013. The Lebanese press close to Hizbullah has since May 2013
mentioned numerous times the notion of abolishing the Lebanon-Syria border
and the expansion of the resistance front from Lebanon to Syria in the
framework of all-out conflict with Israel. For example, Ibrahim Al-Amin
wrote in Al-Akhbar: "Everyone must act based on the expansion in practice of
[Israel's] northern front, [which now stretches from Lebanon to Syria]. In
the near future, we may see the border with Lebanon remaining calm, while
the most active front will be on the Palestine-Syria border [in the
Golan]... We are simply facing a new level of unity between the resistance
in Lebanon and [that in] Syria... such that the possibility of an all-out
conflict breaking out that will leave no border between Lebanon and Syria is
valid and in effect." Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, May 27, 2013. Columnist Nahed
Hattar wrote in Al-Akhbar recently that the Golan was "a pan-Arab arena
shared by the Lebanese, the Syrian, the Jordanian, and the Iraqi [people].
From today onwards, there is no longer room for partial resistance and for
partial national plans." Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, January 23, 2015. See also
MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1138, Following Killing Of Hizbullah Operative
Jihad Mughniyah, New Information Comes To Light Regarding Hizbullah, Iranian
Activity In Syrian Golan On Israeli Border, January 28, 2015.


[25] Al-Safir (Lebanon), January 31, 2015. The previous day, similar
statements were made by IRGC commander Jafari: "Iran and Hizbullah are one,
and everywhere the blood of our martyrs on the front is spilled together,
and our response will be the same." Fars, Iran, January 30, 2015.


[26] Fars (Iran), May 4, 2014. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5848, Iranian
Media Reports Deleted Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC Official
Speaking On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has Established
'Second Hizbullah' There, September 25, 2014.


[27] Farda (Iran), April 21, 2014.


[28] Al-Manar TV (Lebanon), May 10, 2013.


[29] Fars (Iran), May 4, 2014.


[30] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 1138, Following Killing
Of Hizbullah Operative Jihad Mughniyah, New Information Comes To Light
Regarding Hizbullah, Iranian Activity In Syrian Golan On Israeli Border,
January 28, 2015.


[31] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5915, Iranian Army Twitter Account,
Iranian Army-Affiliated Blog Report: IRGC Troops At Lebanon-Israel Border,
December 26, 2014.


[32] ISNA (Iran), January 18, 2012. The Lebanese government requested
clarifications on these statements, which resulted in denials by the Iranian
foreign ministry. See Fars (Iran), January 25, 2012.


[33] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt), Alarabiya.net, February 15, 2014.


[34] The Syrian opposition reported that Soleimani was spotted in Quneitra.
Al-Nahar (Lebanon), January 19, 2015. Another report indicated that, on
January 11, 2015, "Qassem Soleimani visited Damascus on his way to Beirut,
where he met with the resistance leadership." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January
21, 2015. There were also reports, accompanied with photos, that Soleimani
recently visited the Dar'a region. Alhadathnews.net, February 10, 2015.


[35] Almanar.com, February 4, 2015.


[36] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 10, 2015, October 23, 2014.


[37] Alwatanvoice.com, February 6, 2015.


[38] Alwatanvoice.com, February 6, 2015.


[39] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5906, Iranian Regime Escalates Threats
To Annihilate Israel, December 17, 2014.


[40] See MEMRI TV Clip 4366, Iran's Leader Khamenei: Armed Struggle Should
Continue until Israel Is Destroyed by a Referendum, July 23, 2014.


[41] Snn.ir, November 12, 2014.


[42] Fars (Iran), August 27, 2014.


[43] Fars (Iran), November 26, 2014.


[44] IRNA (Iran), November 27, 2014.


[45] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5906, Iranian Regime Escalates Threats
To Annihilate Israel, December 17, 2014.


[46] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 4366, "Iran's Leader Khamenei: Armed Struggle
Should Continue until Israel Is Destroyed by a Referendum," July 23, 2014.


[47] See Special Dispatch No. 5808, "Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Calls
For The Annihilation Of Israel," July 28, 2014.


[48] Fars (Iran), November 27, 2014.


[49] Tasnim (Iran), July 26, 2014.


[50] ISNA (Iran), January 27, 2015.


[51] Tasnim (Iran), August 29, 2014.


[52] On Soleimani's presence in Dar'a, including photos, see
Alhadathnews.net, February 11, 2015. There have recently been many other
reports in the Arab press on the involvement of Iranian troops in the
fighting in Dar'a. See a February 13, 2015 report in the Lebanese
Al-Akhbar, as well as reports in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat from February 12 and
February 13. The February 12 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat stated that
Hizbullah's leadership in the area was stationed in a special war room in
the 9th Division base in Sanamin, north of Dar'a.


[53] Lbcgrouop.tv; Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), February 12, 2015.


[54] Alhadathnews.net, February 11, 2015.


[55] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 11, 2015.


[56] Iran has made numerous threats to this effect. IRGC Qods Force deputy
commander Esmail Qaani said after the Quneitra attack: "We will not rest
until Israel is eliminated," Mehr (Iran), January 22, 2015. IRGC commander
'Ali Jafari threatened a response by means of Hizbullah's cells across the
world: "They [Israel] are surely familiar with the capabilities of the
Hizbullah cells that have been established around the world [to fight] the
enemies of Islam, and they fear them. If they expect Hizbullah to respond
to their action, they must expect a firm and crushing response not only in
the region of their border but in any part of the world where there are
Zionist Israelis or their supporters" Fars (Iran), January 30, 2015.


[57] On this, see note 9.


[58] Yjc.ir, February 8, 2013.


[59] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 946, "Iranian Official: The Loss Of
Syria Will Lead To The Loss Of Tehran Itself; Syria Is An Iranian Province;
Iran Has Formed A 60,000-Strong Syrian Basij; Israel Is Our Only Threat,"
March 11, 2013.


[60] See reference in note 59.


[61] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 13, 2015.

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The Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) is an independent,
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