Did the assassination of the Iranian general and the senior Hizbullah men two weeks ago in Syria do any good?
A very interesting answer to this very interesting question was given by Col. Pesach Melubani in an article appearing in Friday’s Israel Defense. Col. Melubani served many years in the intelligence arm of the IDF general staff, and is regarded as one of the leading experts on Iranian and Syrian affairs.
The offensive launched against the Syrian rebels in southern Syria is advancing, it would seem, according to the plan of Syrian President Bashar Assad, Iran and Hizbullah, says Melubani. If its succeeds, Hizbullah will be encamped on the Israel border with Syria.
On January 18, 2015, an Iranian general was killed in the Kuneitra area, along with several senior Hizbullah operatives, a hit that was attributed by foreign media to Israel. Two Israeli soldiers were subsequently killed and seven others wounded in a Hizbullah reprisal attack on the Har Dov area.
“From what’s happening on the ground now, it appears that the visit of the Iranian general and the Hizbullah contingent was connected to the current offensive … which is intended to dislodge the rebel forces from their stronghold in southern Syria.
“At the same time, the offensive is aimed at destroying the “security zone” set up by the rebels (according to Iran-Hizbullah) to defend the border of Israel and Jordan with Syria. Hizbullah also points to the collaboration between Israel and the insurgents. They cite as evidence the fact that Israel has only targeted Syrian government weapons being transferred to Hizbullah, not weapons in the hands of the rebels.
Whether Israel was behind the air strike in January or not, and whether Israel knew of their mission or not, their elimination has not prevented the Syrian advance, observes Melubani. It looks like the rebels will have to retreat, and that the Syrian-Hizbullah objective of distancing the rebels from Damascus and cutting off their supplies from Jordan, and from Israeli support, will be attained.
“The war in Syria will complete its fourth year in another month, and the end is still not in sight. Will increased intervention by Iran and Hizbullah swing the tide toward Assad? Hard to tell, for even if offensives such as this one succeed, counterattacks are likely to neutralize whatever gains Syria has made. And so it swings back and forth, from month to month.
“What is important is that Israel not be drawn into it; as the air strike in January appeared to legitimize military action by Iran and Hizbullah against Israel from within Syrian territory.
“ A new Hizbullah presence in the area near the Golan Heights could enable it to accomplish this aim, which it has already declared, in the coming days — unless its war with the rebels necessitates investing the bulk of its forces and focus on them, as has been the case until now.”