Israel has an opportunity to force Iran out of Syria altogether, and should take advantage of it, Defense Minister Naftali Bennett said in recent meetings with top IDF officials.
Yisrael Hayom quoted Bennett as saying that “Israel is in a position to act. The regime in Tehran is focused now primarily on its economic issues and the riots that have broken out in recent weeks.” Israel should take that opportunity to act, Bennett said.
That action should take place on three fronts – economic, diplomatic and military. The IDF, he said, could be acting more aggressively on the latter especially; the army had been targeting Iranian weapons convoys to Hezbollah and air campaigns against Iranian installations in Iran, but that activity seems to have been reduced.
The IDF needed to be more active and “act against all aspects of the Iranian military presence in Syria, as well as in other countries in the region,” Bennett was quoted as saying.
Mass protests have broken out in recent weeks in Iran over the country’s poor economic conditions, and the Iranian regime has been cracking down hard on protesters. Witness reports say that over 100 people have died in protests, many of them shot by security forces, and American sanctions have had a severe impact on the country. Failure to take advantage of the situation, Bennett said, would be a “serious mistake. When we had the opportunity to act against Hezbollah we didn’t,” and now that terror group is in firm control in the area along Israel’s border; failure to act against Iran could see the same situation develop in Syria, he said.
The majority of the IDF General Staff disagrees with Bennett, as do IDF Chief of Staff Avi Kochavi and the head of IDF Intelligence, Tamir Hayman, who believe that Israel is at the point where it can only prevent advancement of Iran’s ambitions in Syria, but would be unable to evict its personnel from the country altogether.
Members of the political establishment have also expressed opposition to Israel’s acting at a time when Iranian society is so badly divided; a major Israeli action in Syria at this time could give Iran’s rulers a focus for their people, uniting the nation against a common enemy.