'Iran-led Shiite axis is Israel's biggest enemy'

Middle East expert says rocket fire from Syria was accidental, believes real concern is Syria turning to significant link in axis of evil.

Shimon Cohen,

UN troops on northern border
UN troops on northern border
Basel Aweidat/Flash 90

Prof. Moshe Maoz, an expert on Syria and Hezbollah from the Political Science Department at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, said on Sunday he believes four rockets from Syria which exploded in the Golan Heights on Saturday were accidental spillover from the Syrian civil war.

"This firing, I estimate, happened accidentally. Syria has no interest in provoking us because we will respond with force,” Maoz told Arutz Sheva, though he added that "in strategic terms, the great danger is from Syria as an important link of the Shiite axis that is being led by Iran, and this is Israel's greatest enemy.”

"This axis potentially includes Iraq, Lebanon-Hezbollah and Yemen. This is the danger and the Iranians may provoke us in the future, and they have already expressed this, but this firing does not seem to me to be more than accidental fire that happens from time to time,” he continued.

Referring to Iran, Prof. Maoz said, "In their view, we are provoking them and their allies the Syrians, and we are bombing military positions and cannons. The Iranians feel, and have expressed themselves in this way, that Israel cannot do whatever it wants in the skies of their Syrian allies. Their patience will expire and the question is how they will act, and this is where a third factor comes in to play, and that is the Russians who control the skies of Syria. They have agreements and disagreements with the Iranians and the question is what they will do, mainly because they have the means to prevent Israeli flights and bombings. There appears to be an understanding between the Russians and us, and they allow us to hit Hezbollah's weapons convoys, but if it spreads further, it will be considered a blow to the Russian honor.”

"Beyond that, they have modern means to prevent our airstrikes,” noted Maoz. “They have S-400 systems, beyond the S-300s they provided to the Iranians, which they can use to prevent and intercept any aircraft coming from Israel. This is the most critical point, and it is no coincidence that Netanyahu has been to Russia six or seven times in recent months. Moreover, the Americans are not helping, Trump has given up on Syria and Russia is the potential ruler in this region. We're in a pretty delicate state of affairs."

"The Russians will not forcefully prevent the Iranian presence in the region, it is not in their interest, and they do not want to do so," he opined, adding, “The question is the level of coordination between them. That's a very critical question.”

Regarding the Israeli response to the firing from Syria, Maoz said, "This is Syrian sovereignty and we are attacking another country, but the Syrians will not do anything unusual without Iranian and Russian support. The question is what they decide to do in consultation with them. We should perhaps consider whether we should reduce the retaliation. It is right to punish the Syrians for what is happening, but we do not have to violate Syrian sovereignty so crudely. This is a very delicate question."

As for the importance that Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu places on the relationship with Russia, which openly backs Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, Maoz said, “There are differing opinions on this. Some would say this is the correct thing to do, because we have to work with 'the familiar Satan', which is Bashar who is pragmatic and corrupt and can be bribed, and he is a secular who protects the region from radical Islam. I, as a Jew, am outraged that Israel agrees to the continued rule of Bashar, who has murdered half a million Syrians and caused 11 million refugees, beyond the strategic point of view that he is part of this dangerous axis. Therefore, there is a dilemma here but it's already too late to change reality.”

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