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Analysis: In order to prevent escalation, Israel should lower its profile

UN peacekeepers monitor the Israel-Syria border on the Golan Heights on February 10, 2018
Not the Syrians, not the Iranians and certainly not Israel - is really interested in a regional confrontation.

The day of an air battle in Syrian territory ended with a positive from an Israeli point of view. It is true that on Saturday morning Israel lost an airplane, but the pilots landed alive in Israeli territory and, no less important, the air force can learn from the continuation of this "war between wars," and the prevention of Iran's establishment in Syria. The strategic advantage that Israel receives is that its decisions created a ‘red line,’ which it presented not only to Iran, but also to Russia, the United States, European countries and the entire world.

Despite a warning from Russia one year ago, Israel attacked the same military outpost (last time in March 2017), not far from Russian military personnel. This is because the Iranians operated from there, and, in effect, turned the Russian presence into a sort of shield under which Syria brought weapons, especially UAVs and other unmanned aerial vehicles, to the war against Israel.

The drone launched by the Iranians in the early hours of the morning was not only a provocation in retaliation for Israeli air attacks on Iranian installations in Syria in recent years, but was also - and perhaps mainly - an experiment involving an operational, stealth UAV. Had Iran succeeded, a chain of events against Israel would have been created involving not only the Iranians in Syria, but also Hezbollah in Lebanon.

The stealth UAV that the Iranians were trying to use against an early warning system and Israeli intelligence was copied from the US stealth RQ-70 that fell into their hands in 2011. The Iranians announced that they would use it to build their own stealth UAV, which came as a surprise to Israel.

Their experiment did not succeed, and it also proved how effective Israeli intelligence is, and how permeable Syrian and Iranian systems are. This fact is a significant deterrent, proven by the second Israeli strike in the morning (after the attack on the UAV's operating vehicle), against Syrian anti-aircraft batteries and sensitive Iranian facilities.


No one wants escalation

At this point it is clear that none of the actors - the Syrians, the Iranians, the Russians and Israel - is interested in escalation. Everyone needs a period of calm in order to assess the new situation that has been created in the north, and everyone has a strong interest that there should be no war, not even a major escalation.

The way to return to calm is for Israel to keep a low profile. The Israeli government made all the military preparations for an escalation in the north, but it sent signals - both on the ground and through diplomatic channels - that it is not interested in doing so. Israel asked the Russians to prevent escalation. The Russians, having to please Assad, who gives them legitimacy to remain in Syria, issued a rather lukewarm message that it also intended to calm all parties.

This is despite the fact that the Iranians, by sending a drone to Israel from a location close to Russian military personnel, greatly embarrassed the Kremlin and deepened the rifts that were already forming between Moscow and Tehran in connection with the future of Syria.

The Syrian regime is trying to maximize the prestige it can derive from the fact that it has shot down an Israeli aircraft, while also concealing the damage its anti-aircraft system. The Syrians are also not interested in another attack, because they will lose one of their few remaining assets, and will require the Russians to bring them new shipments of anti-aircraft missiles–with Iranian funding, of course. The Syrians do not want to reach out to Tehran if they do not really have to.

Therefore, all parties currently have an interest in maintaining calm, and this is probably what will happen next. But let's not be mistaken: the Iranians will continue to try to establish themselves in Syria. They will look for other ways, and Israel will probably continue to thwart their attempts, even if they have to pay a price. The current battle over the future of the Syria and the Lebanon after the civil war in Syria will continue to be conducted in full.

The Air Force also took part in the ‘lessons learned’ process, out of a clear recognition that the downing of the F-16 was not a result of negligence or complacency, but rather that it was out of necessity and perhaps a tactical error. This happens after more than 30 years in which an Israeli aircraft was not shot down by anti-aircraft fire. There is no need to be excited: the pilots are alive, new methods of attack are being developed, and everyone will move on.

Ron Ben-Yishai is a senior Israeli defense analyst. This article is published courtesy of Ynet.



RQ-70 was the first BHO gift to Khamenei. It undermined the US & IL from the get go. From there it got worst.

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