Iran To “Build A Force Of 100,000 Ground Troops” In Syria, Claims Israeli Defense Chief

Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledged to intensify military action in Syria after the White House’s order for all US troops to pullout out of the country  expected to be complete within months — and now Israel’s outgoing defense chief, Gadi Eisenkot, has revealed more details of what’s driving Israel’s thinking.

Gen. Eisenkot, who is set to complete his four-year tenure next month, warned Iran will “build a force of 100,000 ground troops” as soon as the war is complete, noting this will happen “the day after” cessation of fighting. Israeli defense officials have long hyped the “Iran threat” across its border and have over the past years repeatedly warned its “red line” to act militarily would be “Iran entrenchment” in Syria.

The defense chief further claimed an Iranian “permanent military presence” in Syria has been endorsed by the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force.

“The Iranian vision for Syria for the day after [the war]… was to build a force of 100,000 ground troops. There are already 20,000 fighters from Hezbollah, Shiite militias from Iraq, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, and thousands of advisers from Iran”, Eisenkot said, according to the Times of Israel. He claimed further Iran is seeking to set up “combined ground, aerial, naval and intelligence capability” in order to build up a “line of military positions along the Golan [border]”.

He described IDF efforts to roll back Iranian influence in the Syrian war “the large base of the iceberg, which was hidden from the Israeli public’s eye”. He continued in what’s an important admission considering the mainstream media longtime claim that Israel has largely been on the sidelines in Syria: “We devoted significant resources, intelligence, aerial resources, and other mostly covert operations that average Israelis, even those living in the Golan, were unaware of over the years.”

While painting a picture that the IDF was “independent” and alone in its fight to destroy  “arms factories in Syria” that he said “combine Syrian infrastructure, Iranian money, and Hezbollah capabilities,” he vowed in line with Netanyahu’s recent comments that the army would continue to fight “the multi-dimensional threat of Iran.”

IDF Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot, The Times of Israel

Meanwhile another high official, Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, also backed Netanyahu’s promise to keep Iran out of Syria, saying the country would “do everything to prevent Iran from gaining foothold in Syria”.

Speaking last week at the fifth Israel-Greece-Cyprus summit held in the southern city of Beersheba on Thursday, Netanyahu had pledged precisely that:

We will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s efforts to militarily entrench itself against us. We are not reducing our efforts, we will increase our efforts. I know that we do so with the full support and backing of the US.

The prime minister further revealed he was personally warned in advance that the American pullout was imminent during during phone conversations with President Trump on Monday and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday.

But all of this paints a rosier picture than the reality in terms of what Israel hopes will be the outcome to the war in Syria, especially given what we previously described as the new Russian rules of engagement. Despite Netanyahu’s latest provocative vow to “increase our efforts” in Syria, his threat has significant limits in terms of what Israel can actually do, given Moscow’s recently completing delivery of its feared S-300 anti-air defense systems to Damascus. Additionally Syrian and Russian officials have of late signaled Damascus will retaliate in equal measure against any military attack.

Without doubt any new Israeli attack on Syria, which would likely be launched by jets flying above Lebanese airspace (as with all recent attacks), would be met with a serious Syrian and possibly Russian response.

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