Baku, Azerbaijan, Feb. 13
By Azer Ahmadbayli – Trend:
Amid the 40th anniversary celebrations of the Islamic Revolution, the bellicose rhetoric between Iran and Israel has multiplied. Both countries threaten to wipe out Tel-Aviv, Haifa and, accordingly, Tehran, from the earth in the event of a military assault.
The Israeli Haaretz reports that Iran is transferring its logistics centers near Damascus to the T4 air base, located between Homs and Palmyra. The reason for the evacuation is a series of Israeli attacks on them.
But Israel, too, cannot ignore the threats of Iran and its proxies. Last year the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah sarcastically pointed to the fact that the best manifestation of the Israeli fear of Iran and Hezbollah is the closure of the ammonia storage and its evacuation from the north of the country. Indeed, the closure of a chemical plant near Haifa cannot be seen beyond the context of the apparent strengthening of Hezbollah's military capabilities.
The stakes in this confrontation have been rising slowly, but steadily.
Iran continues to improve its capabilities in the ballistic missile development. According to the US data, today Iran has the largest arsenal of ballistic missiles in the Middle East.
Lately, the Islamic Republic displayed several new ballistic missiles of domestic production, including new cruise missile named Hoveizeh, which has a reported range of more than 1,300 kilometers, that is enough to cover the territory of Israel.
Iran and Hezbollah, with the assistance of Damascus, are building a missile plant near the Syrian city of Safita, Israeli media reported.
A few days ago, Hassan Nasrallah requested the Government of Lebanon to purchase air defense systems from Iran, which should prevent the flights of Israeli aircraft over the Lebanese territory.
The strengthening of the Iranian military presence in Syria and Lebanon, as well as the build-up of Hezbollah’s arsenal of precision weapons, together predetermine Israel's further actions.
Throughout the past and this year, Israel has made a dozen air attacks on Iran-controlled military facilities in Syria.
But if Iran and Hezbollah have so far been limited only to threatening rhetoric, now it seems that the tension is reaching its critical point.
A week ago, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran Ali Shamkhani warned Israel that the continuation of attacks on Iranian facilities in Syria will lead to an armed conflict.
"Israeli attacks in Syria can no longer be tolerated," Shamkhani said, adding that next time the Iranian response will be "aggressive and decisive", the Iranian Fars Agency reported.
Hezbollah was more definitive. Speaking on al-Mayadeen TV at the end of January, Nasrallah warned that the "resistance axis" (meaning Iran, Hezbollah and Syria) might change their reaction to Israeli strikes, including hitting Tel-Aviv as an option.
Israel has always kept its word when it comes to its national security. Therefore, there is little doubt that it will retreat from the policy of forceful dismantling of the Iranian military infrastructure in Syria.
Iran and its allies also have nowhere to retreat – it is a bad chance to lose face in addition to the material and human losses as a result of Israeli attacks.
That is a very bad but possible scenario – after another Israeli attack on an Iran-controlled military facility in Syria, Iran or Hezbollah (but not the apathetic Syrian regime) will strike back, after which an uncontrolled escalation will commence, which can lead to a full-scale war.
Moscow should play a key role in preventing such an apocalyptic scenario, because only Russia has good relations and a certain vote of confidence created with the confronting parties.
Additionally, it has been Russia who claimed with pleasure some time ago that thanks to its efforts, Tehran-controlled military troops were withdrawn to a distance of 100 kilometers from the separation line in southern Syria. That was officially stated by the Assistant to the Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Alexander Venediktov.
In practice, as Israel claims, Tehran-controlled forces are much closer to Israel's borders.
The armed confrontation may occur directly between Israel and Iran, but most likely, Lebanon can become the scene with Hezbollah as a main player.
It’s worthy to note that the same has been recently said by Russian Ambassador to Lebanon Alexander Zasypkin, who warned that US policy in the Middle East region could provoke a new armed conflict between Israel and Lebanon.
In a week, Prime Minister Netanyahu will pay a visit to Moscow. As a result of negotiations with President Putin, it will become clear whether the parties have found a middle ground or a new war is inevitable.