The top US intelligence chief warned that Israel’s ongoing strikes against Iranian targets in Syria increase the threat of regional war، The Jerusalem Post reported.
"We assess that Iran seeks to avoid a major armed conflict with Israel،" Dan Coats، the director of national intelligence، told the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday. "However، Israeli strikes that result in Iranian casualties increase the likelihood of Iranian conventional retaliation against Israel."
According to The Jerusalem Post، Israeli officials have repeatedly voiced concerns over Iran’s presence in Syria and the smuggling of sophisticated weaponry to Hezbollah from Tehran to Lebanon via Syria، stressing that both are red-lines for the Israeli State.
"Iran’s efforts to consolidate its influence in Syria and arm Hezbollah have prompted Israeli airstrikes as recently as January 2019 against Iranian positions within Syria and underscore our growing concern about the long-term trajectory of Iranian influence in the region and the risk that conflict will escalate،” Coates said.
Israeli officials concerned
His assessment echoes concerns raised by Israeli officials that Iran would likely increase their responses to IAF strikes in Syria.
Israel rarely comments on alleged Israel Air Force operations on the northern front، but former IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. (ret.) Gadi Eisenkot said that Israel fired 2،000 missiles against Iranian and Hezbollah targets in 2018 alone.
But، according to Coates، Israeli strikes have not deterred the Iranians who continue "to pursue permanent military bases and economic deals in Syria and probably wants to maintain a network of Shia foreign fighters there despite Israeli attacks on Iranian positions in Syria."
In early January Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel has a permanent policy of preventing Iran's entrenchment in Syria، and that it would be enforced whether he is in Israel or abroad.
On Monday Maj. Gen. (ret.) Nitzan Alon، who was in charge of a special IDF project to coordinate all issues related to Iran، said that Israel’s operations in Syria have “to a large extent” succeeded in blocking Iran’s goals to establish a permanent military presence in the war-torn country.
"To a great extent، we halted Iranian aspirations in Syria. There is a significant gap between where the Iranians wanted to be and where they are right now،” he said during a panel discussion with former IAF Commander Maj.-Gen.(ret.) Amir Eshel and former military strategist Brig. Gen. (res.) Yoram Hamo.
Reuven: Iran will step up its attacks
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin said Monday that he believes Iran will step up its attacks on the north of Israel in retaliation for IAF air strikes on Iranian facilities in Syria، Ynet News said.
Speaking at a conference held by the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv، Rivlin said the Israel’s future strategic situation can be described in two words: “deterioration and complexity،” and gave the case of the Iranian presence in Syria as an example.
"It appeared as though Iran would be restrained by our understandings with Russia and its defeats on the northern front،” Rivlin said referring to recurring IDF airstrikes on Iranian facilities in Syria، “but in recent months the trend is changing.
"I believe Iran will retaliate with greater force in Israel’s north،” the president said، adding that Iran’s efforts are also apparent in the international diplomatic scene.
"Their trials with ballistic missiles and Tehran’s schemes have created controversy between them and the European Union،” Rivlin said، adding that the issue had come up during his meeting with French President Emmanuel Macron in Paris last week.
"I feel like the Europeans are beginning to think the same way Israel does about Iran… There is a desire to preserve the nuclear deal while also drawing strict red lines for Iran - and crossing them will come with a heavy price،” said the president.
The same analysis
Also The Times of Israel confirmed that this analysis by US intelligence services echoed similar concerns voiced within Israel about the increasing likelihood of an Iranian response to the Israel Defense Forces’ regular strikes in Syria.
Israel and the US have been pushing Europe to impose new sanctions on the Islamic Republic and to strictly enforce the ones already in place on Iran for other non-nuclear nefarious activities، The Times of Israel noted.
But، as a number of European companies have pulled out under pressure from US sanctions، those countries have backed an EU effort to set up a special payment system in an attempt to continue trade and business ties with Iran، The Times of Israel pointed.