Disturbing reports have surfaced indicating that Iranian-backed fighters are now in control of the Syria-Iraq border, having captured Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. This advance allows Tehran to link up its fighters in Iraq and Syria with Hezbollah, its terror surrogate, in Lebanon. Iran’s goal of creating a land bridge from its homeland through Iraq and Syria to the Mediterranean seems to be taking shape and with it, enhanced ability to threaten Israel with a two-front war waged from Syria and Lebanon.
Until recently, Donald Trump’s administration was singularly focused on defeating ISIS in Syria and Iraq. Unfortunately, the successful destruction of the ISIS “caliphate” benefited Iran by eliminating a threat to both Assad and Iran. Former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren said, “We have to grapple with the consequences of this, unintentional or not…. Hezbollah has at least 130,000 rockets and is capable of hitting every city in Israel, including Eilat…. They are saving them all for us.”
In October, President Trump addressed the necessity to deter Iran’s destabilizing actions and its support for terrorist groups in the wider Middle East, but offered no specific strategies.
In an effort to de-escalate the Syrian civil war, the administration has orchestrated two ceasefire agreements with Russia, one in July and another last month. Neither deal won Israel’s support, because they both failed to directly address Iran’s plans to cement its presence in Syria.
Syria is much more than Iran’s principal conduit for logistical support to Hezbollah. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah now directly control territory, including the Syrian border area with Lebanon and, as of November, the Syrian-Iraqi border area. Iran commands local Shiite fighters and is constructing infrastructure within Syria, including both long-range missile manufacturing facilities and military, air and naval bases. And Iran controls territory near the Israeli border.