TEHRAN, IRAN — Concerns that the conflict in Syria could soon escalate have now grown exponentially following comments from Iran’s top security official that Israel will face retaliatory actions if the country continues to launch unilateral strikes against Syrian military installations.
Ali Shamkhani, Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, told the Iranian Fars news agency that Israel “will face reactions that would cause sorrow and penitence” if it continues to launch new airstrikes targeting Syria in support of “terrorist groups” that are fighting to overthrow the country’s government.
Shamkhani, who made the statements during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Nikolai Patrushev, added:
The Zionist regime [in Israel] is seeking to create a crisis in Syria and has taken measures in direct support of terrorist groups by hitting the Syrian Army and the forces [in Syria] fighting against terrorism.”
The Iranian official’s warning comes after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asserted on Tuesday that his government would continue to launch strikes against Syria “to prevent the Iranian military buildup in Syria” and that “we will do what is necessary to defend Israel’s security.”
Netanyahu vowed to continue the strikes in defiance of Russia’s recent decision to deliver the S-300 missile-defense system to Syria following the downing of a Russian military plane in the country earlier this month. The Russian military has blamed Israel – which was bombing the Syrian city of Latakia at the time the plane went down – for the plane’s destruction and the death of its crew. However, Israel has denied responsibility for the incident.
As recent comments by Netanyahu make clear, Israel has long justified its hundreds of airstrikes in Syria by asserting that it was bombing Iranian military installations. Israel claims the installations are part of an Iranian effort to establish a military foothold in Syria with the aim of placing pressure on Israel’s northern border.
Iranian and Syrian government officials have repeatedly denied this claim, as Iran’s military presence in the country has long been confined to a handful of military advisors who work with the Syrian Arab Army at the behest of the Syrian government led by President Bashar al-Assad.
Israel’s risk-benefit analysis
However, Israel’s long-standing goal of overthrowing the Syrian government, and Tel Aviv’s covert funding and arming of Syrian “rebels,” suggest that Israel’s motivation for launching the strikes goes far beyond alleged concerns over Iran’s military presence and is instead aimed at increasing Israel’s power in the region and its claim to the Golan Heights — Syrian territory that Israel illegally annexed in 1981.
Netanyahu’s recent assurance that Israeli airstrikes would continue has also provoked warnings from Syria’s government, with Syrian Foreign Minister Faisal Mekdad stating on Tuesday that Israel should think twice before launching new attacks in Syria once the S-300 systems are in place and that Syria would use the systems in self-defense to target Israeli planes violating its airspace.
Now, with Iranian officials also warning of retaliatory measures following the next Israeli strike on Syria, the ball is in Israel’s court, as the Israeli government now has the power to push Syria’s conflict towards a dramatic escalation whenever it chooses.
With U.S. support for Israel ensured if such an escalation does take place, Israel seems willing to take the risk of sparking a larger war in Syria. Though such a war would bring nothing but chaos to the region, leaked State Department emails have shown that chaos in Syria benefits Israel, suggesting a strategic motive on Israel’s part for the taking of such a risk.
Whitney Webb is a staff writer for MintPress News and a contributor to Ben Swann’s Truth in Media. Her work has appeared on Global Research, the Ron Paul Institute and 21st Century Wire, among others. She has also made radio and TV appearances on RT and Sputnik. She currently lives with her family in southern Chile.