Iran made a very provocative move when it launched rockets from positions in Syria at Israel early Thursday. While there have been many incidents involving Iranian proxies like the terrorist group Hezbollah attacking Israel, this was the first direct attack by Iran on the Jewish state.
Israel did what any nation would do – it defended itself. It immediately retaliated with airstrikes that killed some Iranian fighters and destroyed a large number of Iranian bases in Syria.
In a characteristically strong statement, Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said:
"We hit almost the entire Iranian infrastructure in Syria. They must understand that if it rains here, it will pour there.”
The Iranians no longer have a weak American administration in office that they can push around.
Unlike during the Obama administration, when the U.S. regularly criticized Israel for exercising its right of self-defense, the White House issued a statement Thursday that took the opposite position.
The White House statement said in part: “The United States condemns the Iranian regime’s provocative rocket attacks from Syria against Israeli citizens, and we strongly support Israel’s right to act in self-defense. The Iranian regime’s deployment into Syria of offensive rocket and missile systems aimed at Israel is an unacceptable and highly dangerous development for the entire Middle East.”
At this writing, there has been no further military action from either side since the Thursday morning Israel counterstrike. But the possibility of a war between Israel and Iran is very real. And Iran could also give a green light to Hezbollah, which it has supplied with missiles and other weapons of war.
Iran has been threatening to unleash its proxies against Israel for some time now and the Israelis always take that seriously. Israel took out a lot of military hardware and capabilities with its strike on Iranian forces in Syria, but there is plenty more waiting to be used. If Iran wants to up the ante, it can do so. But it will pay a steep price.
One thing the Iranians would be smart to consider is the growing friendship between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which is largely based on the enemy they share in Iran. It would not be out of the question for the Saudis to join in responding to an Iranian attack on Israel, especially if Hezbollah is involved. The Saudis threatened to make war on Hezbollah late last year when the terrorist group fired a missile at the Saudi Kingdom from Yemen.
All of this has been brewing for quite some time, so the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal this week is not the cause.
If anything, the lack of restrictions on the U.S. now should serve as a reminder to Iran that it’s a bad time to cause trouble. But we are dealing with an extremist regime run by radical Islamist fanatics, so a rational response is never guaranteed.
If the mullahs who rule Iran step too far out of line they could generate their own worst-case scenario. The U.S., Israel and the Saudis could decide it’s time to knock them completely out of the game and make a combined strike against their nuclear facilities and military.
White House National Security Adviser John Bolton advocated military action against Iran on multiple occasions before going to work for President Trump recently. If Iran looks like it is spinning up a regional conflict, it may invite a U.S. attack that would seal its fate.
The Israelis have had plenty of issues with the Palestinians, largely orchestrated by another Iranian-funded terrorist group, Hamas. There have been protests and attempts to breach Israel’s border security fence with Gaza in recent weeks that required military responses by the Israelis, killing a number of Hamas operatives and others. And now a large Palestinian Day of Rage is planned for Monday when the U.S. officially moves the American Embassy to Jerusalem.
It is fair to say the Israelis are quite concerned about the growing number of serious threats mounting around them. They will not and should not be expected to sit idly by as these become more acute.
It is all too common for the usual suspects to call on Israel to show restraint, as President Obama regularly did. Under President Trump, the U.S. has pointedly not joined this chorus, nor should we.
It is Iran that should come to its senses and see that the tide has turned against it. The Iranians no longer have a weak American administration in office that they can push around.
On top of this, Iran’s Arab neighbors are pretty fed up as well. Not to mention the internal pressures the Iranian regime faces from a populace that has seen their lives continue to get worse.
It would be a smart move for Iran’s leaders now to back off. We’ll see if they grasp that, or if their seething hatred of America, of Israel and of Jews prompts them to take aggressive actions that will invite a military response by their adversaries.