Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Amos Yadlin, a former head of IDF Intelligence and currently the director of the Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) at Tel Aviv University, said Saturday night that the exchange of fire between Israel and Iranian-linked forces that led to the downing of an Israeli fighter jet on Saturday was the most significant military engagement Israel has had in more than a decade. But he added that the incident also served to demonstrate Israel’s overwhelming intelligence and operational capabilities.
“[This morning’s event was the] most serious event since the Second Lebanon War, or perhaps since the alleged Israeli attack on Syria’s nuclear reactor in 2007, Yadlin said in a conference call organized by The Israel Project. Because although Israel has been attacking Iranian targets in Syria for years, today’s attack significantly weakened, or perhaps obliterated, the city of Damascus’s air defense.
Nevertheless, Yadlin added that the chances were building for a full-blown conflict between Israel and the Shiite Moslem world along the northern border. He said the clash would not have an impact on Israel’s defensive doctrine or strategy – he noted that losses were an inherent part of aerial warfare. But he said the winds of war in the region were definitely growing.
“Unlike last 10 years, when the chance for war in the north was close to zero, now it is much higher than that. But it is not 100 percent – even 10 percent is much more than ‘almost zero’,” he said.
Yadlin said the chances of conflict stem from a simple calculation -Iran’s determination to establish a military presence in Syria and Lebanon, including an industrial complex to create precise missiles for an offensive against Israel, and Israel’s determination to prevent that eventuality. He added that Iranian leaders have been emboldened in recent years, first by Russian involvement in the Syrian civil war and more recently by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s apparent victory in the conflict.
At the same time, however, he said that a full-scale war is not inevitable, but stressed the role of Russia in preventing an escalation.
“[Israel must] make them (Russia) understand that if they support Iran/Hezbollah, it will lead to an escalation, and that is very much not in Russia’s interest. Russia’s interest is de-escalation and rebuilding Syria. Israel is the only force that can disrupt Russian plans [to rebuild Syria]. Israel must give a very clear message to Russia – deter Iran,” Yadlin said.