Spearhead Special Report – 09.05.2018
By Fatima Ayub
Research Analyst, Spearhead Research
In 2017, If the military defeat of IS after confrontations in Iraq and Syria with the broad global coalition was the headliner for global news and development, in 2018, the brewing battle between Israel and the Iran-backed Shiite coalition and – its transition from proxy war to full military confrontation – will surely be the most striking development of the year.
In what appeared to be a historic first-ever military confrontation in a relationship that mostly boasted limited proxy wars, cyber warfare and spy-for-spy tactics, February 10thmarked the first time, Iran and Israel responded directly to the other’s overtures, in Syria. An Iranian drone launched by a Quds Force unit operating out of Syria’s T4 air base, in central Syria, was shot down with a missile from an Israeli Apache helicopter that was following it after it penetrated northern Israel airspace.
Confirming that the aircraft was indeed carrying ‘explosives’, Israel’s analysis of the drone acknowledged this as the first move by the Quds Force, commanded by Iran’s military mastermind Qassem Suleimani, to launch an actual military strike on Israel. Following this, in April, Israel launched a retaliatory strike on T4, the drone’s home base — directly targeting, for the first time, an Iranian facility and personnel in Syria. Seven Quds Force including the Col who led the drone unit were killed.
The escalation of these two episodes has quickly transitioned from enraged rhetoric to actual military mobilization, and this pits the previously carefully mediated balance of Middle East into a devastating, open-ended continuity of war that has already claimed more than 400,000 lives – and counting.
What marks this conflict out from its predecessor Israel-Arab state skirmishes in the past decade is that for the first time both states have threatened to retaliate, and both have made it abundantly clear that they are prepared to keep fighting, with or without the backing of a powerful ally.