Israel’s national existence is again being threatened, this time by a three-front war being engineered by Iran.
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu visited the Russian city of Sochi on August 24 to attempt to persuade Russian President Vladimir Putin to restrain Iran’s actions.
Iran is extending its expansion in Syria, to which Russia is a party, from western Syria up to Israel’s doorstep on the Golan Heights. Iran, already heavily involved in Syria, is also deeply involved in Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen. Most of its involvement is through its Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) forces and proxy terrorist networks. As a result Israel is, justifiably, feeling surrounded.
What both leaders know, and Mr. Putin wouldn’t admit, is that Russia’s power to restrain Iran is limited. Gone are the days when America and Russia could exert a superpower’s near-total control over the actions of their allies and dependent or satellite states.
Russia’s power to influence Iran while considerable, will not be determinative. Russian influence in Iran is deeply embedded both economically and militarily. Russian trade with Iran doubled over 2016. Iran is on an infrastructure building binge mostly funded by Russia. But Mr. Putin isn’t about to threaten to cut off that aid to help Israel.
Unsurprisingly, Mr. Putin reportedly gave no hint about what he would do.
Mr. Putin’s restraining Iran, if it occurs at all, will have only a temporary effect. Iran may proceed more slowly in Syria, but its actions will continue.
Israel sees another war coming. This time, it will most likely result from attacks by a combination of terrorist networks supported by Iran. Hezbollah, an Iranian proxy terrorist force, has more than 100,000 rockets and missiles now, some of which can reach from Lebanon to every Israeli town.
Days after the Sochi meeting, Mr. Netanyahu met with the new U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres. He reportedly told Mr. Guterres that Iran is building missile manufacturing sites of “precision-guided missiles” in Syria and Lebanon to supply its terrorist proxy forces.
Israel rightly fears a two-front war in Lebanon and Syria. Mr. Netanyahu reportedly told Mr. Guterres that Iran’s efforts amounted to placing a noose around Israel’s neck, which Israel could not, and the U.N. should not, accept.
When it comes, this will be a three-front war. On the day that Mr. Netanyahu met with Mr. Guterres, Yehiye Sinwar, the new leader of Hamas, another powerful terrorist network dedicated to Israel’s destruction, met with reporters. He announced that Hamas had mended fences with Iran and that Iran is now Hamas’ largest financial and military backer.
Hamas had broken with Iran in 2012 when Iran had refused to back the Assad regime in what was then a Syrian civil war. Since then, Iran and Russia (and Turkey, our former ally) have all intervened to protect Assad’s regime. Hamas will be a recipient of the “precision-guided missiles” manufactured in Syria and Lebanon for use against Israel.
Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, constantly excavates tunnels into Israel to enable its terrorist fighters to slip into Israel undetected and murder Israeli citizens. Iran’s aid can greatly enhance their capabilities to tunnel and to fire rockets and missiles into Israeli population centers.
The greatest danger Israel faces is Hezbollah rockets and missiles. The Israeli “Iron Dome” missile defenses have proven effective against the kinds of rockets that Hamas and Hezbollah have used in the past. But it has never been used against the ballistic missiles Hezbollah has. Those missiles, supplied by Iran, may be able to attack Israeli population centers with explosive, chemical or even biological weapons.
Facing the combined threats of Iran in Syria as well as Hezbollah and Hamas, Israel might decide to strike pre-emptively against the missile bases in Lebanon and Gaza as well as the missile production facilities in Lebanon and Syria. It is very unlikely that Russia would intervene in their defense, but Iran might.
Hezbollah and Hamas, at Iran’s instigation, might attack before Israel can pre-empt them. If the Israelis appeared in danger of defeat America would intervene just as we nearly did in the 1972 war when Israel appeared on the verge of defeat.
If the Iron Dome system defeats Hezbollah’s missile attacks, the war will be confined to Lebanon, Syria and Gaza. If not, Iran — regardless of Russian efforts to stop it — almost certainly try to deliver a killing blow to the Jewish state. At that point, we should not hesitate to throw all our military might against Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran.
Iran, as Henry Kissinger wrote in “World Order,” is a revolutionary power that means to overturn the old world order that has been in place since the 17th century. Iran calls America the “Great Satan,” and Israel “the Little Satan.” It is our common enemy, as are Hamas and Hezbollah, both of which have American blood on their hands.
When this war comes America must quickly come to the realization that Israel is fighting our fight against our common enemies. The president should say so in a speech to the American people, and we should act accordingly in Israel’s defense.
• Jed Babbin, a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration, is the author of “In the Words of Our Enemies.”