Syria: Israel and Iran on collision course

Middle East experts are warning that the hostilities between Israel and Iran could escalate. Israel has admitted to bombing Iranian targets in neighbouring Syria on the weekend in reaction to Iranian drones flying over its territory. Syria's anti-aircraft defence system then shot down one of Israel's fighter jets. Journalists examine what the confrontation could mean for Russia and Europe.

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Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

With Israel or against it? Dilemma for Moscow

Israel's military operation in Syria puts Russia in an awkward position, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung comments:

“Israel has announced that it will launch military strikes against permanent Iranian bases in Syria. This leaves Russia facing a dilemma. So far it has tried to appease Israel. Among other things Putin gave guarantees that Iranian militia wouldn't be stationed anywhere near the Golan Heights on the border with Israel. But clearly doubts about whether the Kremlin's influence on Tehran is sufficient to keep it in check are growing within the Israeli leadership. A major Israeli military operation in Syria would, however, face Moscow with a difficult choice: either with Israel or against it, with Iran or against it, with Assad or against him.”

The Times (GB) /

Take off the kid gloves with Iran

The EU's appeasement policy has only encouraged Iran's aggressive behaviour, The Times complains:

“Israel is not looking to escalate but Iran could be and a mistake or misreading by either side could trigger open war. ... Britain and the European Union could play an effective role in containing Iranian aggression but their answer is appeasement. Instead of sanctioning Iran and supporting Israel they mouth platitudes about restraint by both sides, which further emboldens Tehran. They prioritise saving the flawed nuclear deal that provides cover for their unprincipled trade links with Iran over saving the lives of innocent people.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Why Europe must meet Tehran half way

El Periódico de Catalunya urges Europe to back the nuclear deal with Iran:

“By supporting Iran's reintegration into the international sphere Europe reinforces Rouhani's reformist and modernising policies. ... An end to the nuclear agreement would be catastrophic for a Middle East plunged into chaos by the Syrian war and the US's provocative decision. ... Without the agreement, not just Iran but also Saudi Arabia would be free to develop its nuclear arsenal. From one day to the next the most volatile region in the world would have three nuclear states, because Israel has weapons too, even if it doesn't admit it officially. ... The EU should take pride in one of its most successful diplomatic agreements and design a strategy attractive enough to convince the US to stick to the pact. If Trump persists with his course despite the European offer it will be time for Europe to grow up and defend its interests against those of a partner that treats it as if it were a colony.”

Gândul (RO) /

Is Assad preparing for war with Israel?

With the Israeli airstrikes on targets in Syria the war threatens to escalate to a new level, Gândul believes:

“This is not the first Israeli attack in Syria. In the last six years there have been over 100 such operations, which are often justified with the argument that they are aimed at Iranian convoys delivering weapons to the Lebanese Hezbollah.... Assad's army has never responded in kind, instead confining itself to sending woeful petitions to international organisations. The fact that now a fighter jet has been shot down could be a bad sign; a sign that Assad and his allies (Iran, Hezbollah) are getting ready for war.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Trump adds fuel to the fire

La Repubblica's US correspondent Federico Rampini asks worriedly how far Israel's most important ally Washington will go:

“Trump's entire Middle East strategy revolves around casting Iran as the number one enemy that must be forced to its knees. On this point the US government agrees not only with [Israel's Prime Minister] Netanyahu, but also with Saudi Arabia. Under Obama, America was still trying to reassure Israeli and Saudi hardliners. Can Trump's America go so far as to give its tacit consent to everyone who wants to attack Tehran or the Iranian bases in Syria and Lebanon? ... Aaron David Miller, the director of the Middle East Department at the Woodrow Wilson Center, has already warned on Twitter: 'Trump pushes for war against Iran'.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Israel does not want this war

A war between Israel and Iran's allies in Syria would be very difficult to control, Der Standard comments:

“This war is thought to be exactly what some anti-Iranian Arabic players want. But despite the strategic community of interests with the new Arab friends, that very assumption was yet another reason for the Israeli security establishment to keep a cool head and weigh up the consequences. The upshot: Israel does not want this war. At the latest when Hezbollah's missiles start raining down on Israeli cities it will become very difficult to keep it 'under control'. The current spotlight on Israel's vulnerability - its first loss of a fighter jet since 1982 - will only reinforce this position.”

Ria Novosti (RU) /

Moscow is the key

Ria Novosti explains how it believes Israel should handle Iran's presence in its neighbouring country:

“[Israel's] best option is to accept the reality. After the end of the civil war Iran will remain present in Syria. All Israel can do is try to ensure that Tehran plays an important but not a dominant role in the Syrian area. It must negotiate to this end, first and foremost with Moscow. ... After the incident Putin spoke to Netanyahu. So the level of trust remains relatively high. If it uses this trust Israel - with support and guarantees from Moscow - could push through certain terms and a limit on the number of Iranian military facilities in post-war Syria.”