Israeli Intel Chief: U.S. Sanctions Are Preventing Iran's Entrenchment in Syria

Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman also says Hezbollah has been hurt by American pressure on Lebanon to disconnect from the group

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Hezbollah fighters in Wadi al-Kheil on the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017
Hezbollah fighters in Wadi al-Kheil on the Lebanon-Syria border, July 29, 2017Credit: Bilal Hussein,AP

American sanctions on Iran are substantially affecting Tehran’s attempts to establish a presence in Syria, said the head of Israeli Military Intelligence, but that chances of a flare-up in Gaza with Islamic Jihad were high.

Speaking at the Israel Defense and Homeland Security Expo in Tel Aviv, Maj. Gen. Tamir Hayman said that in essence, Iran’s entrenchment in Syria has been frustrated, if not completely halted.

“Iran is looking for other places to base itself, for instance the Iraqi arena,” he said.

He also noted that American pressure on Lebanon to disengage from Hezbollah is also hurting the organization, and said that this pressure is what led Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah to threaten Israel with precision missiles. Hezbollah probably does not actually have the large amount of precision missiles that it claims to have, Hayman added.

Hayman said that since the civil war in Syria, Hezbollah has become part of the Syrian army: The organization has improved its abilities and fighting capacities and is supported by Syrian President Bashar Assad and the top Syrian army brass.

Hayman said that Moscow’s presence in the Middle East makes it relevant to finding solutions for clashes between the countries in the region.

“Russia dominates by friction, disruption and involvement,” Hayman said, adding that Moscow has been significantly helping Syria rebuild its army following the civil war. The recovery is happening faster than had been expected, he noted. Russia has become a dominant factor in Israel’s freedom of operations, he said, and according to the army's understanding of the situation, it is not leaving the region any time soon.

On the Palestinian front, Hayman said that the last round of fighting has led Hamas to work toward avoiding a war and aspiring to reach an arrangement with Israel.

Palestinian militants of the Islamic Jihad group in Deir el-Balah, the Gaza Strip, December 11, 2014Credit: Adel Hana,AP

Based on the intelligence assessments Hayman presented, Hamas' attempts to impose its sovereignty in Gaza has caused tensions with Islamic Jihad and other rebel organizations that oppose a deal with Israel. The potential for a blowup with Islamic Jihad is high, he summed up.