Over the last two years, Israel has carried out “thousands” of attacks against Iranian targets in Syria.
In an interview given to the New York Times shortly before his retirement next week, Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot, Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Force, has for the first time confirmed details of the secret war Israel has been waging on Iran’s Quds Force in Syria.
The series of attacks on Iranian targets in Syria was authorized, according to Eisenkot, by the cabinet in January 2017. It followed attacks which had previously been carried out by Israel on Hezbollah convoys and targets since the start of the civil war in Syria in 2011, but which had not directly targeted Iranian assets.
Eisenkot decided to also attack Iranians in Syria following a perceived change in Iranian strategy.
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“We noticed a significant change in Iran’s strategy. Their vision was to have significant influence in Syria by building a force of up to 100,000 Shi'ite fighters from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iraq. They built intelligence bases and an air force base within each Syrian air base,” he explained in his interview.
Following the cabinet’s approval, since January 2017, “we struck thousands of targets without claiming responsibility or asking for credit,” says Eisenkot. The Quds Force, commanded by Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, tried to retaliate in May 2018 with a failed rocket attack on northern Israel.
Eisenkot explains that Soleimani made a strategic mistake by choosing Syria as a base for operations against Israel. “His error was choosing a playground where he is relatively weak. We have complete intelligence superiority in this area. We enjoy complete aerial superiority. We have strong deterrence and we have the justification to act.”
As a result of Israel’s operations over the last two years, Iran is now “transferring their efforts to Iraq,” says Eisenkot, who in his interview also detailed Israel’s operations against Hezbollah attempts to build up its forces in Lebanon, with Iranian help.
“I can say with confidence that as we speak Hezbollah does not possess accurate [missile] capabilities except for small and negligible ones,” he said. “They were hoping to have hundreds of missiles in the mid- and long-range.”