Next Middle East War
Wall Street Journal
September 7, 2017
Israel launched airstrikes on a military compound in Syria
on Thursday, and the bombing should alert the Trump Administration as much as
the Syrians. They carry a warning about the next war in the Middle East that
could draw in the U.S.
Israel doesn’t confirm or deny its military strikes, but
former officials said they were aimed at a base for training and a warehouse for
short- and midrange missiles. The strikes also hit a facility that the U.S.
cited this year for involvement in making chemical weapons.
The larger context is the confrontation that is building
between Israel and Iran as the war against Islamic State moves to a conclusion
in Syria and Iraq. Iran is using Syria’s civil war, and the battle against
ISIS, as cause to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria that can threaten
Israel either directly or via its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.
Tehran has helped Hezbollah stockpile tens of thousands of
missiles that will be launched against Israel in the next inevitable conflict.
If it can also dominate southern Syria, Iran can establish a second front on the
border near the Golan Heights that would further stretch Israel’s ability to
Israel may have to make more such strikes in Syria because
Iran isn’t likely to give up on this strategic opening. Iran’s Revolutionary
Guards know they have Russia’s backing in Syria, and the U.S. is signaling
that it is loathe to do anything to change that once Islamic State is routed
“As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do
with Syria other than killing ISIS,” President Trump said Thursday at a White
House press conference with the emir of Kuwait. “What we do is we kill ISIS.
And we have succeeded in that respect. We have done better in eight months of my
Presidency than the previous eight years against ISIS.”
Great, but the problem is that the end of ISIS won’t
bring stability to Syria, and American interests in the Middle East don’t end
with ISIS. The danger of a proxy war or even a direct war between Iran and
Israel is growing, and it will increase as Iran’s presence builds in Syria.
Mr. Trump may not like it, but he needs a strategy for post-ISIS Syria that
contains Iran if he doesn’t want the U.S. to be pulled back into another
Middle East war.