Donald Trump’s snap decision to withdraw U.S. troops from Syria surprised allies and rivals alike, and has left Israel feeling more vulnerable to threats from its arch-enemy Iran. Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy army in Lebanon, has already dug tunnels into Israeli territory and benefited from the chaos of Syria’s war by opening up weapons-supply lines from Tehran.
Now Iran is poised to fill a power vacuum left by the U.S., reaping the rewards of its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in that country’s long civil war. While the American presence of some 2,000 soldiers in Syria was more deterrent than determinant, its absence may lead Israel to step up its campaign of bombing runs to prevent more weapons from reaching Hezbollah.
“The Americans were in the middle,” said Eyal Zisser, a political scientist at Tel Aviv University. “Now that they’re out, it will be much easier for Iran to have this open corridor from Tehran, through Baghdad — you can just take a car and in several hours you’re in Beirut.”
Israel has carried out more than 200 strikes in Syria against targets it describes as Iranian bases and weapons convoys, and says its top priority has been to stop Iran from establishing a ground route to transport weapons. Iran and Hezbollah say the group’s arms buildup will deter Israel from invading Lebanon, as it’s done twice in the past 40 years.
“We will continue to act in Syria to prevent Iran’s effort to militarily entrench itself against us,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Thursday after Trump’s announcement. “We’re not going to reduce our efforts, we are going to increase our efforts.”
Read more: Reddit
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