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Apr 9, 2018 | 03:25 GMT

3 mins read

Syria: Country's Largest Airbase Attacked, Israel Likely Responsible

A breaking report from Stratfor on the latest strikes against a Syrian airbase -- the image shows the Middle East and North Africa highlighted in red.
The Big Picture

As we said in our 2018 Second Quarter Forecast; "troops loyal to al Assad, along with their Iranian allies, will also risk coming face to face with Israel as they conduct operations against rebel positions in southern Syria. Israel has a narrow window in which it can strike at its longtime adversary, Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, and at Iranian targets across its northeastern border with Syria. Israel will probably take it, with the aim of preventing the entrenchment of Iranian-backed fighters along the edge of the Golan Heights." 

Reports are emerging of an attack on the Tiyas (T4) Military Airbase in Syria. The facility, 100 kilometers (62 miles) northeast of Damascus, is operated in part by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and was reportedly struck April 8 — the early hours of April 9, local time. It is likely that the base was hit by cruise missiles as opposed to air-dropped munitions. Observers on the ground in Homs, immediately to the west of the airbase, recorded video showing missiles in the skies around the time of the attack, most likely Syrian air defense responding to the attack. The strike follows the deployment of chemical weapons against the rebel enclave in Douma on April 7, which resulted in at least 48 fatalities. In a joint statement, U.S. President Donald Trump and French President Emmanuel Macron agreed to "coordinate a strong, joint response." The United Nations Security Council is meeting tomorrow to discuss the chemical attack. The Pentagon issued a statement denying U.S. or coalition involvement in the attack on the T4 airbase. A Syrian military source said that 8 'missiles' had been shot down over Syrian airspace, Al Ekhbariya reported. Almost a year ago to the day — April 6, 2017 — the United States launched a major cruise missile attack against Shayrat air base in Homs province.

Israel has a narrow window of opportunity to target Hezbollah and other strategic targets while the group is still exposed in the Syrian civil war and while Israel has strong backing from a White House that is particularly hawkish on Iran.

Though unconfirmed, there is a strong possibility that the Israel Defense Forces were behind the April 8 strike on the Tiyas airbase. This is the same airbase from which an Iranian drone entered Israeli airspace in February. An Israeli F-16 was shot down when it retaliated against the drone incursion by striking the base Feb. 10. Israel claimed at the time that T4 was operated by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force and was the site of weapons transfers to allied militant groups, including Hezbollah. The strong and widespread condemnation of the April 7 chemical attack in Douma has provided Israel with a window to carry out the strike. And with the United States and France vowing a strong joint response to the chemical attack, more strikes against Syria may be in store. The rise in military frictions in Syria sets the scene for U.S. national security adviser John Bolton's first day on the job, April 9. Bolton is a strong advocate for a comprehensive containment strategy against Iran, including proxy battlegrounds such as Syria — a policy preference that is at odds with Trump's expressed interest in an early withdrawal from the country. As we wrote in our 2018 Annual and Second Quarter Forecasts, Israel has a narrow window of opportunity to target Hezbollah and other strategic targets while the group is still exposed in the Syrian civil war and while Israel has strong backing from a White House that is particularly hawkish on Iran.

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