February 16, 2015 MEMRI Daily Brief No. 1146

From The Mediterranean to the Golan, Iran Builds Active Front And Direct Military Presence On Israel's Border To Deter Israel And Further Ideology Of Eliminating The Zionist Regime

February 16, 2015 | By Yigal Carmon and Y. Yehoshua*
Iran, Lebanon, Syria | MEMRI Daily Brief No. 1146


"Israel faces a fateful crisis. As much as it feared the Iranian nuclear program, it never imagined that Iran would be standing on its border even before its nuclear agreement with the Americans was complete. The Iranian threat to Israel is no longer theoretical, nor does it have anything to do with Israel's deterrent of using its nuclear weapons, which cannot be used considering the international power balance. The threat has become direct, practical and conventional."[1]



In recent years, Iran has based its deployment in Syria on the establishment of a new Hizbullah Syria organization along the lines of Hizbullah Lebanon, as well as on the direct presence of Iranian forces in Syria, particularly in the Golan Heights.

Iran's deployment in Syria, and particularly the presence of its forces in the Golan Heights, at first only as command posts and a limited number of special forces, reveals a trend of Iranian activity in the region that is direct, not only by proxy as it has been to date. According to the Iranian plan, the command posts are meant to operate "130,000 trained Iranian Basij fighters waiting to enter Syria," as is evident from May 2014 statements by Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) senior official Hossein Hamedani, that were censored and removed immediately after publication in Iran.[2]

Statements expressing intent to establish a front of anti-Israel activity in the Golan were heard from Iranian and Syrian officials as early as 2013, and have been implemented openly and in practice  in the past two years (see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5307, Assad And His Allies Threaten To Open A Front In Golan Heights, May 21, 2013). During this time, there were also a few terror operations as well as operations to collect intelligence information in the Golan, which Israel claims were carried out by Hizbullah and Iranian elements; for example, there have been rocket fire, roadside bombs, drones launched, and weapons transferred to Hizbullah. Israel for its part has carried out pinpoint counter-operations inside Syrian territory, such as bombing missile deliveries and attacking senior Iranian officials in Syria, for example, the January 2015 assassination of Gen. Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and other IRGC soldiers who have not been publicly identified, alongside several Hizbullah operatives, and the February 2013 assassination of top IRGC official Hassan Shateri, which Iran claims was carried out by Israel.[3] 

Iran's direct deployment in the Golan creates a single battle front against Israel from Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra.[4] It also constitutes a violation of the status quo of the Golan Heights front, which has been quiet since the Separation of Forces Agreement of 1974,[5] and comes on top of Hizbullah's violations of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1701.[6] Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Al-Mu'allem said in an interview on Iran's Al-Alam TV channel that "there is resistance in the Golan that is acting against Jabhat Al-Nusra and against the Israeli plans."[7] Lebanese analyst Anis Naqash, who is close to Hizbullah, also said that "there is indeed resistance in the Golan." According to him, there have been several actions against Israel by the Golan resistance, which he called popular Syrian resistance, and Israel has not acknowledged this so as to not reveal its helplessness. Regarding the violation of Resolution 1701 he said: "From the onset there was confusion about it. We - the resistance camp - violated Resolution 1701 from the moment they began implementing it."[8]

Furthermore, Iran's deployment on the border has implications for the chances of a war breaking out in the region and for the character of such a war. This, because it increases the possibility that any local eruption could quickly develop into a regional conflict, since Iran now commands the theater that stretches from Iran and Iraq through Syria and Lebanon and the Mediterranean.[9] It should be noted that Hizbullah's January 28, 2015 retaliatory attack against Israel's January 18 attack in itself did not develop into a broader conflict only because Israel refrained from responding to it. A senior Iranian spokesman assessed that this was due to Israel's "intense fear of the outbreak of an all-out war."[10]

Iran's aim in deploying in the Golan Heights is not only to deter Israel from acting against its nuclear program, defend Syria as part of the resistance axis, and establish an active front for anti-Israel terror attacks in the Golan and even liberate the Israeli Golan. It also meshes with the Iranian regime's ideological perception of Israel as an entity that must be eliminated, as is evident in statements by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. According to this perception, the West Bank must be armed, as the Gaza Strip was, in advance of eliminating the state of Israel.

It should be noted that in addition to its deployment for the purpose of eliminating the state of Israel, Iran is building capabilities and ways of operating against Israel and against Jewish/Israeli targets worldwide; these are occasionally put into action.[11]

Iran's front on Israel's northern border, in addition to its involvement in other arenas in the region, creates tremendous pressure on its dwindling resources and exhausts it, intensifying its dependence on regional forces. But the export of Iran's Islamic Revolution always contributes directly to the survival of the Iranian regime. This is because the mobilization of Iranian national forces and Iranian youth in the ideological framework of struggle outside Iran inoculates Iran's dictatorial regime against internal uprising and rebellion against it.

I. Regional Background: Under Guise Of Fighting Sunni Jihadi Organizations, Iran Deploys On Israel's Border

In recent years Iran has taken advantage of the fact that the theater between Iraq and the Mediterranean - that is, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon - has become a veritable no man's land like Afghanistan, and has tightened its grip there and built up its deployment vis-a-vis Israel. Following the abandonment of the Syrian theater by the West, primarily the U.S., and the absence of any operation to decide the conflict following the Syrian uprising, Syria has become an arena of regional and global conflict. Participating in this conflict are fighters in the global jihad, such as Jabhat Al-Nusra and the Islamic State (ISIS), which have the support of Sunni elements, and on the other side Iran and its satellites, such as Hizbullah Lebanon and Hizbullah Syria, as well as the Iraqi militia Asa'ib 'Ahl Al-Haqq and "the Fatimiyyoun Brigade" of Afghan Shi'ites.[12]

The West's nonintervention in Syria has spawned not only Iran's infiltration into that country but also its infiltration into two additional theaters where it has tightened its grip. First, the non-intervention has brought about the undermining of the situation in Lebanon, where in addition to the influx of millions of refugees and the collapse of the political system, the country has become an arena of conflict between Iran and the Sunni jihadis. Likewise, it has brought about the complete undermining of the situation in Iraq, where ISIS - which first established itself in Syria - has invaded the Sunni region and has consolidated its status there. The Iraqi army has collapsed, leading to the emergence on the ground of pro-Iran militias and of troops of the IRGC's Qods Force, which is headed by Qassem Soleimani.[13]

Thus, Iran has created for itself a single theater of operation stretching from Iran to the Mediterranean, as Iranian officials describe it. For example, Yahya Rahim Safavi, former IRGC commander and security affairs advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, boasted in May 2014: "Our strategic depth reaches to the Mediterranean, and above Israel's head."[14] In recent similar statements, Ali Saeedi, Khamenei's representative in the IRGC, said: "The borders of Islamic Iran have expanded [all the way] to the shores of the Mediterranean, and the countries of the region are supported by Iran." He said further that "we must prepare the ground for the globalization of the Islamic Revolution."[15] In another speech, he said: "In the past, our borders were Haji Omran [on the Iran-Iraq border], while today our borders are the shore of the Mediterranean and Bab El-Mandeb [in Yemen]."[16] IRGC commander Mohammad Ali Jafari said: "Today, the borders of Islamic Iran and [its Islamic] Revolution have expanded, and we are not defending our country from its own borders but are standing fast and fighting together with our Shi'ite and Sunni brothers against the front of the arrogance [i.e. the West, headed by the U.S.] many kilometers from Iran's borders."[17]

In deploying directly on Israel's border, Iran has effectively become a country neighboring Israel, despite being geographically distant, while Syria and Lebanon have become components in a broader Iran-led regional resistance entity bordering Israel.  

II. Building A Single Conflict Front With Israel From Rosh HaNikra To Quneitra

Implementing the statements it has made over the past two years, Iran has created a single conflict front with Israel stretching from Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra, where it and its satellites, Hizbullah Lebanon and Hizbullah Syria, operate freely against Israel in violation of UN Resolution 1701 and while changing the status quo that has existed between Israel and Syria since the Separation of Forces Agreement of 1974.

As part of this implementation, the Syrian Golan has become an Iranian theater of operation as well. This strategic Iranian presence in the Golan was at first clandestine, under the auspices of "defending the resistance axis" and in the name of "the war on Sunni terrorism," but later became public, and was accompanied by open threats to target Israel from the Syrian border. Thus, for example, in response to a May 2013 Israeli airstrike in the Damascus area targeting Fateh-110 long-range missiles being transferred from Iran to Hizbullah, spokesmen in Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah issued statements regarding the need for resistance in the Golan.[18] At a May 7, 2013 meeting with Iranian foreign minister Ali Akbar Salehi, Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad announced, "The Golan will become a front of resistance."[19] Iranian Army chief of staff Hassan Firouzabadi also revealed that "according to Assad's strategic decision, a popular resistance based on the Hizbullah template is being established across Syria."[20]

In their statements, the top leaders of the resistance axis stress that, in addition to forming an active front in the Syrian Golan vis-a-vis Israel, the axis means to actually "liberate the Syrian Golan" from Israeli control. The deputy of the Iranian chief of staff, Mas'oud Jazeyeri, promised that the region would see many changes, "some of which will pass through the Golan," and added that "the liberation of the Golan is not impossible."[21] Hizbullah secretary-general Hassan Nasrallah announced, for his part, that his organization would aid the Syrian resistance "in order to liberate the Syrian Golan."[22] Nahed Hattar wrote in the Lebanese Al-Akhbar  that "ending the Syria war [i.e., expelling the jihad organizations from it] is meaningless without wresting the Golan from Israeli hands."[23]

In the framework of this plan for creating a single front from Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra, Hizbullah Lebanon is ignoring the Lebanon-Syria border and is operating freely in Syria, particularly in the Golan, despite criticism in Lebanon.[24] Nasrallah's January 30, 2015 speech, delivered two days after Hizbullah's counterattack following Israel's January 18 attack in Quneitra, amounted to an acknowledgement of a reality in which "there is no recognition of division into arenas" and the resistance is entitled to confront the enemy "wherever it wants and however it wants." Moreover, in this speech Nasrallah described the death of Hizbullah and IRGC operatives in Israel's operation as "the mingling of Lebanese blood with Iranian blood on Syrian soil" and stated that this reflected the fact that there is "one cause, one destiny, and one battle."[25] He also declared in his speech that "the rules of engagement" with Israel had now changed, referring to the rules set out in UN Resolution 1701; as a matter of fact, Hizbullah is indeed violating this resolution in various ways, including with its presence south of Lebanon's Litani River, alongside the presence of IRGC forces.

III. Elements Of The New Iranian Deployment In Syria: Hizbullah Syria And A Direct Iranian Presence On Israel's Border

The building of the new Iranian front has two elements: a) establishing a Hizbullah Syria based on the Hizbullah Lebanon model, and b) Iranian forces' direct involvement in the Golan.

A. Hizbullah Syria - Another Resistance Arm Against Israel

The new Hizbullah Syria is also being established as part of an extensive strategic view and in preparation for the coming conflict with Israel. Senior IRGC official Hossein Hamedani said in a May 2014 speech that "Syria has become a decisive geopolitical region in the regional power balance" and that Iran has established "a second Hizbullah - popular militias in 14 Syrian governorates with 70,000 members, from Syria's Shi'ites, Sunnis, and Alawites."[26]

Likewise, an April 21, 2014 analysis published by the moderate conservative Iranian website Farda stated, "The establishment of a Hizbullah Syria, as a bud of resistance, will not only impact the Syrian crisis but will also serve as a mighty arm of the resistance that will give the Zionists nightmares. The Zionist regime, which was previously concerned with the threats along the Lebanese border, must now prepare itself for the new situation. As ongoing events show, the resistance front is uniting from day to day, and the situation for the Zionists and their supporters is worsening."[27]

Also, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, commander of the Basij paramilitary force, explained: "Hizbullah emerged after the 1982 war in Lebanon. The Palestinian resistance was born after the attacks against Palestine. And today in Syria we are witnessing the establishment of a military force, following the aggression and plots against Syria." He added, "The resistance force will liberate Jerusalem."[28]

B. Direct Iranian Activity In The Golan And Lebanon

In the past, Iran preferred to manage the conflict with Israel exclusively through its proxies and allies - Assad and Hizbullah. However, there has recently been open physical presence of IRGC and Qods Force soldiers in Syria, specifically in the Syrian Golan. As mentioned above, Hossein Hamedani, former IRGC commander in the Tehran province, even stated in a speech that "there are 130,000 trained Iranian Basij fighters waiting to enter Syria."[29] 

Arab media also published reports that Iranian forces have been present in the Golan since May 2013. The reports included details provided by Syrian oppositionist circles regarding important bases in the Golan where IRGC forces were present: bases in the Tal Al-Sha'ar area and Tal Al-Ahmar, the Division 90 headquarters, an espionage base near Mazari' Al-Amal, and a camp in Al-Shuhada.[30]

Testimony also appeared regarding significant IRGC presence on the Israeli-Lebanese border, including on a Twitter account close to the IRGC which posted photos indicating that "the IRGC soldiers of the Islamic revolution are on the border of [Lebanon and] occupied Palestine."[31] In this context it should be mentioned that, back in January 2012, there was outrage in Lebanon following statements by the commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, General Qassem Soleimani, who said that "Iran has a presence in South Lebanon and Iraq" and that "these regions are under the influence of the activity and philosophy of the Islamic Republic of Iran."[32]

The physical presence of senior IRGC generals in the Golan and South Lebanon also indicates the importance of this arena in Iran's eyes. Examples are presence of Iranian General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi in the Golan, which was exposed after he was killed in an Israeli airstrike in January 2015, and of Iranian General and IRGC commander in Lebanon Hassan Shateri, who was killed in February 2014 in an attack on a military convoy from Damascus to Beirut.[33] This, alongside reports that General Qassem Soleimani was present in Syria in general and in the Quneitra and Dar'a areas in particular.[34]

IV. Calls In Palestinian Resistance Movements To Join Northern Front

Palestinian resistance movements such as Hamas also expressed willingness to join the northern front against Israel by activating Palestinians living in refugee camps there.

Hamas official Mahmoud Al-Zahar called to enable the establishment of military groups belonging to the Al-Qassam Brigades - Hamas's military wing - in Lebanese and Syrian refugee camps in order "to resist the enemy from northern Palestine."[35] At the same time, there have been increasing reports recently on renewed Hamas contacts with Iran and Hizbullah, after a period of tension between them due to Hamas's support for the Syrian revolution.[36]

Abu Ahmad Fouad, deputy secretary-general of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP), supported Al-Zahar's call and said that the establishment of these militias "should take place as part of a general framework of resistance movements, including the Lebanese Hizbullah." He told the Al-Mayadeen TV channel: "We believe what Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah said regarding uniting the fronts against the Israeli occupation, and there are ongoing meetings to develop the Palestinian resistance operation and coordinate it with the Lebanese resistance."[37]

'Imad Zaqout, news director for Hamas's Al-Aqsa TV, even admitted for the first time that the 'Izz Al-Din Al-Qassam Brigades have already operated groups in neighboring countries, and that the rocket fire from Lebanon into Israel during the 2014 conflict in Gaza had been ordered by the Brigades. He added: "Hamas thought and planned for every future war with the Zionist enemy to be a total one. Meaning that it would include every inch of land in Palestine and inflict large-scale damage on the enemy."[38]

V. The Iranian Front In The Golan - Implementing Iranian Ideological Perception Regarding Need To Eliminate Israel

Constructing a united front from Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra meshes with Iran's comprehensive strategy to eliminate Israel. Iranian regime heads have repeatedly stated their commitment to this goal over the years, from Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei to other regime and military leaders.[39]

To bring only a handful of examples, in a July 23, 2014 speech, Khamenei said that "the only solution is to destroy the Zionist regime."[40] Furthermore, Mehdi Taeb, head of Khamenei's "Ammar Headquarters" think tank and the brother of IRGC intelligence chief Hossein Taeb, said in a November 12, 2014 speech in Qom that "Iran's sword is currently stuck in the throat of the accursed Israeli regime, and according to the instructions of the founder of the Islamic Republic [Ayatollah Ruhollah] Khomeini, we must remove this oppressive regime from the world map... The Imam Khomeini saw the Basij [as a force] that would destroy the Zionist regime, and today, thanks to divine grace, Iran has besieged Israel with those same popular forces."[41] Similar statements were repeatedly made by IRGC officials as well. On August 27, 2014, IRGC Deputy Commander Hossein Salami said: "Destroying the Zionist regime is a very simple matter... [It] will take place gradually. It is a matter of divine faith, [it is] more than a mere wish for us."[42] On November 26, 2014, Basij Commander Mohammad Reza Naqdi said: "The Iranian nation and Basij members are determined to hold victory prayers led by their Imam [Khamenei] at the Al-Aqsa Mosque."[43] The next day, IRGC navy official Ali Razmjou said that the Zionist regime "will be eliminated from the world map in the near future thanks to the resistance of Basij and Hizbullah members throughout the world."[44]

VI. Developing The Palestinian Front By Arming West Bank, Israeli Arabs

To comprehensively implement this Iranian strategy to eliminate Israel, in addition to its activity in Syria and the Golan, the Iranian regime has increasingly expressed its intent to arm the West Bank, and even the Israeli Arabs, as it has armed the Gaza Strip.[45] Khamenei called on several occasions to arm the West Bank. In a July 23, 2014 speech, he said: "Allah willing, the day will come when this regime is destroyed. [But] so long as this false regime is on its feet - what is the solution? The solution is total armed resistance against this regime. This is the solution... Therefore, it is my belief that the West Bank should be armed just like Gaza."[46]  A July 26, 2015 post on Khamenei's Facebook page said: "The West Bank should be armed like Gaza."[47]

Other officials also referred to the arming of the West Bank as part of a strategic policy of the Iranian regime. The deputy chair of the Majlis National Security Committee, Mansour Haghighatpour, said: "One of our goals is to arm the West Bank, because it is the best measure for fighting the Zionist regime."[48] Ahmad Vahidi, who was defense minister under Ahmadinejad and commander of the IRGC Qods Force, said that "arming the West Bank is a strategic policy of the Leader [Khamenei], whose implementation will transform the Palestine arena," and even called to arm the territories that were conquered in 1948, in addition to the West Bank. [49] Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan said in a rally honoring the Hizbullah members killed in the Quneitra attack, held on January 27, 2015 at the Hizbullah representation in Tehran: "We will utilize every available capability in order to arm the West Bank... The policy of the Islamic Republic regime is to arm the West Bank and strengthen the resistance axis and the forces of Hizbullah in order to fight the usurping and occupying Zionist regime."[50]

In an August 29, 2014 message of congratulations to the Palestinian people at the close of the 2014 Gaza conflict, IRGC commander Jafari expressed Iran's support of the Gaza resistance, while mentioning the hope for the elimination of the Zionist regime. He said: "We shall stand fast with you to the end. Continue to raise the banner of jihad in the path of God, for your honor and the honor of all Muslims is linked to this holy jihad. And know that, with Allah's help, eliminating this crumbling and bloodthirsty Zionist regime will be the greatest achievement on this divine path, and the final victory is not so far away."[51]     

VII. The Battle In The Dar'a Region - Completing The Siege Around Israel

It should be mentioned that the Syrian army, Hizbullah and Iranian forces recently launched a large-scale joint attack on the southern front to expel the rebels from the Dar'a region. During this campaign, titled "The Quneitra Martyrs Battle," the Syrian regime admitted openly for the first time that Iranian forces were fighting in Syria alongside Assad's forces. In addition, Gen. Qassem Soleimani visited the region, and Hizbullah and IRGC flags were flown there.[52]

This joint effort to wrest control of the southern Syria front from the hands of the rebels is regarded by Syria, Iran and Hizbullah as part of their struggle against Israel and its allies. A victory in this region will bring the Iranian forces closer to the Jordanian border in the south and the Israeli border in the west, will prepare the ground for defeating the opposition forces in the Quneitra area, and will enable the creation of a territorial continuum of resistance axis forces stretching from Dar'a through Damascus and Quneitra to Lebanon.

A Syrian army commander admitted on Syrian TV that the operation in the Dar'a region was being carried out "in collaboration with the resistance axis - Hizbullah and Iran." He added that the goal of the army's actions in the Dar'a and Quneitra area was "to ensure calm on the borders with the neighboring countries [Israel and Jordan] and disrupt the security zone they are attempting to establish."[53]

The Al-Hadath News website, which is close to the Syrian regime, also exposed Iran's involvement  in the fighting, and even posted a photo of Gen. Qassem Soleimani in the area. It reported: "Iran, which had been taking part in the fighting in Syria by means of military advisors within the Syrian army, recently decided to join the military conflict officially and openly." According to the site, Soleimani arrived in the area "to supervise and follow the campaign in southern Syria, and take part in directing it," and his presence there lends the campaign "a clear geopolitical military character" that means that "the resistance is calling the shots in southern Syria." The site added that the first goal of this attack was to defeat the armed opposition forces in Dar'a in advance of defeating them in Quneitra, which would be "a blow to the Zionist enemy." This, in addition to preventing them from advancing towards Damascus. The site stated further that "southern Syria is clearly no longer involved in an inter-Syrian conflict, or a conflict between Syrians and takfiri forces [i.e., the jihad groups], but rather in a conflict between the resistance axis [comprising] Iran, Syria and Hizbullah on the one hand and the Israel-Jordan-U.S. alliance on the other."[54]

Ibrahim Al-Amin, board chairman of the Lebanese Al-Akhbar daily, which is close to Hizbullah, wrote on this matter on February 11 that the top leadership of the resistance axis has decided "to create new political, military and security facts [on the ground] along the border between Jordan and occupied Palestine."[55]

VIII. The Implications Of Iran And Its Proxies Surrounding Israel

Iran's presence in the Golan, as well as in Lebanon and on the Mediterranean, creates a situation where any local conflict can rapidly escalate into a comprehensive regional war with direct Iranian involvement. Though Nasrallah stressed in his speech in late January 2015 that Hizbullah had completed its punitive measures for the killing of its six operatives in Quneitra, and that it is not interested in war, Iran continues to threaten further attacks, and may arrange further eruptions in the region or outside it by employing Hizbullah cells in various parts of the world.[56] In addition, articles in the Lebanese press spoke of the possible outbreak of a regional war.[57]  

As long as Hizbullah operates from Lebanon, Israel is able to deter it, since Israel's response to an attack from Lebanon employing the full force of Hizbullah's missile arsenal (comprising over 100,000 missiles) will be the destruction of Lebanon's infrastructures, a scenario that deters Hizbullah. However, if Hizbullah is activated from outside Lebanon, Israel will not be able to respond in the same manner.

As for Iran, it does not regard itself as deterred by Israel, now that it has built a single, comprehensive front against Israel stretching from the Mediterranean to southern Syria. It also has the capability of activating Hizbullah, despite the heavy price this organization will pay.

In fact, the Syrian front in general, and especially in the Golan, has become Iran's favored theatre of operations, since acting there diminishes the chance of a war within its own borders. In this context, Khamenei's advisor Ali Ahmad Velayati said on February 8, 2013 that "Iran has planned its defensive positions outside its own borders, and has linked its fate to the fate of the Islamic countries; this is why it will support those such as [Syrian President] Bashar Al-Assad to the end..."[58] Mehdi Taeb, the head of Khamenei's "Ammar Headquarters" think tank, said in one of his speeches: "The loss of Syria will lead to the loss of Tehran itself."[59] 

Moreover, Iran's presence on the Israeli border limits Israel's ability to use military measures against Iran's nuclear program. This, since Iran is building up its response capabilities in the region, to complement its long-range missiles. In the past, it was Hizbullah Lebanon that deterred Israel, to some extent, from acting militarily against Iran's nuclear program. Today this deterrence is significantly strengthened by the advent of Hizbullah Syria and the direct presence of Iranian forces in the Golan.

According to Mehdi Taeb, the centrality of Hizbullah to Iran's deterrence vis-a-vis Israel was already demonstrated in the 2006 Lebanon war. In a 2013 speech, he said that Iran never had to attack Israel's nuclear warheads because "we completely locked up [Israel] with Hizbullah. During the 2006 Lebanon war, the Zionist regime tried to break this lock [i.e. Hizbullah], but after 33 days [of fighting], it gave up, and left [Lebanon]."[60]

Al-Akhbar columnist Nahed Al-Hattar also addressed the implications of Iran's deployment on Israel's border. He said that, while Israel is unable to use its nuclear capabilities due to international considerations, Iran has created a "practical, direct and conventional" threat against it: "Israel faces a fateful crisis. As much as it feared the Iranian nuclear program, it never imagined that Iran would be standing on its border even before its nuclear agreement with the Americans was complete. The Iranian threat to Israel is no longer theoretical, nor does it have anything to do with Israel's deterrent of using its nuclear weapons, which cannot be used considering the international power balance. The threat has become direct, practical and conventional."[61]


*Y. Carmon is President and Founder of MEMRI; Y. Yehoshua is Vice President for Research and Director of MEMRI Israel.



[1] From a February 13, 2015 article by columnist Nahed Al-Hattar in the Lebanese daily Al-Akhbar.

[2] Fars (Iran), April 5, 2014. See also MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5848, Iranian Media Reports Deleted Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC Official Speaking On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has Established 'Second Hizbullah' There, September 25, 2014.

[3] In the last two years, numerous security incidents have occurred on Israel's northern border. The incidents include the launch of a drone from South Lebanon in April 2013, which, according to Israeli estimates, was carried out by IRGC members; rocket fire towards the Hermon outpost in May 2013; a roadside bomb near the Israeli-Lebanese border in August 2013; roadside bombs on the Israeli-Syrian border in March and October 2014; anti-tank missile fire from Syria towards an Israeli vehicle in June 2014; a drone infiltrating Israel from Quneitra in August 2014; and  rocket fire on the Golan in January 2015. This, alongside Israeli attacks on weapons shipments such as a shipment of SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles to Hizbullah in Syria in January 2013, an attack on a truck convoy carrying missiles and a launcher in February 2014, and an attack on a warehouse storing Russian-made missiles that were on their way from Syria to Lebanon in December 2014.

[4] The notion of a single front from the Rosh HaNikra to Quneitra (i.e., from the Mediterranean to the Golan) was expressed  repeatedly in the Lebanese press. See for example a January 19, 2015 article in the daily Al-Safir, an article by Firas Al-Shoufi from the same date in Al-Akhbar, and Nahed Hattar's January 21, 2015 article in Al-Akhbar. The head of Al-Akhbar's board of directors, Ibrahim Al-Amin, expressed a similar notion in the daily as early as May 27, 2013.

[5] This violation of a decades-long status quo is so grave that, in a late January 2015 interview with Foreign Affairs magazine, Bashar Al-Assad persisted in denying that it was happening, claiming, "Never has an operation against Israel happened through the Golan Heights since the cease-fire in 1974. It has never happened. So for Israel to allege that there was a plan for an operationÔÇöthat's a far cry from reality, just an excuse, because they wanted to assassinate somebody from Hizbullah." Foreign Affairs (U.S.), January 25, 2015.

[6] On Hizbullah's violations of  Resolution 1701, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5857, "Daily Close To Hizbullah: In Violation Of UNSCR 1701, Hizbullah Has Resumed Operations South Of The Litani River," October 13, 2014.

[7] Al-Alam TV (Iran), February 2, 2015.

[8] LDC (Lebanon), January 29, 2015.

[9] Many columnists close to Hizbullah and Iran addressed the scenario of an imminent all-out war with Israel. For example, columnist Wafiq Qanso described Hizbullah's considerations prior to reacting to the Israeli attack as follows: "The time, place, and manner of a reaction  is subject  to the examination of  the leadership of the resistance." He said that such an examination takes into account several elements, including "the reality in the region and the possibility of a counter-reaction [by Israel] and a slide into extensive war." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 21, 2015. Lebanese analyst 'Ali Haidar  wrote: "It is now clear that direct Israeli military intervention will trigger a parallel regional intervention on an [even] larger and more dangerous scale, leading to a scenario of  regional escalation." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 13, 2015. Iranian analyst Hassan Hanizadeh, who is close to Iranian  regime circles, wrote: "The current confrontation is a prelude to a comprehensive war that will not be confined to South Lebanon, and may even spread  south of Quneitra." Fars, Iran, January 28, 2015. Al-Akhbar's Ibrahim Al-Amin wrote, "The possibility of an all-out conflict breaking out that will leave no border between Lebanon and Syria is valid and in effect." Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, May 27, 2013.

[10]  Brigadier Yadollah Javani, an advisor to Khamenei's representative in the IRGC, said in a February 15, 2015 interview on Iran's Al-Alam TV: "Nasrallah announced they [Hizbullah]  would respond to the [January 18] attack, and we saw how this response was carried out. The beauty of it is that the Zionists, for their part, did not respond at all. The reason is their intense fear of the outbreak of an all-out war."

[11] Recently, many Iran and Hizbullah cells across the world planning attacks against Israeli and Jewish targets were discovered. For example, Uruguay in early January 2015 expelled a top diplomat at the Iranian Embassy in Montevideo on suspicion of his involvement in placing a bomb near the Israeli Embassy in the city; see:, February 6, 2015. Likewise, in April 2014, two Hizbullah operatives planning an attack against Israeli tourists were arrested in Thailand; see:, April 18, 2014. In May 2013, Nigerian security forces uncovered a Hizbullah terror cell that planned to carry out attacks against Israeli targets in the country and in other parts of West Africa. In February 2013, Nigerian security forces uncovered a terror squad operated by the IRGC's Qods Force that was planning attacks against Chabad House and against offices of the Israeli Zim shipping lines in the city of Lagos. See: Haaretz, IBA, May 30, 2013.

[12] Reports on Iranian forces participating in the fighting in Syria appeared in Iran as early as 2013. See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1040, "Despite Denials By Iranian Regime, Statements By Majlis Member And Reports In Iran Indicate Involvement Of Iranian Troops In Syria Fighting," December 4, 2013.

Recently, Al-Sharq Al-Awsat reported, citing Ahmad Ramadan, a member of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolution and Opposition Forces, that Iran  was airlifting Shi'ite warriors, especially Iraqis and Afghans, to Latakia, Syria, where they are trained by the IRGC before being dispatched to Dar'a. Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, London, February 13, 2015.

[13] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5877, Iranian Campaign Touts IRGC Qods Force Commander Qassem Soleimani As 'Savior' Of Iraq'; Soleimani: Iran Has Thousands Of Organizations Like Hizbullah; I Pray To Die A Martyr, November 10, 2014.

[14] Mehr (Iran), February 5, 2015.

[15] Tasnim (Iran), February 11, 2015.

[16] Tasnim (Iran), February 4, 2015.

[17] Mehr (Iran), January 30, 2015.

[18] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5848, Iranian Media Reports Deleted Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC Official Speaking On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has Established 'Second Hizbullah' There, September 25, 2014.

[19] Al-Quds Al-Arabi (London),, May 7, 2013.

[20] ISNA (Iran), May 11, 2013.

[21] The statements were made in an interview on Hizbullah's Al-Manar TV., May 17, 2013.

[22] Al-Safir (Lebanon), May 10, 2013.

[23] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 13, 2015.

[24] Recently, former Lebanese prime minister Sa'd Al-Hariri, chairman of the Al-Mustaqbal faction, expressed harsh criticism of Hizbullah's involvement in Syria. In a speech marking the 10th anniversary of the assassination of his father, Rafiq Al-Hariri, he said: "[In the past] we said to Hizbullah: entering the Syrian war is lunacy in itself. It has brought the terrorist insanity into our country. Today we say to it that connecting the Golan with the South [of Lebanon] is also lunacy, and another reason for us to say to it: Get out of Syria. Stop importing Syrian conflagrations into our country, first a terrorist conflagration, then a conflagration from the Golan, and tomorrow who knows where [the conflagration] will come from." See, February 14, 2015.

On earlier criticism inside Lebanon on Hizbullah's involvement in Syria, see MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 980, Lebanon Openly Enters Fighting In Syria, June 13, 2013. The Lebanese press close to Hizbullah  has since May 2013 mentioned numerous times the notion of abolishing the Lebanon-Syria border and the expansion of the resistance front from Lebanon to Syria in the framework of all-out conflict with Israel. For example, Ibrahim Al-Amin wrote in Al-Akhbar: "Everyone must act based on the expansion in practice of [Israel's] northern front, [which now stretches from  Lebanon to Syria]. In the near future, we may see the border with Lebanon remaining calm, while the most active front will be on the Palestine-Syria border [in the Golan]... We are simply facing a new level of unity between the resistance in Lebanon and [that in] Syria... such that the possibility of an all-out conflict breaking out that will leave no border between Lebanon and Syria is valid and in effect." Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, May 27, 2013. Columnist Nahed Hattar wrote in Al-Akhbar recently that the Golan was "a pan-Arab arena shared by the Lebanese, the Syrian, the Jordanian, and the Iraqi [people]. From today onwards, there is no longer room for partial resistance and for partial national plans." Al-Akhbar, Lebanon, January 23, 2015. See also  MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 1138, Following Killing Of Hizbullah Operative Jihad Mughniyah, New Information Comes To Light Regarding Hizbullah, Iranian Activity In Syrian Golan On Israeli Border, January 28, 2015.

[25] Al-Safir (Lebanon), January 31, 2015. The previous day, similar statements were made by IRGC commander Jafari: "Iran and Hizbullah are one, and everywhere the blood of our martyrs on the front is spilled together, and our response will be the same." Fars, Iran, January 30, 2015. 

[26] Fars (Iran), May 4, 2014. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5848, Iranian Media Reports Deleted Following Publication (1): Senior IRGC Official Speaking On Iran's Military Involvement In Syria Says Iran Has Established 'Second Hizbullah' There, September 25, 2014.

[27] Farda (Iran), April 21, 2014.

[28] Al-Manar TV (Lebanon), May 10, 2013.

[29] Fars (Iran), May 4, 2014.

[30] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis Series Report No. 1138, Following Killing Of Hizbullah Operative Jihad Mughniyah, New Information Comes To Light Regarding Hizbullah, Iranian Activity In Syrian Golan On Israeli Border, January 28, 2015.

[31] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5915, Iranian Army Twitter Account, Iranian Army-Affiliated Blog Report: IRGC Troops At Lebanon-Israel Border, December 26, 2014.

[32] ISNA (Iran), January 18, 2012. The Lebanese government requested clarifications on these statements, which resulted in denials by the Iranian foreign ministry. See Fars (Iran), January 25, 2012.

[33] Al-Gumhouriyya (Egypt),, February 15, 2014.

[34] The Syrian opposition reported  that  Soleimani was spotted in Quneitra. Al-Nahar (Lebanon), January 19, 2015. Another report indicated that, on January 11, 2015, "Qassem Soleimani visited Damascus on his way to Beirut, where he met with the resistance leadership." Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 21, 2015. There were also reports, accompanied with photos, that Soleimani recently visited the Dar'a region., February 10, 2015.

[35], February 4, 2015.

[36] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), January 10, 2015, October 23, 2014.

[37], February 6, 2015.

[38], February 6, 2015.

[39] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5906, Iranian Regime Escalates Threats To Annihilate Israel, December 17, 2014.

[40] See MEMRI TV Clip 4366, Iran's Leader Khamenei: Armed Struggle Should Continue until Israel Is Destroyed by a Referendum, July 23, 2014.

[41], November 12, 2014.

[42] Fars (Iran), August 27, 2014.

[43] Fars (Iran), November 26, 2014.

[44] IRNA (Iran), November 27, 2014.

[45] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5906, Iranian Regime Escalates Threats To Annihilate Israel, December 17, 2014.

[46] See MEMRI TV Clip No. 4366, "Iran's Leader Khamenei: Armed Struggle Should Continue until Israel Is Destroyed by a Referendum," July 23, 2014.

[47] See Special Dispatch No. 5808, "Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei Calls For The Annihilation Of Israel," July 28, 2014.

[48] Fars (Iran), November 27, 2014.

[49] Tasnim (Iran), July 26, 2014.

[50] ISNA (Iran), January 27, 2015.

[51] Tasnim (Iran), August 29, 2014.

[52] On Soleimani's presence in Dar'a, including photos, see, February 11, 2015. There have recently been many other reports in the Arab press on the involvement of Iranian troops in the fighting in Dar'a. See a February 13, 2015 report in the Lebanese  Al-Akhbar, as well as reports in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat  from February 12 and February 13. The February 12 article in Al-Sharq Al-Awsat stated that Hizbullah's leadership in the area was stationed in a special war room in the 9th Division base in Sanamin, north of Dar'a.   

[53]; Al-Riyadh (Saudi Arabia), February 12, 2015.

[54], February 11, 2015.

[55] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 11, 2015.

[56] Iran has made numerous threats to this effect.  IRGC Qods Force deputy commander Esmail Qaani said after the Quneitra attack: "We will not rest until Israel is eliminated," Mehr (Iran), January 22, 2015. IRGC commander 'Ali Jafari threatened a response by means of Hizbullah's cells across the world: "They [Israel] are surely familiar with the capabilities of the Hizbullah cells that have been established  around the  world [to fight] the enemies of Islam, and they fear them. If  they expect Hizbullah to respond to their action, they must expect a firm and crushing response not only in the region of their border but in any part of the world where there are Zionist Israelis or their supporters" Fars (Iran), January 30, 2015.

[57] On this, see note 9.

[58], February 8, 2013.

[59] See MEMRI Inquiry & Analysis No. 946, "Iranian Official: The Loss Of Syria Will Lead To The Loss Of Tehran Itself; Syria Is An Iranian Province; Iran Has Formed A 60,000-Strong Syrian Basij; Israel Is Our Only Threat," March 11, 2013.

[60] See reference in note 59.

[61] Al-Akhbar (Lebanon), February 13, 2015.

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