Tariq Al-Homayed
Saudi journalist and writer, and former editor-in-chief of Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper

How Many Strikes So Far?

It is difficult to keep up with the Israeli military strikes targeting Syria. Whether they hit the airport, its surroundings, or other sites, it seems that only intelligence services or specialized research centers have the capacity to account for them all.

This is not the point. Indeed, the core issue here is how many missile storage facilities and arms depots Iran has in Syria. Given the extensiveness of Israel’s attacks, the question becomes, is Syria now a storage site for Iranian weapons rather than just being an Iranian military base?

The ongoing Israeli attacks on Syria, and thus Iran’s equipment and men, as well as Hezbollah and the Iranian groups operating there, have been met with silence from Tehran and Hezbollah, while the Assad regime has done little more than issuing shy statements.

This indicates that Israel is hitting genuine targets. It also shows that Iran has chosen to use Syria and Lebanon as its fronts in the event that a war breaks out, and that is why Iran has refrained from retaliating or escalating in response to those strikes.

The number of Israeli attacks on Syria affirms that Iran is negotiating in Vienna, mobilizing in Lebanon and Syria, tearing Iraq apart so as not to avert a scenario in which it becomes a launching pad for attacks on Tehran in any potential war, and escalating in Yemen to attack Saudi Arabia from across its own border.

The scale of Israel’s intense bombardment of Iranian positions in Syria also shows that the Israelis want to contain the threats stemming from the Lebanese and Syrian fronts. In anticipation of a potential clash with Iran, Israel wants to ensure that Tehran’s nails are trimmed if it cannot remove Iran’s claws from its borders altogether.

This is the point, it seems, and so we ask: At what scale have the Iranians stored weapons in Syria and, by extension, Lebanon? The answer to this question gives us insights into the scale of the damage we can expect to see in the event of a war. The other question here is: What is the use of US sanctions on Iran, which has managed to move all these weapons across the region?

Has US intelligence been properly monitoring the movement of Iranian weapons from Iran through Iraq to Syria since the US invaded Iraq in 2003?

What I am saying is that Iran has not been smuggling these arms intelligently. Rather it has managed to move them around the region so easily since 2003 because neither the Americans nor the West, in general, took this matter seriously. Indeed, as the number of Israeli strikes on Syria demonstrates, Iran’s stockpile there is massive.

This leads to another point. If Iran has this many weapons in Syria, how much has it smuggled to Iraq? The latter shares a border with Iran, and we know that Iran sends those weapons to groups it tasks to undermine the Iraqi state.

All this tells us that neither the US nor the West was ever at all serious in its efforts to contain Iran and confront Iran’s malign behavior in the first place. The same could be said of the way in which the Americans dealt with the Taliban for the twenty years their troops were deployed in Afghanistan.

After the US withdrawal from Afghanistan and the return of the Taliban, it became evident that the Americans had not been serious about confronting the Taliban, which returned to the country within “seconds” after the US pulled out. “Seconds” is not hyperbolic, it was literally a matter of seconds.

To put it briefly, Iran has not managed to expand because of its strength but because of Western, as well as Arab, neglect. This story has not been told well up until the present day, especially with the lie of “resistance.” Inevitably, we will see a reckoning during which the region, unfortunately, will pay the price.