The Israeli Chief of Staff hinted yesterday at the possibility of launching a full-scale war against Syria to prevent the imposition of Shia hegemony in Israel's neighbour. Lieutenant-General Gadi Eisenkot made his comments at the University of Herzliya and accused the Iranian government of working to form a "Shia crescent" to spread its influence across Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Bahrain and the Gaza Strip.
"In recent months, investment in the Palestinian arena has also grown," explained Eisenkot, "driven by a desire to influence it by increasing the annual funding in the Gaza Strip for Hamas and Islamic Jihad movements to $100 million."
Citing data from Israeli intelligence, the senior officer said Syria currently hosts about 2,000 Iranian advisers and 8,000 fighters from Lebanon's Hezbollah. There are also 10,000 militants under Iranian influence from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan.
"We cannot ignore that Hezbollah, Shia militias and Iran find themselves on the victorious side of Syria alongside President Bashar Al-Assad," Eisenkot insisted. "We are making military and international efforts in other areas to prevent Iran from establishing its presence in Syria... and an Iranian foothold in Syria would be a negative thing for both Israel and Syria itself as well as Europe." Israel, he suggested, may become a member of a very broad coalition that will aim to prevent the imposition of Shia hegemony in Syria.
The Israeli government has accused Iran repeatedly of being the most important international force to support terrorism and destabilise the Middle East. This view is shared by the United States as well as Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies.