A new report suggests that in the narrow arena of confronting Iran’s presence in Syria, ISIS and Israel’s interests may temporarily converge, which in a way makes them allies.
The new Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center report in no way suggests any formal alliance between ISIS and Israel, and it is widely assumed that ISIS will continue to try to attack Israel via its Sinai chapter.
But in the era after ISIS as a state has fallen – when Israel’s new main concern is Iran’s presence in Syria and its attempts to smuggle game-changing weapons through Syria to Hezbollah in Lebanon – both ISIS and Israel may be targeting the same Iranians.
Regarding ISIS, the report says it, “will likely change its combat patterns and revert to guerrilla tactics and terrorism following the end of the campaign against it in Iraq, and may carry out hit-and-run attacks against Iranian vehicles moving along the land corridor (Iranian vehicles may be perceived as attractive targets for ISIS in its new incarnation).”
Iran’s intervention in Syria “fans the flames of conflict with ISIS, which retains significant operational capabilities even after the collapse of the Islamic States.”
“The multipronged terrorist attack carried out by the organization against” Iran’s Majlis building and Khomeini’s tomb in Tehran on June 7, “illustrated the potentially dangerous effects of the confrontation between Iran and ISIS on Iran’s internal security,” the report states.
In addition, the report says, “We assess that Iran and the militias under their patronage will struggle to provide an adequate response to this terrorism challenge.”
On the Iran-Israel front, the report echoes recent Israeli intelligence statements, describing Iran’s goals as: “Bolstering the pressure mechanisms and escalating the threat posed to Israel, while creating a state of deterrence.
This is mainly by augmenting the military capabilities of Hezbollah, developing the abilities of Hezbollah to manufacture weapons, and establishing local terror networks in the Golan Heights, with the aim of creating a new front for challenging Israel.”
It continues: “The Iranian presence in Syria increases the likelihood of friction with Israel and may lead to an escalation between the two countries at a timing that is not suitable for Iran.” It says this in light of numerous reports of Israeli airstrikes in Syria, some reportedly close to Damascus, against Iranian weapons transfers to Hezbollah.
Former Israel Air Force head Maj.- Gen. Amir Eshel stated that Israel carried out at least 100 strikes against the transfer of advanced weaponry, including chemical weapons.
Iran may even be trying to build bases for plotting against Israel and for weapons manufacturing facilities for Hezbollah in Syria.
On November 10, BBC reported that “a Western intelligence official” said Iran had begun constructing a permanent base near Al-Kiswah, south of Damascus. Satellite images indicated that construction began in 2017.
This base and other similar bases could also be future joint targets of Israel, to prevent Hezbollah from gaining new weaponry, and of ISIS, to gain infamy, but also support from the wider Sunni population that rejects Iran’s presence in Syria as external Shia interference.
In some ways, Israel has not shed too many tears when ISIS hit Iran and its allies even before this point. But as long as ISIS held significant territory, it was regarded as a major threat.
Now that ISIS is no longer an invasion threat to Israel, Israel can now unambiguously view ISIS attacks on Iran and Iranian proxies as beneficial.
The report also says that Iranian ambitions of creating a Shia corridor of rule will run up against resistance from the US, Russia, Turkey and the overall population demographics in the region which favor Sunnis over Shia.