The Iran-Syria-Hizbollah alliance is facing the heat after Israel amassed forces for a surprise military exercise in the Golan Heights and a 30-nation alliance led by the U.S. is in the midst of giant naval manoeuvres not far from the Iranian coastline.
Israeli forces are accumulating at the junction of Syria and Lebanon. The Israeli government is underplaying these manoeuvres by describing them as planned. However, Tel Aviv’s decision not to make a public announcement on the scale of the exercise has been raising eyebrows.
The war-games are taking place at a time when Syrian forces are tied up in an internal conflict, and tensions between Tehran and Tel Aviv are running high — Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is a leading advocate for using force to curb Iran’s nuclear programme.
The Israeli mobilisation has involved airlifting troops from the Northern and Central commands to the Golan Heights. The exercise, whose scale has been intensified with the deployment of reservists, will also involve live artillery firing.
Last week, Israeli forces had conducted another exercise simulating heavy rocket attacks from the Hizbollah — a danger that had been strongly reinforced during the 2006 Lebanon war, when Hizbollah rocket firings forced a sizeable section of the Israeli population to seek the safety of underground shelters.
Israeli forces have also recently begun to reinforce fencing in the Golan area along the Israel-Syria border, in a bid to deny infiltration. Motion sensors have been positioned along sections of the border and mines have been planted in certain areas. Parts of the fence have been electrified to trigger new alarm systems.
As the Israeli build up commenced along the Syrian and Lebanese border, Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met his Syrian counterpart Walid Muallem in Damascus. Wednesday’s meeting followed the first tripartite regional talks in Cairo to resolve the Syrian crisis that involved Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Iran and Egypt.
The Israeli exercise seemed to complement a large-scale war-game that commenced on Sunday near the strategic Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. The 12-day exercise not only involves Western nations such as the U.K. and France, but also countries such as Yemen and Jordan. Countries as varied as Japan, New Zealand and Estonia are also participating.
Show of strength
The show of strength seemed to mask the possibility of a resumption of talks between Iran and the six global powers that include the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany, whose chances appeared to improve on Tuesday. On Wednesday, Iran’s top negotiator Saeed Jalili said in Istanbul his meeting with EU foreign policy Chief Catherine Ashton — who represents the six global powers — had ended on a positive note.
“At this meeting we reviewed the discussions raised in the Moscow talks and the contents of the experts meeting [in Istanbul in July], and we studied the common points which can serve as a platform for cooperation and further talks,” Mr. Jalili said.
Ms. Ashton is likely to brief the six world powers about Tuesday’s meeting in New York during the course of the upcoming U.N. General Assembly session.