Israel’s next big war is almost certainly going to pit it against some combination of Iranian, Syrian and Hezbollah forces along its northern borders with Syria and Lebanon. To be sure, an additional confrontation with Hamas in Gaza (Israel’s opponent in the costly 2014 Gaza War. which led to the death of roughly 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis) could also be in the offing. But the forthcoming war in Israel’s North — home to an estimated 1.2 million people — could be closer to the kind of all-out war that the Jewish state hasn’t fought since 1973.
The reasons have far less to do with the Arab-Israel conflict than with the ongoing civil war in Syria and the continuing confrontation between Iran and Israel. The outcome could result in considerable destruction inside Israel, but also in a strengthening of Israel’s burgeoning strategic ties with its Sunni neighbors — Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — who alongside their reservations on the Palestinian issue share Israel’s concerns regarding Iran’s aggressive regional ambitions. In this sense, a confrontation in Israel’s north would decisively reflect current far-reaching changes in the Middle East strategic balance of power.
Syria’s civil war is winding down, at least in the Western or non-desert part of Syria facing the Mediterranean — appropriately termed “Useful Syria” — and in the South, along Syria’s borders with the Israeli Golan Heights and Jordan. Iranian and Russian intervention has turned the tide in favor of the Assad regime in Damascus. In helping Bashar al-Assad to win on the ground, Tehran has mustered a broad war coalition of Shiite mercenaries from as near as southern Lebanon’s Hezbollah and as far afield as Afghanistan and Iraq. The end of fighting in Useful Syria is liable to leave all these battle-tested forces near the Golan. Alongside them will be al-Assad’s ally, Hezbollah, with its estimated arsenal of close to 100,000 rockets and missiles capable of targeting most of Israel, as far south as the Dimona nuclear reactor...
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