The Next Middle East War

Israel and Iran are heading for conflict over southern Syria.
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Donald Trump during a news conference with the Emir of Kuwait at the White House, September 7, 2017.

By The Editorial Board
The wall Street Journal
Sept. 7, 2017 7:22 p.m. ET

Israel launched airstrikes on a military compound in Syria on Thursday, and the bombing should alert the Trump Administration as much as the Syrians. They carry a warning about the next war in the Middle East that could draw in the U.S.

Israel doesn’t confirm or deny its military strikes, but former officials said they were aimed at a base for training and a warehouse for short- and midrange missiles. The strikes also hit a facility that the U.S. cited this year for involvement in making chemical weapons.

The larger context is the confrontation that is building between Israel and Iran as the war against Islamic State moves to a conclusion in Syria and Iraq. Iran is using Syria’s civil war, and the battle against ISIS, as cause to gain a permanent military foothold in Syria that can threaten Israel either directly or via its proxies in Syria and Lebanon.

Tehran has helped Hezbollah stockpile tens of thousands of missiles that will be launched against Israel in the next inevitable conflict. If it can also dominate southern Syria, Iran can establish a second front on the border near the Golan Heights that would further stretch Israel’s ability to defend itself.

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Israel may have to make more such strikes in Syria because Iran isn’t likely to give up on this strategic opening. Iran’s Revolutionary Guards know they have Russia’s backing in Syria, and the U.S. is signaling that it is loathe to do anything to change that once Islamic State is routed from Raqqa.

“As far as Syria is concerned, we have very little to do with Syria other than killing ISIS,” President Trump said Thursday at a White House press conference with the emir of Kuwait. “What we do is we kill ISIS. And we have succeeded in that respect. We have done better in eight months of my Presidency than the previous eight years against ISIS.”

Great, but the problem is that the end of ISIS won’t bring stability to Syria, and American interests in the Middle East don’t end with ISIS. The danger of a proxy war or even a direct war between Iran and Israel is growing, and it will increase as Iran’s presence builds in Syria. Mr. Trump may not like it, but he needs a strategy for post-ISIS Syria that contains Iran if he doesn’t want the U.S. to be pulled back into another Middle East war.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-next-middle-east-war-1504826567

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Fatemeh Bahrami | Anadolu Agency | Getty Images
A Iranian woman walks past a wall painting in the shape of Iranian flag in Tehran, Iran on the first anniversary of nuclear deal between Iran and world powers on January 16, 2017.
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Iran has boasted about its ballistic missiles, many of which are on mobile launchers

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© Saudi Royal Palace/AFP/File / by Ali Choukeir | A handout picture provided by the Saudi Royal Palace on July 30, 2017 shows Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (R) receiving prominent Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Jeddah

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