Conflict between Israel and Iran has been heating up on the Syrian battlefield. As the Iranian military presence grows in Syria, ever closer to the Israeli border, the Jewish state has been very aggressive, striking Iranian targets likely well over a dozen times in the past year, though exact numbers are difficult to come by because neither country typically confirms the origin.
On Sunday, Israel struck a Syrian target again, killing at least 16 people, mostly Iranians. This follows another strike on the Syrian T4 base (a base with many Iranians) on April 8, just three weeks prior. Israel has been ruthless in Syria, bombing medical and scientific research facilities among other targets, in campaigns that would be decried by so-called human rights groups if they were really focused on the humanitarian causes they claim to be, and if they weren’t almost entirely run by the Israelis’ co-ethnics.
The timing of Israel’s increased pressure is interesting. This comes just weeks before a May 12 deadline for the United States to make a decision on certifying the Iran nuclear deal. Israel desperately wants a withdrawal, so the crippling pre-deal sanctions to be slapped back on Iran—and then some. Though Trump, much of his administration, and much of the Republican Party have been critical of the deal, it is no sure thing from the Israeli perspective. Increasing strikes on Iran could be a strategy to try and draw a response from Tehran that could be used as propaganda to drive Trump to withdraw from the deal.
American withdrawal from the agreement is highly likely. However, Israel has nothing to lose by stoking tensions heading into the deadline. It never has to worry about any repercussions for its actions, due to its status as America’s “greatest ally.” Like a spoiled child, Israel knows what levers to pull in order to get America to do its bidding.